Making Singapore a shinier red dot

By Kelvin Chung

Firstly, I must confess that the content of this article will not go down too well with many Singaporeans and maybe some Indonesians. I grew up in Singapore, born and bred here – except for a short stint overseas for my university education. This is based on my observations and after thoughts after one of my recent business trips to Jakarta.

When I was in Jakarta, I faced the usual problems which perhaps most foreigners would face upon arrival – long customs clearance, stuck in massive traffic jams (minimum 1.5 hrs), largely some language barrier and illegal hawking etc.
Nevertheless, based on the feedback from some of my clients, Indonesia has improved leaps and bounds and the business potential in Jakarta or Indonesia as a whole remains very huge.

Back to Singapore

Singapore is obsessed with quality. Everyone is geared towards having the best service, efficiencies and almost everything in their daily life. I hate to say this but

1. Are we taking things for granted?
2. Are we blaming the government for all the bad things that falls upon us?
3. Are we being complacent or to a certain extent ignoring the competition that arises from
our neighboring countries?

What makes Singapore unique and attractive to investors with ZERO natural resources?

I have had friends and schoolmates who have not even heard of Singapore and some even ask, “Singapore? Is it part of China? Or is it part of Malaysia?” partially true for the latter (at least briefly though).

Singapore itself means nothing, absolutely nothing. What makes Singapore unique and attractive to investors remains fundamentally unchanged – Political stability, low crime rates, educated & hard striving workforce and remain open & connected to the international business community.

Please bear in mind, these factors did not occur overnight and no one can make it happen by a stroke of the magic wand. Very soon, the strengths which we are so proud of will become obsolete and redundant as our neighboring countries will soon catch up, very soon in fact.

Am I being too pessimistic and harsh? Clearly, the unique strengths of Singapore are not worthless or are easily undermined but there is just too much hype amongst Singaporeans and even foreigners centered on past glory and qualifications and without direct relevance to the current competitive environment which we operate in. It is always good to have a sense of vigilance and continue to seek ways to innovate, improve and getting a step ahead.

It is all about what’s in it for me from an investor’s perspective

No one owes Singapore a living. From a businessman/investors’ point of view, whichever country offers me the best deal or enables me to make most money out of it, I will be there. Just because it is Singapore -

• It does not deter a company from shifting out of Singapore to other countries where costs are cheaper.
• It does not stop a company from reducing its headcounts when businesses get bad.

As the saying goes, “When it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

For Singapore’s case, I would phrase it, “When it ain’t broke, polish it, shine it and look out for it constantly.”

Singapore has definitely achieved a lot since independence and celebrating our 47th birthday this August since independence, let’s continue to make Singapore a shiny red dot and not a dwindling red spot.

*The views expressed above are my mine and not those of my company.

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