Singapore has used soft power for decades

In an otherwise excellent article (Soft power: S'pore can afford to be more ambitious; July 25), Mr Jonathan McClory has omitted or overlooked the knowledge/skills sharing that Singapore has been engaged in over the past 50 years.

Benefiting from the assistance given by developed countries and international organisations, the Singapore Government felt that it was only proper that its developmental experiences be placed at the service of developing countries who want to improve the lot of their people.

Accordingly, a Technical Assistance Directorate was set up in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to render this service.

This has evolved into the Singapore Cooperation Programme of today.

Thousands of trainees have come to Singapore for training, with some of them trained in their own countries.

Working with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the scheme was enhanced to bring in more trainees.

A notable experience of the positive effects of the transfer of technical know-how can be seen in the case of China.

Following his epochal visit to Singapore in 1979, then Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping issued a dictum to his people: "Go south and learn." As a consequence, several thousand trainees came to Singapore and trained in Nanyang Technological University and other centres of training.

On their return, these trainees contributed to China's rapid progress from an impoverished country to the second most important economy of today.

While this process of transfer of expertise was going on at the government-to-government level, a quasi-government body, the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) was set up to interact with both developed and developing countries to share values and expertise.

Over the past 25 years, the SIF has rolled out numerous programmes in areas such as Water for Life, healthcare and literacy.

At the non-governmental level, organisations like Mercy Relief, Red Cross and the Rotary Movement are involved in helping others to help themselves and to make this world a better place to live in.

I hope Mr McClory can include the above elements in his calculation of Singapore's "soft power", which I personally prefer to call a "sharing of experiences".

K. Kesavapany
Governor
Singapore International Foundation