a community of singaporeans

Singapore – on the bright side

Posted by theonlinecitizen on August 5, 2007

In the lead-up to National Day, TOC’s writers share their personal views on what it means to be a Singaporean and what Singapore means to them. Here is the 2nd article.

By Ned Stark

We all are said to be, rightly or wrongly, products of the Singapore System. Though I would like to think of myself as a defect given some of the views I have held.

But nevertheless, as in most things in life, the Singapore system does have its good points.

In fact, as National Day approaches, it is time to look on the brighter side of things, for once.

Singapore has often been seen as a model for developing countries. Indeed a visit to other countries in the region will give us a sneak peek of how Singapore was like before. Due in part to the founding fathers (from all parties) and to our forefathers, Singapore has developed economically and in terms of technology.

Furthermore having been overseas this past weekend, I must say that being orderly is not such a bad thing at times. While I do have some strong opinions regarding Singaporean drivers, on the whole things on the road are rather orderly which makes driving less of a headache.

One of the oft-derided things in Singapore is the “pragmatism”. While pragmatism does at time seem to be one of the overused words in Singapore, it is also, in a way necessary for things to work. As a friend of mine once said, idealism is needed for a society to advance, but pragmatism ensures that the society stays there.


But one of the greatest draws in Singapore is safety. In fact whenever I go on a holiday, I would keep my wallet in the front pocket rather than in the back. And I would always check my wallet with a paranoia bordering on hysteria at times.

In Singapore, I am content to leave my wallet in my back pocket. Furthermore I rarely if ever, venture out alone when I am overseas in the middle of the night. Suffice it to say, such inhibitions are lessened a lot when I am in Singapore. While it is undeniably true that low crime is not equivalent to no crime, the sense of security in Singapore is something that, till now, is hard to find in some other countries.

Of course at times there are undesirable stuff about Singapore. But to borrow and paraphrase a saying, no country is perfect. Every country has its idiosyncrasies. But of course that is not to say that we cannot hope or work for change.

For at the end of the day, is not the desire to improve society, be it under the lightning bolt, the hammer or any other banner, a manifestation of patriotism?

Ned also writes on his own blog, Winter Is Coming.

Read also TOC writer Benjamin Cheah’s City Of Lions.


9 Responses to “Singapore – on the bright side”

  1. As long as ministers are not willing to tell the whole truths and be accountable in whatever they are doing, Singapore will continue to suffer from many problems citizens are complaining about.

    For example, here is a good example showing as long as ministers are telling half truths the many problems presently faced by the people will not disappear so soon even with growth in GDP or success in IR.

    The following posts will serve to illustrate such fundamental problems affecting our particular system of top-down government:-

    *Edited by moderator for lengthy-ness.

    *Robert, please refrain from posting lengthy comments and from cutting and pasting lengthy comments/articles from other blogs or forums. You can quote a short paragraph and provide a link to them if you want. We want to allow you to have your say but comments running into the thousands of words will be moderated. Thanks. 🙂

  2. scb said

    Apart from saying thank you to Robert Teh for his above post which I believe has the depth and good understangs of the subject matter, I like to add that getting pickpocketed in a foreign country is as slim as getting wet in a sunny day. Comparatively, the number of people in Singapore committing suicides is far higher than the amount of Singaporean falling victim to crimes in foreign lands. Singaporeans repeatedly go oversea for tours and works, how many encountered crimes? I have not heard any of my relatives and friends suffering from those problems. Frankly, I am of the impression that there are more foreigner pickpockets operating in Singapore because of its’ affluent inhabitants, what a paradox! The brightest side(sight) of Singapore are the vices and the sunshine, they are glaring.

  3. Quote “For at the end of the day, is not the desire to improve society, be it under the lightning bolt, the hammer or any other banner, a manifestation of patriotism?”

    I disagree. Toiling under the lightning bolt, with a salary that makes that of the US President’s seem like peanuts, is not patriotism in any extent.

  4. Ned Stark said


    Well it is undeniably true that in some places the chance of getting pickpocketed is nil, there is just something about Singapore which makes u feel more secure.

    Furthermore, having been to some countries, I have noticed incidents of pickpocketing or incidents of near pickpocketing. And apparently in some countries the tour guide will warn the tourist not to help a kid who falls on the road for whatever reason because that will only set u up as a victim of pickpocketing.

    Insouciant and Capricious,
    If u note the sentence, i only talked about the desire to improve society and nothing else. I did not intend to link the issue with ministerial salaries. In fact personally i am unhappy about the issue for several reasons.

  5. scb said

    Ned, with all due respects, I would like to say that it is definitely more consoling to be pickpocketed and be able to buy plenty home than having to jump into mrt track and abseiling from highrise without even an umbrella voluntarily.

  6. Ned Stark said


    I see your point. However the focus in this instance was an personal opinion on what are Singapore’s good points. And thats that.

  7. Scb,

    Citizens could have plenty of savings given the initial good growths of economy from early 1970s till sometime around early 1980s.

    When Dr. Goh Keng Swee was still around there was some hope of Singapore upgrading to a value-adding technology-oriented economic model matching that of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Denmark or Switzerland because he was truly a hands-on result-oriented talent who has created a whole Jurong, etc.

    However after 1980s, the main emphasis of government has been rather theoretical focusing on elevating all the academic scholars to be ministers and top civil servants, with little efforts made to promote practical knowledge applications, innovations, or investing in facilities which nurtured the domestic sector of the economy. Many projects were launched without much direction or focus or consistent implementation based on some master planning and nothing much was heard of the progress of many economic restructuring plans launched.

    The departure of GKS probably was the turning point from practical hands-on master planning and implementation of holistic and strategic economic restructuring plans which in later years fizzled into a conceptual pro-foreign investment approach which failed to compete with other cheaper locations.

    Yet our ministers lost directions and neglected pursuit of mass broad-based knowledge application in all fields which were responsible for competitive technology and knowledge applications in other diverse economies.

    If the economic planning has been consistently carried out aimed at motivating the local businesses instead on one-way taxing and profiteering against the local citizens, we could have reached a different route and different level of development and dropped back to helpless third world wages and lost opportunities.

    Only a proactive economic master planning combined with good practical implementation will Singapore accomplish its intended value-adding and diverse mass application of knowledge and technology start-up to catch up with the rest and many years of neglect due to conceptual piecemeal approaches put up by the scholars.

  8. scb said

    Robert Teh, there were indeed a period of good times before the middle of the eighties, I have the luck of being born right at the beginning of the fifties and hence had the opportunity of a more carefree livings in my early days in the kampong.

    The Changes that came after the mid eighties were pretty much due to the emphasis on wealth creations without corresponding cares for the developments of social, cultural and ethical wellbeings. The money-centred policies somehow morphed into money loving individuals who benchmark success based on wealth. A very unhealthy culture has since taken root since then.

    No turning back is possible now as most space has been used in this tiny landmass without the least of resources. Economic progress in the present era, I believe is consumption dependent. So, other than attracting investors which is the right strategy applicable to all nations, there is also the need to bring in foreigners to aid in the consumptions or spendings so to say.

    Unfortunately, due to the limited space we have and lack of resources, the additional influx of foreigners will add to the complexities in managing them. As it is, many cabinet members are foreign born and there is imminent danger that indigenous Singaporeans will one day be governed by majority foreign born cabinet members.

    At this point of discussion, we are only talking about domestic issues, other aspects are far more complex to deal with. I am just glad that the Internet has enable us to discuss such matters independent from the interference of the authority.

    Though a layman with little education, I have tried my best to actively participate in nation building for about three decades in a quiet way but found it very unproductive. Hopefully, what little I do in cyberspace could be constructive contributions. I thank you once more.

  9. […] for I do not know what to make of Singapore, what to make of her people, among other things. I do not deny that Singapore has her good points. But at present I am still unable to answer the question. Perhaps, there needs be some kind of […]

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