The Sunday Times says

Why some don't rave about their city

Travel magazine Time Out's latest rating of the "most exciting cities in the world" predictably did its rounds in the media sphere. It's the kind of topic to stir curiosity and animated argument (depending on where one's city stands on the list). A so-called index, it is not yoked to any theoretical work. It's rather the creation of a survey team marketing itself as "researchers, modellers and narrators"out to tell a story that can generate "countless PR spin-offs and extensive online coverage".

The exercise was "fun in so many ways" for the company, Tapestry Research, which came up with "five key criteria for a city to seduce its inhabitants": food and drink, culture, friendliness, affordability, happiness and liveability. These factors in themselves deserve attention. But the ranking was not much fun for the Singapore Tourism Board to ponder as the Republic ranked No. 31 out of the 32 cities considered. STB expressed its incredulity in a video rebuttal of the pop survey - a natural reaction, considering the millions of dollars being spent on attracting meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions; and wooing travellers from far and wide.

It appeared that STB's efforts were undermined by not enough residents standing up for Singapore: "Only 66 per cent of the 235 people surveyed actually enjoy living here", said Time Out. Of course, people must express honest opinions and not just paint a rosy picture for the sake of good publicity. All negative sentiments deserve scrutiny and should not be just dismissed as the tendency of people who "love to complain" and are "supercritical", as the magazine described them.

Singapore's lively food scene is not disputed. But more can be done so residents can enjoy good work-life balance, many affordable pleasures and friendliness aplenty. Scoring high in these areas is what really matters, not just gaining titles like "the world's most exciting city".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 11, 2018, with the headline 'Why some don't rave about their city'. Print Edition | Subscribe