August 19, 2016

Singapore: small but strong

My wife and I paid a visit to Singapore for a family reunion with our three sons and stayed there for the whole month of April. As our elder sons go to work and the youngest one goes to school to Ngee Ann Polytechnic early in the morning , we had to stay at home in the apartment on the Sengkang East Road.
My wife was kept busy using facebook while I enjoyed reading the Straits Times; a copy of the paper was provided as a sort of introduction on my trip to the city-state by the Singapore Airline. Through the paper , I happened to know more about the outside world as well as the inside stories of Singapore. I appreciated the news reports by relatively young but experienced correspondents in big cities from around the world.
As far as I know Singapore is about 26 miles long and about 10 miles wide(277.6 sq.mile in 2015 after reclamations), meaning it is smaller the Greater Yangon of Myanmar. It has a population of over 5million and the Singapore Strait is 190km long and links Asia to  the Middle East and Europe and carries about 40 per cent of the world’ trade with more than 1000 ships daily. With the help of the Changi Airport,
Singapore has become the most attractive place to do business in Southeast Asia.
As a matter of fact, Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew are inseparable: he built Singapore from a poor British outpost to a modern developed city-state which enjoyed GDP per capita income of US$ 56,284 which was higher than that of the United States in 2014. Indeed. Lee Kuan Yew was an exceptional leader who balanced authoritarianism with pragmatism. As the saying “ you reap what you sow’ goes, Singaporeans today keep enjoying the benefits what Lee Kuan Yew built during his time of service in government.
Politically today young leaders never hesitate to get involved with issues with local or international whatever it maybe ;it means they have a voice. In this connection, it can be seen vividly. Minister for Home Affairs and law K. Shanmugam said at the United Nations meeting that Singapore would not soften its drug policies. He did not even mince words in his rebuttal to the European Union and the United States at the UN General Assembly in New York. Again Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore could not accept ‘might is right’, expressing his great interest in seeing territorial disputes in the South China Sea settled peacefully. And Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large accused China of meddling in internal affairs of Asean  countries after the second economic power signed an agreement with Laos. Cambodia and Brunei.
Economically infrastructure is excellent: air, rail and road.  Changi Airport, one of the best in the world, handles the landings and takeoffs of almost two thousand aircraft daily and in 2015 it played an important role to attract almost 55 million tourists to a tiny state of over 5 million population. Just imagine how could it handle efficiently the tourist arrivals, the ten times higher than its population. MRT,LRT ,cars and buses load and unload passengers respectively, sending locals and foreigners alike to their destinations in a relatively short time. Owning a car is never easy for there are fewer parking spaces and higher parking fees.  On a sultry afternoon my sons took us to the East Coast to enjoy the evening breeze. Wow! There are thousands of lights flickering from ships anchored which brightened up the surface of the sea. At the same time, minute by minute a plane shoots up from Changi Airport just like a firefly.
In the morning I went out for a walk together with my wife along the LRT warehouse to a riverfront in the Sengkang East area. We walked side by side as usual; we were irritated by ringing bells from uni-, bi-, pedaled and powered cycles on the pavements which are virtually meant for pedestrians. Very few birds—sparrows, pigeons, doves,mynahs and other strange birds—are seen among the grass and in trees and people are allowed to feed them, my sons told me. But I am unhappy when I read an article in which the writer regarded the Javan Mynahs as pests and wanted to eradicate them by putting them in soups in restaurants  because of their numbers and their intrusion into the food courts in the city-state. Can you imagine a forest without birds; there are relatively few birds. They beautify forests and they should be spared. I feel fine to find Singapore free of mosquitoes, flies ,stray dogs. Last but not least, I would like to point out prices are higher and higher on many items such as alcohol and cigarettes;  a good policy should be implemented as Singapore has no resources and is buying water from Malaysia.
I would like to conclude my article by quoting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s  remarks on his visit to Israel: Israel’s identity is as a Jewish state; Singapore’s identity is emphatically not a Chinese nation, but a  multi-racial, multi-religious society. That was the reason for Singapore’ existence. Singapore is strategically located on the 190km long Singapore Strait and therefore it happens to be a business hub for the world. And I sincerely believe it will thrive for many years to come because of the strong foundation laid down by its founder Lee Kuan Yew.


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