What we can learn from an Asian tiger

Whether you refer to it lovingly or loathingly as the little red dot, there is no denying Singapore has earned its position in the 21st century as Asia’s economic powerhouse.

As a traveller, Singapore is my preferred transit destination en route to India. The aerial view of Singapore is enough to take your breath away. Surrounded by pristine blue waters, you see a collage of greenery, shimmering skyscrapers and beautifully laid out roads. If you’re a city girl like I am, this is a sight for sore eyes.   

When Lee Kwan Yew became Singapore’s first prime minister in 1959, its per capita income was $400. Today, it is USD$55,000. Ranked by Forbes as the 3rd richest country in the world (the U.S. ranks at 7), this is a rags to riches story like no other.

Victor Mills, CEO of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, said, “Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s great achievement was the creation of modern Singapore. His greatest achievement is that it will survive him.”

Singapore’s success today is attributed to its sustained high economic performance that has led to wealth creation and employment generation. Tough to imagine that this city-state was once a mere fishing village!

Let’s be honest, this is where East and West truly meet. There aren’t many places that offer the best of both worlds – technology, modern infrastructure, innovation alongside social harmony, respect for religions and celebration of diversity. Supported by a backbone of deeply entrenched collectivist values is arguably what makes The Singapore Story so powerful.

Singapore’s bustling business ecosystem gives entrepreneurs the freedom to pursue their dreams. Today, the number of Singaporeans running their own business has doubled, giving the city-state the world’s second most entrepreneurs-per-capita, after the U.S. Indeed, Singapore’s success must also be credited to its history as a port city in 1819. And when in 1823, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles officially declared it a free and open ports; it thus cemented its future as the crucial link between the East and West.

The power shift has begun. The West is looking towards the East as the world becomes more Asian-centric. Singapore has more than proven itself as a worthy partner and facilitator in the Asian century. It’s up to the West to rise to the occasion and embrace this little red dot.

As for me, while my Hinglish has had many a year of ardent practice, I think now might be the time to sit back with a kopi-o and familiarise myself with a bit of Singlish. Okay lah?

By Diya Dasgupta

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