12 June, 2024


Singapore – Model, Rival Or Intruder?

By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

Singapore has recently been much in the news. Should we imitate, rival or insulate ourselves? These deserve to be examined closely as they are more complex than they may first seem.

As a Model

One wonders how many of those who speak of Lee Kwan Yu as the architect of modern-day Singapore have an acquaintance with his two monumental works entitled “The Singapore Story” and “From Third World to First”. They are highly instructive and give a fine insight into autobiographical detail and reveal that the journey from a small and insignificant fishing colony to a thriving, modern Metropolis has not been a “cake-walk”. The importance of a principled vision, persistence effort and uncompromising  incorruptibility have been recognized early as being key. However, even today there are those who bemoan the lack of “freedom”, “over-regulation” and “regimentation” of the people.

Some interesting observations are worth mentioning. Singapore needed to be “greened”. It was recognized that a Tropical, Monsoon climate and the accompanying rainfall run-off would result in depleted, acidic soils. Therefore, they first needed amelioration by heavy applications of lime. Teams were then dispatched abroad to identify and bring back trees of landscaping value. This has resulted in a remarkably pleasant and sylvan city. With many high-rise buildings, extensive air-conditioning and lavish lighting, energy requirements are huge. With no coal or natural gas of its own, it is said that with characteristic foresight, long term arrangements allow the piping in of natural gas from the inexhaustible resources of Kalimantan (previously Borneo). Similarly, arrangements to obtain water from Southern  Malaysia, are augmented by desalinized brine. With a mixed population of Chinese, Malay and Indian populations, rather than trying to accommodate each linguistic group, English was the most effective and “neutral” language of choice. Everybody uses and speaks it today. Consequently, Schools and Universities are able to tap resources from virtually everywhere in the World. In allocating public housing (HDB), care is taken to mix communities and so avoid “ghettoes”. Marina Bay Sands, is a scenic attraction for tourists. Among its facilities is a large gambling centre. Open to all, locals are discouraged by a very heavy entrance charge. Politicians are among the best paid in the country and are expected to deliver proportionately. The Cabinet is thus one of such qualifications as would adorn a University Faculty anywhere in the World. Interestingly, LKY apparently noticed that the Chinese in particular, habitually spat on the streets and dropped litter everywhere. No more – not even a cigarette butt, and until recently, even Chewing Gum was not permitted, as some vandals stuck it on the seats of the Metro! A superb Public Transport System, is accompanied by massive taxes on Private Vehicles. If anyone desires posh cars or houses, they (including Ministers and Politicians) are welcome to indulge, but at their own expense. A mature, responsible and consistent Foreign Policy, meant that there are no enemies and the country enjoys universal respect. We have much to learn before hopes of “becoming a Singapore” can be real.

As a rival

In justifying the Port City as a Business and Financial Hub we are set to rival Singapore on the East and Dubai on the West. One must, to put it mildly, re-examine this hope. In the days of sailing ships an intermediate stop for re-fueling, taking in water and food, could have been fine. But in this Communication Age, when the press of a computer button could shift billions across Continents, this hope is overly optimistic. Financial Centres are recognized to be much more than buildings, roads, houses and drainage. Political stability, security of investments and that intangible “Business Environment” are as paramount as they are currently lacking and would take very long (perhaps never) to establish.

As an Intruder

Recently concluded Free Trade Agreement has been opposed on various grounds. One is a fear by the GMOA that this is a conspiracy to import ill-qualified doctors who will edge out our own doctors. It is insulting to suggest that doctors in Singapore are ill-qualified. Anyone who knows anything about medical matters in Singapore (ask any of our politicos who chose to rush there for sundry ailments) is unreal. As for competing with local doctors, it would be lunacy for any doctor to abandon the comforts, security and emoluments they command in Singapore, to be bartered for what Sri Lanka may have to offer. If fear is of unlikely sub-standard quacks, there is of course the Act 17 which prevents persons with inadequate qualifications and charlatans from practicing locally. Thus flooding of Sri Lanka with doctors from Singapore, is an unwarranted fear. In contrast, there is little reaction to the visible presence of mainly “ unskilled workers”  from China.

The widespread concern that the FTA with Singapore will turn Sri Lanka into a dumping site for electronic, nuclear and other hazardous waste, has not prodded Government to emerge from its chronic ineptitude and incompetence to stoutly defend the FTA, if indeed it makes such a massive tragedy impossible. There is also justified fear that our international stature would be fatally damaged if we were to renege on FTA commitments, apart from the probability of massive legal costs. This should urge caution on the dangers of the staged “signings” of ill-prepared agreements to glamorize “State Visits” that are in any event, expensive and profoundly unnecessary image- building exercises.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    “The Cabinet is thus one of such qualifications as would adorn a University Faculty anywhere in the World.”
    Ha! Our Cabinet Ministers are wiser and more knowledgeable than the Cabinet Ministers in Singapore. In fact, most of our Ministers are erudite scholars. But they are very modest persons, so they don’t like to flaunt their qualifications like their counterparts in Singapore.

  • 0

    It is claimed that Singapore took observations on Ceylon when modelling itself. There is no doubt did learn from the mistakes we made – so did the rest of the world.

    Is Singapore a ‘Model, Rival Or Intruder’?
    Remnants of the old model is still there and quite a few who remember it. Rivalry?? Not many can match our culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity.

    Intruders?? This is subjective. Will Singapore turn Sri Lanka into a dumping site for electronic, nuclear and other hazardous waste. Not if we are vigilant.

    Certainly not in exchange for the use to dump/stash of ill gotten/unaccounted gains!

  • 2

    Singapore is a hooker nation. Anyone can become rich selling illicit products or services. That is what Singapore (or Singahore) is doing.

    Selling it’s body and selling it’s soul. Such wealth is useless.

    • 3

      To the 3 fellas who gave a thumbs down,

      So, you fellas think it is not immoral to sell your bodies for a couple of dollars? Go right ahead. But don’t promote your nefarious ideas on fellow forum members.

      You will make a few hundred dollars and you can go to Majestic city and spend that money lavishly. But the rest of us will prefer to prosper in more dignified way than you lot.

      And while you are at it, you can take your 3 downward pointing thumbs and stick them up your rear-end for all I care.

  • 1

    There’s a world of difference between SL & Singapore

    In the past Singapore wanted to imitate SL but they didn’t have anything to sell so they started selling somebody else’s things & succeeded ( in making heaps of money)

    Now they have money to buy SL & in the process of buying it thanks to RW & the clan.

    What’s happening here now is RW & the clan want to imitate Singapore, so first of all they want to sell everything & become Singapore.

    So there’s a buyer(SP) & there’s a seller(SL).

    JO isn’t perfect but they’re perfect in this regard.

  • 0

    Singapore is not a prosperous democratic state as many are trying to make it one through, ignorance and part knowledge. Like Taiwan, it was a British conception created for anti-China Chinese. This one for those from the South. The British used them to take opium coming from Calcutta and they maintained the harbour. The population was made up of Egyptian, Baghdadi and Syrian Jews who controlled the opium trade are still ruling Singapore, propping up the Yu family to appear as the real rulers. But they are not. They took Lee Kwan Yu to Cambridge and gave him a ‘double PhD) and he came back and made an English/American colony against China. This fraudulent harbour has no histroy, culture or values and those asking us to follow this low wage, blood extracting model should be sent to see how the Indians and malays live there.

    Get out of your colonial minds, you fools.

  • 0


    Lee Kwan Yi was not endowed with a PhD from Cambridge. You are just talking through your back end. I had been working for many years in SE Asia. Better know that many Indians and Malays from Johor commute to Singapore daily for jobs.
    We will not follow Singapore but as you say will follow crazy Kims from N. Korea who are dear to Chima.

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