Reading Notes: 50 Things to Love About Singapore

50 things to love
‘In a small country like Singapore, the government and the civil service exercise a strong influence on the public speech’ - NUS prof Peter Tan (10)

  • on the ubiquity of acronyms
    In a muti-racial, multi-lingual society like Singapore, language is politics. Who uses English, when and how, all speak volumes of one’s’ ethnic group, class, and educational background (13)
    Standard English and it’s colloquial variant (singlish) remain the most commonly spoken languages among all ethnic groups (14)
    Pasar Malay (simplified Malay influenced by Hokkien) used to be Lingua Franca
    History parallels with Jamaican creole
    One could read the embrace of singlish as a defiance of authority in a one party dominant state as Singaporeans become increasingly comfortable with political contestations and dissenting views (16)
    ‘One can always come home to singlish’
    Clarissa Oon

Maths – Sandra Davie
The little red dot
Simple and in-depth for mastery
Like rungs on a ladder
Has to go hand in hand with teacher training

Affluent and thrifty – Fiona Chan
Prudent parsimony
PM riding economy
Can’t mess up future generations by overspending (Goh Chok Tong)
CFP— mandatory savings fund

  • takes financial planning out of the hands of individuals
    And state sets an example
    Never in debt 24
    Financialization of government— created a government of Singapore investment corporation
    Too much saving
    Low percent of gdp into public welfare
    Not enough money in machinery or equipment
    Lack of spending or investment
    Possibly changing now

Campaign trail to Health
Salam khalik
Unlike many cohnthr where various special interest civic groups rally consumers to the better living cause, in Singapore the government is the chief health campaigner (29)
‘From stamping out obesity to stubbing out cigarette smoking, the Singaporean government is all over your kitchen cupboards, weighing scales, and supermarket shelves’ **** (29)
Active civic groups rare from beginning --/
Massive government social education covering many aspects of private life including saving water, not littering, being courteous, flushing the toilet, and, ofc,
Keeping healthy
Prevention better than cure
From 2015, everyone covered by MedShieldLife

  • national medical insurance scheme for life
    Added fluoride to drinking water
    Smoking very expensive
    Companies given financial support to encourage health
    Psychological toll of ‘trim and fit’ campaign in schools
    HPB— ’ healthier choice’ stamp
    Today there is almost no aspect of life that the hpb doesn’t have a hand in— from
    Immunisation at birth and fluoridated water to advice on food exercise and smoking
    One of the Longest Lived people in the world

Certified entitled
Christopher Tan
COE admired by many but emulated by few—Takes strong political will to implement (36)
Non transferable

The state will help you get along
Rachel Chang
Legalised multi-racialism

  • live together, study together, run for elections together (39)
    Quotas in housing, must run on unified platforms
    But — makes it harder for ethnic minorities to sell flats, and means they will always be minorities
    Both a floor and a ceiling on the progress of multi-racial politics (40)
    Lky at 80
    Naive that Singapore could be race blind, aspiration not ideology
    But a forced multi racialism which is not underpinned by strong individual buy in will not serve Singapore as it used to see previously’ (Mathew Mathews)
    People avoid difficult questions and conversations for fear of being j bad stated
    Lack of depth to multi racialism
    Benchmark is preventing riots not integrating --chua Ben huat
    Rising religiosity
    Social media

Blooming city - tan hui yee
clean and green most used adjectives to describe
Garden city campaign
Representative of nation’s meticulous management style
Non soil-planting media— watered plants but no mosquitos
Greenery as investment
People learn to see nature as something that can be moused into something safe, predictable, and convenient
Lesson-- There are only so many things that one can control

Nation of runners
Rohit brijnath
Increase in runners!
Breadth of running accoutrements

Armchair film Critics
John lui
Ilo Ilo — WATCH!
Singaporeans know when things look inauthentic and will kick up a fuss about it (55)

Culinary code-switching
Official national language is food

Merlion poems
Ong sor fern
‘I’m very uneasy about seeing the Merlion as a national icon. We need something that has really evolved rather than something that’s chosen by the Singapore tourist promotion board’ Professir Lee Tzu Pheng 1997
Voice of newly confident nation that has lept from third world to first in a generation (66)
Literary circle in joke about everyone having To write a Merlion
born post 1965, this generation of writers had…been too young to remember her early traumas and were relatively sheltered from the economic storms of recession. Being Singaporean was something they took for granted, as opposed to an identity that the earlier pioneer poets had to consciously construct (67)
Wider populous of a country now secure in its economic prosperity but still unsure of its national identity

Levelling up
Ho ai li and pearl Lee
Top grade facilities for trade schools— those ranked near bottom academically
2013 opening of ITE new HQ
Govt backing vocational education
No manpower to waste, try to educate every child to ful potential
Study trips, road maps, five year plans
Still obsession with ranking and bench marking
More paths to uni
Highly sought after by employers
Updated courses according to industry needs
Wide sympathy for the underdog
Pragmatic Singaporean emphasis on acquiring useful skills
Has bona fide hotel as well as mock airport lounge

Metropolis of millionaires
Fiona Chan
Or, SG is crazy expensive :joy:
High tech car lift that lifts car into sky and parks them at the condo
Robust infrastructure, strong rule of law, and sound institutions
Rising costs erode competitiveness
Daily costs and taxes lower

Rise of the Eco warrior
Chang Ai-Lien
Conservation vets —‘most important battles not fought, they are negotiated rationally and civilly group emails petitions focus groups and discussions’

  • REMEMBER C’s thing about the underground

Complain, not protest
Rachel Chang
Strict anti protest laws
Would not have one set of rules for foreigners and one for locals (world bank and Imf meetings 2006)
Speakers corner 2001

  • must be Singaporean and no inciting racial violence
    Pink Dot gatherings
    Low key though
    Extension of evolving societal change, in which Singaporeans learn the culture of protest, but in a form that is unique to them, one that is steady and agreeable while expressing an opinion (87)
    Others point to long established culture of complaints — cheeky symbolism, angry letters
    'There is perhaps no other country in the world where Facebook posts can get MPs to spring into action, and politicians, both ruling and opposition, have weekly office hours in the form of meet the people sessions
    Because of the small size of the country, there Are few complaints that fail to reach the ears of the country’s leadership (87)
  • negates need for large protests?
    ’ Governments mindset has always been if you give out these privileges, you cannot tame them back. So better to not give them from the start’ chua
    Lack of western style protest culture
    Not rolling back privileges
    Absence of corruption

For whom the toll beeps
Christopher Tan
ERP as famous arch landmark
‘Human experience is seldom shaped by averages’ (91)

Knock Knock, help’s here
Radha Basu
Door to door knocking is common
Sophisticated statistical analysis of geographical data
Social service offices (SSO)******

  • connect needy residents to social assistance schemes
  • identifies emerging needs in the community and decides where to locate new services
  • help’s
    Loads with charities and other orgs
    Assistance more ‘client centric’
  • not just cash, but tailored to needs
    Community walks
  • wandering neighbourhoods, talking to residents, asking about potential problems and observing
    Since 2013

DIY music adventures
Yeow Kai Chai
5Cs — cash car credit card condo country club
Listen to the violet hour by monster cat
Baybeats festival at esplanade

Men in White
Lydia Lim
Electorate desire for greater checks and balances (106)
Critiqued as being elitist (106)
Trying to win popular support for long term policies that exact short term costs on individual citizens

Kueh Tart
Chris Tan
Singaporean food— assimilates, influences, and speaks in different accents
Roots from elsewhere around the globe but blossoming into something fresh on Singaporean soil 110

Welfare for a Few, Fairness for Most
Radha Basu
Rather than subsidise consumption by giving generous handouts to the poor, the state heavily subsidised housing and education
(Didn’t uk do this too?)
Many helping hands

  • help not just from govt but from families voluntary groups corporations and community
    No ‘poverty line’ or official public figures about how many poor people there are
    Not just cash handouts, but professional help in securing jobs
    Incentivising corporations to help the needy
    Leads to patchy services (115)
    Need to clarify principles since lots of people think poor = lazy
    And income gap is huge

Activist artists
Clarissa Oon
Fraught and complex position of artists in a state for which economic growth and public order have always been the foremost priorities (119)
Up until 1980s, the govts idea of culture was mass based and concerned with the preservation of the traditional arts of the main ethnic groups
Post 1980 interested in contemporary arts to keep post 65ers attached to Singapore
The outspokenness of artists is tolerated and in fact even implicitly valued by the state: one, because they have a limited audience and serve as a release valve for frustrations in society; and two, because they add a buzz and vitality that increases Singapores attractiveness as an investment destination and talent magnet (121)
Now part of slick marketing machinery (black mirror style!)
Not many artists will organise themselves, much less put their jobs on the line, for a sociopolitical cause, even as they practice their art in more receptive environment their predecessors might envy (122)
‘Safe’ forms of revelling mirror larger Singaporean society which has found an easy outlet through rants and complaints on social media
---- but hey, these are criminalised in other places!

Eagle breeds a gryphon
Raffles Institution — hugely important school, loads of politicians attend

  • ‘Ivy League machine’

Sticky Surgery Supremo
Salma Khalik
2 billion hospital hotel

Love that is Legislated
1994— concerned with rising rates of single hood and divorce, govt campaign to uphold 5 core ‘family values’
Harder as family sizes shrink for kids to look after parents
‘In the past, filial piety meant respect, obedience, and a responsibility to care for the older generation even behind our parents. Today it refers to being respectful and courteous and willing to make care arrangements for them, whether personally or outsourced’ head of gerontology program at SIM

Football fanaticism
Marc Lim
Protest over high rates to watch the World Cup on tv
Kallang Roar

Chart-Topping Kids
Sandra Davie

Uniquely Singapore
Chang Ai-lien

Trophy Cabinet
Fiona Chan
If countries were students in a classroom of the world, Singapore would be the precocious prodigy: the young upstart fixated on topping every subject (153)
Obsession with competitiveness
2012— most emotionless society
Author wishes it was the best for ordinary people as well

Edible Meritocracy
Micro culture of hawker centres
'Noisy, hot, crowded, queue-packed, soulful, atmospheric, ecumenical, irreplaceable: all life happens at these bugs and hives of social, gastronomical, and entrepreneurial activity, because most of us spend large parts of our lives here, eating and drinking and shooting the breeze (157)
Cultural value and national meaning
Daniel Goh: ‘the opportunity to meet all sorts of people from all walks of life- the well travelled professional, the street smart tourists the seasoned local the expat on a budget and yes even the obnoxious banker. It’s liberating to be able to have conversations with them and learn more about human behaviour and the world we live in’ (159)
Oseland— ‘the sensory information; the enormous visual busyness of the signage, beautiful heaps of chillies and kangkong, the crazy-quilt melamine plate colors, that great cacophony of sound…and most important of all, the delicious aromas that any inveterate hawker food lover just wants to get to the bottom of’ (159)
Choping seat, balancing habits, desire, and cue length in choosing dishes; ordering in multiple Lingua francas; sharing tables with all and sundry: forging friendships with hawkers over the years
Supporting local instead of chains

The Singapore way
Singapore punches above its weight
What it lacks in hard lower it makes Up for in soft power
Administrative efficiency
Provide training to surrounding countries to payback the help during independence movement
Singapore cooperation programme
Leverage a wide global network of friends

Help that works
Not good enough. Basically

Science city *****
Chang Ai-Lien****
Biopolis— the area features 13 futuristic complexes gleaming with steel and glass, linked by Sky bridges and wide walkways, while at ground level trees ponds fountains and sculptures soften the environment
Lots of setbacks
‘But all this aside,
You have got to love what those shiny towers of scientific endeavour symbolise to a young nation: the tremendous financial clout that Singapore has been able to wield to make it happen so quickly: and the lofty hopes for a better future, be it for an individual or a society or the world’ (172)
Now undertaking industry related projects to bring funding in instead of govt money
7/10 of the worlds top pharma companies manufacture in Singapore
The cynics will point to the country not yet producing a Nobel laureate, blockbuster drug or billion dollar pharmaceutical company. However success in pragmatic Singapore is measured in investments brought in and jobs created

Hub of all trades
Fiona chan
Aims to be hub for IP, big data, new media
Need to be financial centre of SEA (Winsemius, economic adviser during post colonial years)
Driven by innate insecurities – small domestic market, dearth of natural resources, limited talent pool (175)
Time zone bridged black hole between closing of us markets and opening of europes
Widespread use of English

Paying top dollar
Rachel Chang
Private sector level salaries in government – for public servants and government ministers
‘Try to get a government on the cheap and you’ll get a cheap government and you’ll be sorry’ LKY
Widely reviled and admired
Argument against is that government ministers are not generally subject to stringent performance appraisals
2007— opposition Worker’s Party Chairman Sylvia Lim— ministers made an average Singaporean worker’s monthly pay in two hours
Argument for:

  • high wages attract top individuals
  • generous compensation dampens incentive to seek bribes
    With perks factored in, SG goes down
    PM of Singapore makes 2.2 million a year (and that’s 36 percent less than he used to)

Urban Jungle
Semaku and Sakeng

  • world’s prettiest landfill
  • incinerated waste
    ‘Garbage of eden’
    Cells or pits where garbage goes are covered up by topsoil
    610 million price tag
    ‘With space at a premium in Singapore, the strategy all along has been to maintain long term sustainable development through a combination of far-sighted planning, sustained investment in infrastructure, breakthroughs in technology, flexibility and a good measure of common sense. And not necessarily opting for the cheapest, most straightforward option.’ (184)
    Green Singapore — lush greenery for relaxation but also to convince investors the govt could get things done efficiently
    Marina Barrage (2007)***
  • low level dam covered in grass and open to visitors

Yellow Ribbon Project

Melissa Kok

Talk, don’t strike
Non confrontational trade unionism
Govt and union politically intertwined
Runs businesses
Head of business man, heart of social worker
Some say too cozy for comfort
2012/-- 171 Chinese bus drivers striked
Unemployment rate below 4%
Meetings behind CLOSED DOORS
Vulnerability of Singapore’s small open economy underpins the relationship

Luckiest little ones in the world
Lowest neonatal mortality rate
Singapore has had 1 gun related murder in the past 10 years
Apparently even tho high scores, kids can be self centred? And too stressed
Very expensive to raise a child
Slow and steady erosion in social mobility
Cyberbullying rates are high
Very low fertility rates

65 monuments and counting
1960s and 1970s
Frenzied urban renewal projects
But halfway through realized that it was important to preserve historic monuments
URA national conservation authority
Adaptive reuse
‘With alternative viewpoints carrying greater traction in an era of Internet and social media, govern bodies also learnt that better communication was needed on issues of urban planning , conservation, and the trade offs’
Today more Singaporeans appear to prize heritage conservation at the expense of more efficient transport connections and shiny new buildings. The 2013 our Singapore conversation survey conducted by the government showed 53 percent of responders wanted the preservation of heritage spaces over infrastructural development, while only 27% went the other way.
Money talks but sentiment whispers
Look up ‘Futura’

Global statesman local heroes
Like the nation; these elite dignitaries punch above their weight (212)

Stuff of Diplomacy Legend

Oddball champs

Ocd nation
Highest ocd rates in the world

Common corridors
If Singaporean suburbia had a symbol, it would be not the white picket fence but the common corridor
Symbols of kampung spirit
Faded from blueprints
Void deck as contested public space
Shift from practical need to house a nation to balancing individual wants, community building concerns, and needs of society at large
Lifts at every stop
Chua and Ho

  • these are fantasies
  • people knew each other from the kampong
  • idling on void deck was due to low employment
    Ho Kong Chong---- three generation playgrounds
    Continued negotiation between cosy communalism and cold individualism
    Home ownership of public housing is a sought after norm
    Money makes for bad community though
    People protested nursing homes because stigma of age and illness might hurt property prices
    Cannot sell flat unless you have lived there for 5 years
    More anger, or just more ways to voice it?
    ‘The HDB has met its founding aim of housing people. Now it has room to cater to personal tastes, too.’ (232)

Field of dreams
Sports hub— for all sports
Like a river through seasons, cities alter shape as they wind through the years and so has Singapores skyline

Made in Singapore
Thumb drive good metaphor for Singapore
Originated in Singapore
The country tends towards more utilitarian creations that, while highly serviceable, are not necessarily the sexiest