Modern Singapore

July 08, 2010

Modern Singapore
  • Introduction

Singapore is the envy of many countries. It is an international finance centre, one of the busiest shipping ports in the world and a major Asian air transport hub. It’s home to a diverse population, which includes a thriving expat community.

You’ve got to hand it to Singapore, it only became a republic in 1965 and like the other Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea) has grown into a highly modern economic powerhouse in a very short time.

Modern Singapore continues to build on its long history as a trading post, leveraging historical ties and location to become an international finance centre, one of the busiest shipping ports in the world and a major Asian air transport hub.

In many ways Singapore is the envy of many countries. People are highly educated, multi-lingual and the standard of living is high compared to most countries in the region. Singapore is clean, green and safe as well as affluent, progressive, and relatively unhampered by social maladies of other sizeable cities – pollution, crime, drugs, homelessness and urban decay.

It’s modern day success can be largely attributed to a determined and hard working older generation and the vision and leadership of political legend, Lee Kuan Yew, who became Prime Minister and leader of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1959, prior to Singapore gaining independence from Britain and then from Malaysia.

Lee Kuan Yew remains a highly influential figure in Singapore’s political landscape. He currently holds the title of ‘Minister Mentor’ while his son Lee Hsien Loong is the ‘elected’ Prime Minister and PAP leader. I use the word elected loosely, mainly because there is effectively only one party in Singapore.

This authoritarian or benevolent dictatorship approach to government is philosophically hard for western democracies to embrace, but in Singapore’s case it is hard to criticize given the city-state’s economic strength, social stability and general contentment of the people. 

That said, this conservative state has contributed to the enduring stereotype of Singapore as a ‘sterile’ destination – a tightly controlled, highly restrictive, orderly but bland urban society.

However, the reality for Singaporeans and the expats who live there is certainly not an oppressive or drab existence. Perhaps it is a bit mundane for some, lacking the edge and intrigue of Hong Kong or Bangkok, a bit too manicured, a bit too well-behaved. But overall, Singapore is a very livable city with its cosmopolitan attitude, tropical lifestyle and colonial charm.

Visitors to Singapore will find pockets of tradition and local culture that are uniquely Singaporean as well as an urban society that continues to evolve towards an ideal of sophistication.

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