As a hub for global business and trade, Singapore has built up considerable hardware over the last five decades. It now needs to nurture the ‘heartware’ for its next phase of existence.

SINGAPORE (Aug 26): As Singapore turns 54, it is time once again to look at how far the tiny nation state has come. It has a history spanning centuries, beginning with Sang Nila Utama, a Palembang prince said to have founded Singapura on the island of Temasek in the 13th century; to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who arrived in 1819 and established Singa­pore as a British trade outpost; migrant settlers such as Tan Tock Seng, who came with nothing but became successful businessmen and gave back to their communities; and visionaries such as the late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore to international recognition.

Singapore today is the most advanced economy in the region, politically stable and one of the world’s richest, having benefitted from favourable trade winds over the last 200 years. But after decades of remarkable progress, the city state is now facing an existential challenge: Economic growth has slowed to nearly zero, amid an ageing population, industry disruption and an increasingly complex, competitive and protectionist world. Singapore’s struggle now, says observers, is to remain relevant in the global economy.

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