Forum: An insult to Third World nations

The morning crowd at Raffles Place MRT station.
The morning crowd at Raffles Place MRT station. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Professor Tommy Koh's remark that Singapore is a First World country with Third World people is extremely insensitive and insulting to citizens of Third World countries (Singaporeans can be more civic-minded, considerate, says Prof Koh, Oct 2).

The examples (not caring for the environment, inconsiderate driving, and so on) of poor civic-mindedness cited by Prof Koh are not typical of citizens of Third World countries.

I lived in several First World countries many years ago and I can testify that such poor civic-mindedness was often displayed by the people there as well. No country can be completely without citizens who behave less than perfectly.

Let me cite an instance of a low-income Singaporean who displayed a "First World" spirit of civic-mindedness.

I once suffered a tyre puncture on a busy main road in Singapore. I moved my car to the roadside and struggled to change the tyre myself. A couple of minutes later, a young lorry driver stopped his vehicle next to mine and changed the tyre for me with his equipment. I thanked him profusely and offered him $10 for "coffee". He politely refused. We shook hands and he drove away smiling. Do you think I could have received such assistance in London, Paris or New York?

Criticise Singaporeans' bad behaviour by all means. Show us how we can improve. But don't display arrogance by labelling poor civic-mindedness as Third World behaviour, especially when most Asean members are technically Third World countries.

Goh Ho Wee


Singapore achieved First World status by having an open-door policy for different races to live together in harmony (Why are Singaporeans a Third World people?, Oct 6).


This we have achieved, with minority races even holding high office in government.

Just read the news, there are many instances of Singaporeans giving help and assistance to others.

I do not agree that Singaporeans behave like Third World people. If that were so, why are there are many foreigners coming to Singapore?

Charlie H.T. Lau

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2019, with the headline 'An insult to Third World nations'. Print Edition | Subscribe