As they call it here, it is “SG50” in Singapore today – it is 9th August, the independence day which carries a special importance as it is the 50th anniversary of Singapore as a nation state.
Singapore has achieved so much in the past 50 years that it looks like a dream. It is an example of what enlightened leadership can deliver to a very small country, but is also an excellent example to those bigger countries which are struggling to improve their economies and uplift their masses towards more prosperity.
There have been lots of articles in the local newspapers, and in BBC and elsewhere about today’s milestone for Singapore. The main theme of most articles is that Singapore has accomplished a lot for itself and its citizens over the past 50 years, despite certain imperfections. There are always issues in each and every country, but the key difference in Singapore is that most of the basic issues have been more than satisfactorily addressed, and people seem to be happier than they were even a decade ago. Singapore has many firsts to its credit, but that is actually a long list ! One has to just arrive in Singapore and then take a look around – it has transformed itself into a global city in a short time.
While the country celebrates, the most important thing that dominates discussions today is the next 50 years. Never to rest on its laurels, Singapore has already been planning for the future. While more thinking is of course needed, and citizens need to see the rationale for the future plans, it is important to realize that strategic planning has been instrumental for Singapore’s success. The leaders should be able to envision the future and that requires leaders of mettle.
My own assessment (despite certain negative views that have been aired) is that Singapore would successfully navigate the challenges of the future and survive, even thrive better in the years to come. That is seemingly possible given the conditions which already exist on the ground in Singapore – a clean and functioning government, an efficient bureaucracy, world-class infrastructure, and ease of doing business. However, three things are critical to keep going at the current pace – the first is the understanding and cooperation of the citizens, especially the younger generation (the 15 to 25 year olds); the second is the ability to fine-tune the cost of living – easier said than done; and the third is to build the research & development ecosystem (not just the startup scenario).
We can discuss these points and more; I am sure the government already knows the importance of all these issues. Challenges exist, but so do the brains behind the effective machinery of Singapore which can handle the challenges. Friction has to be avoided, and things would have to move even faster than it is today.
That would be my prescription for the SG75 and SG100 !
9th August 2015