SINGAPORE (Aug 12): This year, Singapore celebrates roughly 720 years since it first emerged as trading centre for the region. It is also 200 years since Raffles re-established Singapore as a regional port, and the 60th anniversary of self-government. The latter enabled Singapore to strike out on its own, eventually emerging as a uniquely successful and independent nation as well as one of the pre-eminent global hubs of commerce and finance.
These anniversaries and the 54th national day are a good occasion to take stock of the sources of Singapore’s success. It is a thoroughly modern city, yet it has preserved its history and traditional values. It is a highly diverse nation, yet it is harmoniously united. Its small size and heavy dependence on the world economy make it highly vulnerable, yet its resilience to the many shocks that have disturbed the world in the past two decades has been outstanding.
But, while there is much that is inspiring and exceptional about the Singapore story, history tells us that city states have an uneven track record of maintaining such success. Indeed, the past year has seen an eruption of discomfiting geopolitical trends and attacks on the international trade regime that make the world a scarier place for Singapore. Many analysts have also pointed to growing challenges within Singapore. So, Singaporeans have to ask themselves — how will these global and domestic changes affect us, and is the Singapore model still fit for purpose?