A tiny red dot on a map which was a fishing village 30-40 years ago, Singapore, today boasts of being the 3rd richest country on earth (according to GDP per capita-PPP).
Stepping into Singapore is like stepping into the future– 30 years ahead perhaps. In short, Singapore is the Asian miracle that we all must witness at least once.
Innovative skyscrapers and beautiful trees adorn the squeaky-clean streets. The architectural marvel known as Marina Bay Sands, a three-towered hotel connected by a boat shaped infinity pool on the roof, overlooks the whole city.
An entire man-made forest conserves flora and fauna from all over the world and 18 “Supertrees” lead the way to environmental sustainability by generating solar power and collecting rain water.
If these were not enough, marvellous exhibitions like “Human+, the future of our species”, where you can speak to an actual Humanoid (human+robot), are displayed all over the city.
Welcome to Singapore, welcome to the future
Have you ever visited a night safari before? Riding a vehicle through the forest to observe the nocturnal animals? If not, now is your chance.
How about a theatre shaped like the famous fruit Durian? Walk past Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay and admire the durian spikes on this gorgeous structure. If you are willing to spend a bit, watch a show here, from brilliant Flamenco dances to Chinese opera, art and culture thrives right at the heart of the city.
Did you ever wish to visit one of the world’s largest aquariums and dine in the presence of Manta rays? The S.E.A Aquarium just made your dream come true.
Ever dreamt of an entire stretch of land dedicated to nightlife? Imagine LKF in Hong Kong but bigger and better! Plus, it’s by the river! Welcome to Clarke Quay.
Never got the chance to visit China or India? No problem, get a taste of them in Chinatown and Little India. If you are adventurous enough, try the crocodile meat at Chinatown!
Want to see how the old and the new can co-exist beautifully within walking distance? Walk from the old shop houses of Bugis or Boat Quay to the skyscrapers at Raffles Place.
However, when I call Singapore the Asian miracle, I do not just refer to these. Some cities are great to visit but when you ask yourself, “Could I live here?”, you often find the answer in negative.
Singapore is the miracle country because despite being barely 50 years old, without any natural resources, it has achieved some of the highest standards in quality of life.
How is life in Singapore?
What makes Singapore so futuristic is not just these tourist spots but the convenience it provides on a day-to-day basis.
You can reach anywhere in the country in 20 minutes via cab. Food is literally everywhere and quite cheap as compared to any other developed nation. In fact, you can have a perfect culinary adventure in Singapore too.
Public transport is efficient, there is almost zero congestion on the roads even during rush hours and the whole city is beautifully green.
Not only can you see the blue sky and breathe fresh air, you can also find parks all around the country. Every road is covered by trees on both sides, thus providing some respite from the tropical heat.
There are a few beaches as well and you can even live by the beach for a reasonable price. Moreover, Singapore continues to remain one of the safest countries on earth, where we even leave our house doors unlocked half the time.
However, the best part of Singapore is not its convenience. It’s the unique racial harmony that this tiny nation has managed to achieve. A simple stroll around Singapore and you can easily find people from various races, religions and nations, mingling and living peacefully.
Singapore officially recognizes three major communities, Chinese Singaporeans, Malay Singaporeans and Indian Tamil Singaporeans and the government makes it a priority to promote harmony among all of them. Except these, no matter where in the world you are from, not only will you be accepted in Singapore’s society, you will most likely discover people from your own country as well.
Many countries claim to be multi-cultural but in most societies people from different communities just live beside each other, rather than living with each other. They call their societies progressive but there are instances of racial hatred almost on a daily basis.
It would be stupid to claim that Singapore has achieved the perfect racial harmony but if there is one country that is way ahead of most others in this respect, it is Singapore. You have to live here to believe it.
Yes, there are racial stereotypes and you will probably have your own circle of friends who belong to the same community. However, there is almost no real racial hatred and you will also become friends with people from other communities and other nations, if you are open to it.
Progressive government and why it matters
Now the question is, how did this miracle happen? A city state with almost zero natural resources not only became one of the financial centres of the world but also managed to become one of the most livable places on the planet.
The answer is progressive stable government and actions that truly matter.
In 1965, when Singapore became an independent nation, its prospects were dim. However along the hundreds of disadvantages, Singapore had a few advantages like strategic location for trade.
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first (and most revered) prime minister knew how to use these advantages. He opened up the economy for trade and foreign investment. Low tax rates combined with other business policies attracted a swarm of multinationals to this island.
Lee Kuan Yew ensured the government remains corruption-free by rewarding the employees with high monetary compensation. As the country began to prosper, the citizens did not see any need for a new government.
A stable government could now plan long term policies that lead to sustainable growth. The government also remains a big supporter of progressive ideas, be it in terms of automation or eco-friendly products.
The government also recognised that promoting racial harmony is the only way forward and dedicates significant amount of resources for the same. All religions and communities are given equal importance and freedom.
The result? Singapore- as we see it today! Here are some examples of the hard decisions and their effects.
Results of government policies
Despite being a tiny city with limited land area, due to the strict price control of real estate, HDBs (public housing) continue to remain affordable. The business district is located at the centre and most areas are well-connected to the central business district.
As mentioned earlier, food is extremely affordable and is available literally everywhere. Every food court (hawker center) has a variety of different cuisines to choose from.
This is no coincidence. A large amount of resources were dedicated to urban planning to ensure convenience of the residents. By law, every public housing community must have a hawker center nearby, among other facilities.
Cars are expensive to buy and maintain. While some may perceive this as an inconvenience, it is this very policy that prevents congestion on the roads of Singapore, even during peak hours. Public transport is highly developed and connects every corner of the city to ensure people have to rely the least on private transportation.
Overall, the government continues to strive to improve the lifestyle of its residents and embraces the future with open arms, rather than shying away from it.
Is it all rosy though?
What Singapore gained in terms of convenience, safety and prosperity, came with a cost. The government’s policies continue to remain conservative in many areas.
The LGBT community is not recognized, political opinions are restricted in certain ways and the punishments remain harsh. While the young generation craves for freedom in these aspects, they perhaps often don’t value the lifestyle they enjoy because they haven’t seen otherwise.
A common stereotype is that Singaporeans love to complain. Only, in this case, it is true. They complain because they don’t compare their lifestyle with residents of other south-east asian countries. They complain because they compare their lifestyle in the past to their current lifestyle.
Another disadvantage of being a tiny island nation is that its residents are easily bored. There is no countryside. There are no weekend getaways within the country. Weekend getaways are often in Malaysia.
You don’t enjoy 4 different seasons either and if you don’t venture out of the country frequently, you may eventually find your lifestyle dull.
At the end of the day, unbound safety, unlimited convenience and prosperity often comes at small costs. It is up to an individual to decide whether the costs are worth the benefits or not.
The Asian miracle
Whichever side you choose, everyone has to agree that no country has achieved such enormous and sustainable holistic growth in 30 years like Singapore.
Today, not only do people from different parts of Asia want to move to Singapore, but a significant number of people from all over the world want to migrate here.
This is what makes Singapore the Asian miracle that everyone must witness once. The future lies here. Come and see it, to believe it.