Singapore grows on you.
Invariably, you start with applauding the neat layout, spacious & friendly ambience, and pleasant efficiency at Changi Airport. The drive from the airport, with greenery all around, smooth traffic, & clean roads, confirms what you have heard and read about Singapore. You can’t wait to explore and know more. Singapore has hooked one more lover.
After spending a few years here, I have become a fan. I can’t help admire. At times, I catch myself boasting about Singapore to visiting friends & family.
Singapore has indeed achieved much in its short history. Accolades pour in every week from all over the world. Smart city. Green city. Best schooling system. Efficient government. Low corruption. Foreigner friendly. Business friendly. Clean city. Innovative. Must visit tourist spot. Vibrant arts & culture. Very rational government. Meritocracy. Future city.
Singapore was almost an afterthought, after Malaysia didn’t want it. It was forced to fend for itself. With no natural resources, it had to depend on human talent & ingenuity to survive & progress. Even sand & water had to be imported.
Fifty years on, Singaporeans are justifiably proud. They have done very well indeed. Their per capita income puts them in the league of rich countries. Many countries, both developed & developing, study Singapore’s policies, systems & ideas, aspiring to do as well.
I often wonder if Singapore can sustain. And for how long? Was it luck? What can trip Singapore?
We must start with the good people who founded Singapore. They were unique, visionary, driven, and more importantly, were able to amass popular support for their ideas & policies. Most of these were progressive, which of course have led to the creation of modern & successful Singapore. Singapore is not a typical democracy. One party has ruled all these 50 years. You don’t see or hear of opposition much. The vast majority of the populace don’t seem to be bothered, as long as they have jobs, shopping malls, roads & trains, and the government doesn’t interfere in their personal choices & lives.
So, we have an unique situation where a few good men have ruled wisely. This is an anomaly, something which doesn’t happen often. Its good fortune or luck. History may perhaps have a handful of such successes.
Of course, to give it full credit, Singapore does try to institutionalize luck. All ideas which have led to successful outcomes are studied, analyzed & followed fervently by upcoming politicians and bureaucrats. The old guard have not faded away and linger around as philosopher guides.
But reality has to acknowledged. Over time, circumstances & people change. Ideas evolve. New thinking will happen. New politicians, bureaucrats and citizens will support new ideas & policies. The Primordial Soup which created a successful Singapore will see a marked difference in its ingredients.
Whether this will lead Singapore to greater heights is an open question. However, reversion to mean is bound to happen at some point.
Setbacks will happen. Sooner or later, Singapore will fumble, stumble, mumble, tremble, crawl…..and will have to swallow its pride.
The challenge is to continuously strive to raise the average standard of performance and living, such that the occasional setbacks don’t reset the clock back to zero.