Side Views

Singapore’s success and failure - Lim Mun Fah

I live in the city just across the narrow strait from Singapore, and used to work in that island state for several years. Three of my sisters are married to Singaporeans, and have now become Singapore citizens. My younger brother has worked in Singapore for many years and has become a Singaporean as well.

Whenever my son leaves for or comes back from his oversea studies, it is very likely that he will depart or land on Changi Airport. Since young I have been listening to Singapore's radio and watching Singapore's TV programmes, a lot more than I do for local channels.

Because of this, I occasionally write about Singapore and each time I have written, there are bound to be readers slamming me for singing praises of Singapore.

But I know very well that people like me are quite common, especially here in JB. We have some sort of special feelings for this tiny island lying at the other end of the Causeway, and we are all very clear that since the day Singapore separated from Malaysia, it is no more a part of our country, no matter how wonderful it is.

While singing praises of Singapore's strengths, we must also look at where it falls short. While we humbly learn from them, it is essential that we also remain wary not to repeat their mistakes.

I recently read of two interesting articles about Singapore.

By 2017, there will be one millionaire out of every 20 Singaporeans. In another incident, fewer and fewer Singaporean children are using Mandarin Chinese in their day-to-day living, only 40% Chinese Singaporean children speaking Mandarin with their parents.

According to the World Ultra Wealth Report 2013, the number of Singapore's high net worth individuals (with cash, real estate, collectibles worth in excess of US$30 million) has increased within the past one year from 1,305 to 1,355, of whom 27 are billionaires. This puts Singapore on top of Southeast Asia and sixth in Asia.

The same report also says that Singapore had more than 183,000 millionaires and the number is expected to swell to over 291,000 by 2017.

I am not sure how many millionaire-wannabes in our country are fascinated by the news, or even plan to migrate to the island republic, but I am pretty sure many will admire their friends and relatives living there.

But, there are hidden worries behind such flashy numbers. A Singapore friend told me while millionaires are walking all over Singapore, income gap disparity and social conflicts have been deteriorating.

Within merely a few decades, Lee Kuan Yew has turned the resource-scarce island state into a wealthy nation with the second highest concentration of millionaires.

Other than a clean and strong-handed government, and highly efficient bureaucracy, Lee Kuan Yew has also built an English first, mother language second education system, converting the only Chinese university in the region into one that is using English only as its teaching medium.

The result? English has become the ":mother tongue" of many Singaporeans. Only 40% of Chinese Singaporean children speak Mandarin with their parents while the rest speak English. Although they look very much like traditional Chinese people, they have become increasingly dubious over their own identities. –, September 27, 2013.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.


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