Not taking Singapore's success for granted

A view of Singapore civic district.
A view of Singapore civic district. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Recently, a 44-strong delegation from the United States descended upon Singapore to uncover the successful recipe for its public housing and transportation models.

Their itinerary included visits to government offices where avid questioning took place. Features of our Certificate of Entitlement and Central Provident Fund schemes clearly surprised them.

I found, however, that those things which amazed them were the very same things Singaporeans tend to take for granted.

One is how the nation has managed to move things forward so efficiently in one synchronised and integrated effort.

Although some might express concerns about the concentration of power in one ruling party, we must recognise the value it brings in forging a coordinated vision for the nation, and averting the political paralysis and myopia afflicting other nations (Singapore must have strong ruling party with clear majority, May 27).

Another quality that strikes visitors is the nation's bold engagement in long-term projection.

What made it plonk down $1.7 billion to build Jewel long before the travellers even showed up?

Did the authorities plan for housing estates before constructing pricey train stations and tracks, or was it the other way round?

How does Singapore make exorbitant, audacious bets and get it right just about every time?

Indeed, Singapore lacks a hinterland and has no natural resources to speak of, so the awe it draws over its success story is well justified.

However, regardless of the continuing success and achievements, the people must remain cognisant of the city state's vulnerability.

To safeguard Singapore and ensure its stability, sometimes that means having to do things differently from others, such as advocating for the preservation of social harmony over full freedom of speech, and planning for leadership succession instead of leaving leadership to chance.

While the onus is on the Government to ensure that the system remains one of meritocracy that works to counter elitism, corruption and complacency, citizens have a responsibility to stay aware of their nation's vulnerability and commit themselves to being part of the endeavour to keep the national torch burning bright for residents and visitors alike.

Lily Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2019, with the headline 'Not taking Singapore's success for granted'. Print Edition | Subscribe