Chasing the Singapore Dream

Update 1 Oct 2019: Singapore: A 1st World country with 3rd World citizens

Veteran diplomat Tommy Koh laments that Singapore is a First World country with Third World people. Many Singaporeans lack the civic-mindedness that citizens of an advanced country should have, he said on Tuesday (Oct 1).

"I am more critical of Singaporeans than of the Government. Many of our people don't give a damn for the environment when they should. Many of our people are selfish and unkind. Just look at the way they drive," Prof Koh said, drawing laughter from his audience.

He was speaking at the Singapore Bicentennial Conference, organised by the Institute of Policy Studies. It was held at Raffles City Convention Centre and ended on Tuesday.

Yes, I'm for it

We belong to a fortunate generation that is reaping the prodigious benefits of globalisation and technology. It's so easy to move from one part of the world to another these days. And everyone's doing it.

With all my heart, I would love to take on the adventure that comes with living overseas, too. I would love the independence, the freedom, the change. To be young and reckless - yes, I'd like that very much.

Yet, in the long run, I'd still like some place to which I can return.

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Chasing the Singapore dream: No, I plan to leave
Singapore prides itself on being top in many areas and, with that, societal expectations rise. But I do not believe in keeping up with the Joneses. Instead, I look upon myself as a relatively liberal-thinking woman with alternative views – and Singapore, right now, is not big enough to contain me. -- ST FILE PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

I write at the risk of getting flamed for speaking the truth: I want to settle down abroad, specifically, in Amsterdam. But don’t get me wrong.

I love Singapore. I love how clean, safe and efficient it has become and, even in recent years, how exciting, glamorous and breathtaking – think Gardens by the Bay, the Singapore Flyer, the Esplanade, Marina Bay Sands – it is growing to be.

It is a far cry from what it was just a decade or two ago, when there were fewer options for weekend jaunts.

Only 23 per cent of Singapore's wealthy plan to move: Poll
Singapore continues to be an attractive location for the well- heeled; only a fifth of wealthy individuals living in the city state plan to move abroad within the next five years, says a new survey

Most of those planning to move said it is for pragmatic reasons, such as to pursue an international career and better economic opportunities.

The 100 or so Singapore residents polled - citizens, permanent residents and non-citizens - own at least US$1 million (S$1.26 million) each in investable assets.

Of the 23 per cent who plan to relocate, 43 per cent cited a desire to pursue an international career, while 35 per cent said they were seeking greater economic opportunities and 30 per cent said they were motivated by an interest in experiencing another culture.

Chasing the Singapore Dream
KCR is singing Paens to Singapore and the development it has achieved since its independence from Malaysia on August 9, 1965. Here are some statistics about Singapore and why Telangana seems keen on replicating its growth strategy

GDP - According to a press release from the ministry of trade and industry, Singapore, the government GDP forecast for 2014 is 2.5 to 3.5 percent. The Singapore economy grew by 2.4 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the second quarter, moderating from the 4.8 per cent growth in the previous quarter. Its retail sales also went up by 0.4 percent in June 2014.

EMPLOYMENT - Total number of employed people in the country is calculated to be around 3.54 million, by June 2014, which is 3.4 per cent higher than last year and the resident unemployment rate has improved from 2.9 to 2.8 per cent. Per-capita income is said to be 50 million dollars

FDI - The stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Singapore amounted to $746.7 billion as at end 2012. The United States ($106.5 billion), Netherlands ($72.7 billion), British Virgin Islands ($59.3 billion) and Japan ($59.1 billion) were major sources of FDI.

Keep the Singapore Dream alive

Education is said to be the great leveller in Singapore. Study hard, get top grades at school and university, and it doesn't matter if you come from a three-room Housing Board flat. You could land a better job than someone who lives in District 10, move up the economic ladder and transform your life and that of your family.

It's the Singapore Dream, and one that we know has come true for many people. But, increasingly, critics say, it is getting harder because how well you do depends more on your family background than it ever did in the past.

These days, the students who ace the examinations in school, including those who win prestigious scholarships, are more likely to come from homes where the parents are university graduates, live in bigger houses, and move around in their own social circles. Fewer of them come from those three-room flats.

The Singapore Dream

I am not calling this the Singaporean Dream for good reason. Some Singaporeans have their dreams fulfilled and living very very well indeed. For the majority of the Singaporeans, the Singapore Dream is beginning to turn into a bad dream. For a start, many would need govt assistance in order to make life bearable. Their life savings will not be enough to sustain them to their last days. Their dreams of car ownership, private properties are as good as day dreaming. Their dreams of happily retired with little worries to watch the sunset would not happen as they would need to work to have money to live after retirement age. And their dreams of dying in their own homes could also be in jeopardy.

The Singapore Dream is meant for foreigners. Many foreigners are here to live their Singapore Dreams, from the rich westerners to the workers of the 3rd World countries. Many have their Singapore Dreams fulfilled. Many came here poor and returned home rich. Many could not find employment at home but got good jobs here to live a life they could never dream of in their home countries.

At the rate it is going, millions of foreigners will be thankful for the opportunities to live out the Singapore Dream. Unfortunately many Singaporeans would have their Singapore Dream dashed, or made so much difficult to become true. To every foreigner stepping foot on this island there is hope, and many will succeed in varying degrees, to better their lives. Many Singaporeans will live their lives disappointed and full of regrets at the end of the day. Many will come nothing and leave nothing, not even have a HDB flat to bequeath to their children after all the downgrading. They need to trade the HDB flat for some stipends for their last days

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The unhappy young and their broken Singapore Dream

The Singapore Dream was like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to many older Singaporeans. To many older Singaporeans, the PMEs, this pot is now missing. Someone has shifted it and they could not see anything there. The only people seeing this pot of gold are the foreigners replacing them in their high paying jobs. The Singapore Dream has to be modified to mean the foreigner’s Singapore Dream. To the older Singaporeans, the Dream has become a bad Dream, a nightmare in the making.

Are the young Singaporeans seeing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as well? They better be. They have paid heavily to grow up, invested heavily in themselves, with some parents selling their homes, emptying their savings, to get them a good education. Would they be able to land a job that makes the return on their parent’s investment worthy and economically meaningful? Would their income be enough to pay for the little public flat that is now the only achievable and realistic dream?

Would they be able to buy that elusive car, like the Americans needing a horse in the good old cowboy days? And would they still have enough in their savings when the time comes for retirement? Given the extremely high cost of living and inflation, every young Singaporean today must need to earn an income that is equivalent to three times their need to cover housing, medical and retirement.


Changing the Singaporean dream

A few weeks ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the famous speech given by Martin Luther King Jr entitled “I have a dream”. He said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement for his fellow black citizens. I too have a dream for my fellow Singaporeans. However, while the goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement, my goal is to close the roads to advancement for my fellow citizens. The only difference between him and me is that while he was speaking metaphorically, I am speaking literally.

One undeniable hard truth of Singapore is that we live in one of the smallest countries in the world. This is also why we have one of the most expensive land costs in the entire world. Apart from Monaco, no other United Nations member state has land as expensive as Singapore has per square foot.

To be fair to our road planners, they are caught in a bind because Singapore is continuing to grow its population of cars. If we expand the number of cars, we have no choice but to expand the amount of roads to carry more cars. So the real solution is to reduce the demand for more cars in Singapore. How do we do this?

Chasing a Singapore Dream

We all know the five Cs that many Singaporeans see as signs that they have made it - cash, credit cards, condo, car and country club membership - but escalating prices are pushing the dream away from many.

But they can still be attained responsibly and wisely if you follow some sound investment rules, as The Sunday Times highlights.

Cash - One misconception many people have is that getting rich is primarily an outcome of investing, noted Mr Christopher Tan, chief executive of wealth management company Providend. He believes that the road to wealth does not start from investing but from earning a good income, setting aside an amount for savings every month and keeping expenses low by living within your means so you can have a surplus for investment. It all takes discipline.

Boston of the East?

I have lived in Boston for more than 10 years and Singapore for more than 10 years, and I can clearly say that from my experience in Singapore now, Singapore CANNOT be anything like Boston under PAP rule.

Sure, Wynn Resort won a bid to build a $1.6 billion casino in the Boston suburb of Everett, beating out a bid by Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs to add a casino to the racetrack. MGM has another resort in western Massachusetts, so if you say Boston is going to be like Singapore -- YES, this will be sort of true as Massachusetts will have 2 Casinos like Singapore in the near future.

There are so many things I like about Boston which you cannot find in Singapore.

Singapore Is One Of The Cities In The World With The Least Hours Of Sleep

The Lion City has made it into another world’s list again. This time it is based on the findings recently released to The Wall Street Journal by Jawbone’s UP fitness tracker that trace your activity, diet and sleep.

So how many hours do the people of Singapore sleep? They snooze for six hours and 32 minutes on average.

Taking the last two spots of cities with the least hours of sleep are the two competitive Asian countries – Japan and South Korea. The Land of the Rising Sun, which is the new city that never sleeps, clocking an average of five hours and 46 minutes of sleeping time. As for South Korea, they dream in slumber land just nine minutes more than those in Japan.

Seizing the Singapore dream
For generations, people around the world aspired to emulate the "American Dream". This fundamental ethos connotes freedom, equal opportunity and upward mobility. As the post-Cold War world became a geopolitical marketplace, however, others have begun to articulate their own visions for the future

Soon after the launch of the euro currency, Mr Jeremy Rifkin captured the old world's ambitions for collective resurrection in his book The European Dream.

More recently, China's new President Xi Jinping made global headlines by using the phrase "Chinese Dream" in his speech in March to the National People's Congress. It was an attempt to capture the national drive for sustainable prosperity and national greatness.

But large empires are not the only players entitled to dream. In an age characterised by superpowers and city-states alike, Singapore would benefit greatly from a shared vision for its residents and its role in the world.

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What Actually Is The Singaporean Dream?
But what is the Singapore’s dream in the first place?

To the many foreigners who flocked to our small island state lately, their personal dream is probably more direct – to make a living in our country and hopefully settled down nicely with a job and family with citizenship rights. How about for those native citizens who have live their whole lives here?

Is the Singapore’s dream all about the 5 Cs – condo, credit card, car, cash and include all material things? Does the average Singaporean measured how successful he is by how much money he has in the bank account and the number of toys he can show off?

Is the Singapore’s dream merely wrapped up with the huge dollar sign or have we discovered our own unique Singapore’s dream yet?

Understanding the Singaporean Dream

The Singapore Dream was once defined as 5Cs - Cars, Cash, Condo, Club Membership, Credit Card. These days they market credit cards to anyone with a heartbeat so you can drop that... overspending on your credit card can easily result in a nightmare. Club membership and cash are quite ill-defined - you can take club membership to be at one of the exclusive country clubs with golf not your NTUC Fairpricemembership and cash to be something like $1-$2M in today's dollars. The Cs are still relevant today at least for a large segment of our population whose values have been shaped by materialistic orientation of today's society. I'll get back to the 5Cs but first I would like to share something from my childhood.

One of the fondest memories from my childhood is that of my dad driving the whole family to a drive-in cinema somewhere in Jurong. I can't remember what movie was screened but that day, my sister and I got to sit on the bonnet and roof of the car to watch the movie. In those days, I lived in a kampung but my dad owned a car so we get to go places. Family weekends were spent fishing at Bedok Jetty, the beautiful beaches, rustic Sentosa, movies etc.

Children did not get much homework in those days. I was an undisciplined student who did not submit 90% of his homework even when required. Those days the teachers did not bother, my father did not bother as long as I passed and I had this thinking that if I understood the stuff they were teaching, homework wasn't important. PSLE was a pass/fail thing i.e. no marks involved. You can take it that I had a childhood - a happy one. My dad worked as a technician all his life after he earned his 'O' level attending night school. Degrees were rare in the 60s when a large part of the population was uneducated. My dad's story is one of spectacular social mobility. We left the kampung in the late 70s when my dad bought a HDB flat. It was fully paid in a few years and my dad was debt free. In the late 80s there was nasty recession and housing prices plummeted.

In search of the Singapore dream

You have seen a lot, in your years in corporate and social environments. How has Singapore changed?

(Singapore) is nothing but a piece of rock. We have to create the wealth we hope to have. Hard decisions have to be made to keep the economy ticking away. We have been successful at that. Problem is, we have been successful in a hurry.

We became independent in 1965 and realised we had no real competition. China was still Communist, Vietnam still embroiled in war. Thailand had just started industrialising, and Indonesia was facing challenges. In a hurry, we took advantage knowing that some day they would open up and catch up. And we have done tremendously well — only trouble is, human beings do not evolve at that speed.You can force-feed knowledge and competencies, but emotions take time to evolve. The Europeans and Americans went through hundreds of years of history as slave-traders and lived with violence to evolve emotionally.

Singapore's SM Goh reinvents "Singapore Dream"

SM Goh did a little walk down memory lane telling his audience about his childhood and the conditions he grew up in.

He explained how the dreams of Singaporeans then were different to what they are now. He said: "So our dream was caricatured as "1, 2, 3, 4" - one wife, two children, 3-room flat and four wheels. Why only two children? You may remember the family planning slogan of "Stop at Two" at that time."

Eventually, the Singapore dream was elevated to the 5 Cs in the 90s.

The 5Cs

In Singapore , we have a very interesting termed known as the 5Cs . Just like the Joneses , Singaporean’s alike in their pursuit of material wealth looks forward towards acquiring the 5Cs . The 5Cs are condominiums , cars , country clubs , cash and credit cards . They are also known as the Singapore Dreams . They were extremely popular in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s

According to the world bank report in 2010 , Singapore has a land area of only about 700sq km. For the main island of Singapore , the distance from east to west of Singapore is only about 42km . North to south is about 23km . With this small land area , it needs to house about 5M people , of which 3.7M are residents .

Land cost is therefore relatively expensive and precious in Singapore . About 80% to 90% of the Singapore population stays in flats , built by Government agencies , also known as HDB (Housing and Development Board of Singapore) . The balance 10% to 20% stays in condominiums and land property . It is the wish and aspiration of everyone to own a condominium or landed property due to the social status associated with it .

Interestingly the core commitments of HDB are as follows

  • Home for ownership - A hallmark of the HDB . Today , about 80% of people who stays in HDB owns their flats , which is the highest in the word.
  • Home for the masses - The public housing is for the vast majority of Singaporeans
  • Homes for life - The strategy involves not only selling the property to Singaporeans . There will be constant e upgrades on the property , when budget permits , so that the property appreciates in value over a period of time . In the golden years , one can unlock the “value” of their homes when needed . Having a property has always been a long term commitment

Let’s not crush young Singaporean dreams
This is the worst I’ve been laughed at in recent memory

Last year, I was having lunch with four friends a couple of days after news had broken that a prominent man in his 40s had decided to step down from his position for “personal reasons”. At lunch, my four friends discussed possible reasons for his departure.

“There must have been some kind of corruption going on!” said one of them. “He must have been having an affair,” said another. “Maybe he stole money,” suggested yet another.

I’m an optimistic guy, so I was troubled by all of this cynical talk. Surely there must be another explanation, I thought.

When Singapore had a dream

Unexpectedly, Lee Kuan Yew rose to speak. He insisted on making his way, somewhat unsteadily, to the rostrum, waving away the microphones that were brought to him.

Once there, he stood silently for a moment, gazing into the crowd gathered at the Istana.

"Old friends," he said, finally. "Thank you for coming. Thank you for making time to attend my book launch."

PM Lee urges new citizens to engage in the community
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged new citizens to engage in the community where they live and take part in community activities. Speaking at a citizenship ceremony at the Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang West constituencies yesterday (Aug 30), Mr Lee said he hopes the new citizens will actively integrate into society and discover more about Singapore

About 150 new Singaporeans from the constituencies received their citizenship certificates and identification cards at the ceremony in the afternoon.

Rege Abhijit Suresh is from India and Luneva Zlata from Russia. They met in Japan and decided to get married and settle down in Singapore. On Saturday, the couple and their son Vijay officially became Singapore citizens.

The decision to make Singapore home was not a very difficult one for them. Rege said: “If we are going to settle down here, no point staying as a permanent resident. So we said ‘let’s get citizenship - for his future’. Also it makes more sense - from all perspectives, from education, and honestly from the National Service perspective, I think it’s a good thing that he goes in and get some discipline in him.”

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To Be Or Not To Be Singaporeans

There are several benefits of becoming a Singapore Citizen – the ease of travelling with a Singapore passport and benefits in education, health-care, housing and employment. There are certain disadvantages as well, like denouncing your home country citizenship and mandatory National Service for two years in certain cases.

Singapore is considered as one of the best cities in Asia to live in. It is safe, environment friendly and westernised. It ranks high in most of the World Rankings and reports and is said to have a high quality of living. These factors among others attract many of us to Singapore, often on a long term basis. Consequently, many of us toy with the question of whether or not to secure Singapore Citizenship. This guide compares the pros and cons of becoming a Singapore citizen.

Advantages of Singapore Citizenship - Singapore Passport Travel Freedom: Singapore Passport holders have very few travel restrictions around the world. A Singapore Passport holder enjoys liberal visa requirements especially while travelling to destinations like the USA. It is a known fact that immigration often tends to clear Singapore passport holders more quickly. According to the Henley Visa Restrictions Index, 2006 – a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom (visa free access) their citizens enjoy – Singapore ranked 8th in the study, proving the high degree of travel freedom its citizens enjoy.

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The Singapore story

The call by a former prime minister for ending one of Lee Kuan Yew’s cornerstone tenets for governing Singapore when he is still alive has got some questions flying.

Goh Chok Tong, who succeeded Lee in 1990, said Singapore needs to forge a new social compact between people and government to replace the old one to avoid a “mid-life crisis”.

In a constituency speech marking the island republic’s 48th National Day, Goh, long believed to be part of the ruling party’s softer faction, spoke of the need to write a new chapter of the Singapore Story. The reason, he said, is that both the external environment and Singaporeans at home have changed.