Singapore is 50 years old, which means that I have lived through more than half its extant lifetime.Since my birth 26 years ago in 1989, a dizzying array of changes have taken place. Today, on the 50th anniversary of Singapore's founding, I will briefly mention a few things I appreciate about this little granite outcrop. (not exhaustive)
Enlightened government policies
- The economic progress of the nation.The national story of economic development is a source of pride for every citizen. We bask in reflected lustre of two great national development policies - (A) export-oriented industrialization of starting in the 1960s, first manufacture of textiles and then of electronics, and then oil refining. (B) The services economy in developing Changi airport in 1981 and sea ports; as well as developing the financial services industry in the 1990s. This allowed Singaporeans to gain jobs as middle-management for global companies entering Asia. The third financial hub turn in the 00s and 10s has created even greater concentration of wealth which is expressed in a gleaming downtown, but that growth model has led to an increase in the number of foreign citizens, which have put strain on our social contract
- A good education - one of the best in the world. Singapore's obsessive focus on education is the key to creating good jobs for its people. To take an example - my own training to be a doctor in JC involved two years of education in the basics of biology and chemistry. I think my training in biology in JC was simply world-class (and better than many American prep schools) - it left me with a very solid grasp of the field's fundamentals - evolution and DNA.
- I could mention a few more - the housing policies to ensure every citizen had a stake in the nation, the NEWater project. The PAP government have been very effective municipal administrators.
- The friendliness of Singaporeans - who may weather hardship, but are invariably friendly when making the kopi or driving the taxis.
- The flowering of civil expression (political and artistic) in the last 15 years, as I have seen peers who have taken paths outside the well-worn tracks of lawyers, doctors and bankers..
- Wicked spicing in the roti prata curries, the delicious nasi lemak, silky chicken rice, an endless variety of sweet soups and desserts - Singapore's food may not be the most refined, or the easiest for the digestion, but it has one of the broadest spicing palettes I have seen anyway. This small island - with Cantonese steamed fish, red chilli crabs, peranakan cuisine, and in latter years a smattering of celebrity chef restaurants - has one of the highest varieties of food per square km.
Happy birthday Singapore!