S'pore should not lose sight of immediate neighbours

I agree with Professor Linda Lim that we should not lose sight of our own South-east Asian backyard amid the rise of China (Singapore's future lies in the past; March 28).

Indeed, the region surrounding Singapore can be integrated into a larger economic whole, providing scope for work , play and travel for us and our neighbours.

What is needed is a move towards a freer two-way flow of people - not just tourists but workers and professionals as well - and ideas. This requires a mindset change both here and in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The day when Singaporeans live in Johor, Bintan, Batam and Karimun, and their skilled workers live in Singapore and commute freely as well, is not far off. The High Speed Rail between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur portends such a day, and in the future, high-speed sea vessels and helicopters may allow for more.

The creation of an integrated economic zone around Singapore will be reminiscent of Singapore's position as the eminent trading, financial and communications centre in South-east Asia decades ago.

Implementation of this grand plan, however, will require us to nurture policymakers familiar with the languages, culture and environment of our nearest neighbours - a significant challenge, as our educational system has placed more focus on developed countries rather than the immediate neighbouring region.

Wong Horng Ginn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore should not lose sight of immediate neighbours'. Print Edition | Subscribe