S'pore a good policy laboratory for other countries: Expert

Singapore is a "policy laboratory" that both developed and developing countries can look to in crafting their policies, said an American expert on East Asia and author of a new book on the Republic.

"Singapore is simply smart and adaptive - as both a nation and as an urban community - in a volatile global world," said Dr Kent Calder of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, at the launch of his book.

And Singapore offers important lessons "in a world of conspicuous institutional failure", he said at the event at the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo on Monday.

In his book, Singapore - Smart City, Smart State, Dr Calder dissects Singapore's smartness in two ways: how it is strategic and responsive to changing circumstances, and how it has been ready to tap new digital technologies.

The book, co-published by American think-tank Brookings Institution, is available in English and Japanese. The English version, which will be officially launched in Singapore today, is on sale at major bookstores in the Republic at $34.24 (including goods and services tax).

Dr Calder, director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Centre for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins, served as professor of strategic studies at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies last year.

In his book, he examines the Republic's domestic policies in areas such as education, post-retirement savings, housing, ethnicity and transport. He also looks at Singapore's role in annual global forums like the Singapore International Water Week and the Shangri-La defence dialogue.

Dr Calder noted that Singapore, while being one of the world's most liveable cities, has been susceptible to challenges such as social inequality and rising costs.

But he had "cautious confidence" in Singapore, citing how it has overcome major odds over the years.

"I think the ability to continue to be innovative when new problems come up is one of the most important lessons about Singapore to the broad world," he told the 100 guests, who included former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, civil servants, businessmen and Japanese journalists.

This message struck a chord with Singapore Ambassador to Japan Chin Siat Yoon, who said: "For a small state like Singapore, relevance to others is important. We have to continue expounding the importance of interdependence and win-win collaborations."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore a good policy laboratory for other countries: Expert'. Print Edition | Subscribe