Being caught up in the daily imperative of studying or working, having families, caring for the young and the old, and extending Singapore's collective lifespan in the process, not everyone has the luxury of being able to take a step back and ask where the country is headed. Yet, that issue will become more insistent as the country contends with one uneasy feature of the global scene: the backlash to globalisation seen in even developed countries, where many have lost faith in the benefits that flow from being integrated into the wider world economy. Rather than view the transnational infusion of capital, people and ideas as elements that open doors to a better future for all, they tend to look inwards and build mental walls to protect their economic interests, ancestral cultures and a way of life which they presume to be under threat from outsiders. Xenophobia lurks just beneath the surface of this attempted withdrawal from the world, though not all nativists are racists. They simply have given up the attempt to remain a part of the global change because it has outstripped their capacity for economic competition and cultural adaptation.
This fate must not befall Singapore. In the 200 years since Sir Stamford Raffles set foot here, Singapore has survived and thrived by being open to the world. This was an act of necessity. Singapore could not have flourished as an entrepot without having a hinterland to connect to the world. The approach of Singapore's leaders and officials lay in attuning the potential of a tiny island to global economic currents. They could not have done that without allowing into Singapore, the businessmen, workers, educators and administrators who possessed the skills and drive to make the country relevant to the world of the 19th century. Their arrival contributed to the significant development of Singapore into a multiracial and multi-religious home for all, one that went on to emerge as a Global City in the 20th century. Today's Singaporeans inherited that ethic of openness to the world without and to inclusiveness within.