Singapore - from Loser to a Remarkable Success

Singapore – from Loser to a Remarkable Success


If you ever visited Singapore the probability is high that on your first visit there you were taken aback by how clean, orderly and safe the city is. Singapore is a city-state: where the city ends, the country ends. Singapore does not occupy a very large area: Cape Town (South Africa) is three times bigger*.

I have had the good fortune of visiting Singapore a few times on my travels to Beijing, Penang, Seoul and Tokyo and staying over a few days every time I had the opportunity. It is absolutely amazing walking the city. As they say it is a ‘City in Nature’ – very green and very safe.

Not so long ago Singapore did not even have its own water supply. Singapore was poor, dirty and crime ridden. Racial conflicts erupted and Singapore gained independence from Malaysia. Today the two countries maintain excellent relationships at every level. Singapore has been for a number of years one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

Singapore attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, skilled workforce, low tax rates, advanced infrastructure and zero-tolerance against corruption. The city is a popular location for conferences and events. Singapore is the only Asian country to achieve AAA credit rating.

A place so clean that bubble gum is a controlled substance.

The New York times

*In area Singapore is relatively small: it has a total land area of 724.2 square kilometres (279.6 sq mi). Cape Town (South Africa) has 2,455 square kilometers (948 sq miles).

One of the Most Prosperous Countries in the World

  • Singapore has low tax-rates and the second-highest per-capita GDP in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). With a business-friendly regulatory environment and a very low unemployment rate, Singapore is one of the world’s most prosperous nations.
  • Singapore is one of the safest and cleanest cities to visit in the world. The country has a very low crime rate, and citizens feel safe – people feel absolutely safe venturing out on the streets any time during the day or night.
  • Government departments are well managed in Singapore including effective police and an effective judicial system.
Singapore - from Loser to a Remarkable Success

Racial Conflict and Independence

Singapore went on to merge with Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo to form Malaysia on 16 September 1963, thereby ending 144 years of British rule on the island. On 9 August 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia to become an independent sovereign country, due to political, economic and racial differences.

Racial conflict led to independence but today Singapore and Malaysia enjoy close bilateral relations. Malaysia and Singapore share significant historical and cultural affinities, as both countries have multiracial populations consisting of Malays, Chinese and Indians. In Singapore white minorities include generations of Brits and Portuguese who call Singapore their home.

Take away from Mahbubani’s “The Secret of Singapore’s Success”

  • Singapore was as poor as Ghana (Africa)
  • crime, riots, gangster fights – it was a 3rd world environment
  • Singapore made the transition from a 3rd world to a first world country.

The Secret of Singapore’s Success: MPH

According to Kishore Mahbubani* Singapore’s success are based on 3 pillars:

*Kishore Mahbubani PPA is a Singaporean diplomat and geopolitical consultant who served as Singapore Permanent Representative to the United Nations between 1984 and 1989, and again between 1998 and 2004, and President of the United Nations Security Council between 2001 and 2002

M = Meritocracy

Select the best people to run the country. In Singapore jobs were and are given to the best people. Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister of Singapore between 1959 and 1990. LKY graduated from Cambridge University and then went on to study at Harvard. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a top student at both Universities. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was the best man for the job.

P = Pragmatism

It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or the cat is white, if the cat catches mice, it is a good cat. In the same way, it doesn’t matter what your ideology is, if it works, use it. Singapore successfully used capitalist policies and socialist policies and mixed them up. In pragmatism you are not bound by any ideology.

H = Honesty

‘Honesty’, the 3rd pillar of Singapore’s success is the hardest to achieve.

What has brought most of the Third World countries down and what has led to their failures in development has been corruption. When Mr. Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister he made a point of punishing not the junior people but the very senior people.

Kishore Mahbubani, President of the United Nations Security Council 2001 and 2002.

Singapore Water Supply – The Four National Taps

Singapore depends on four sources for its water supply – local catchment water, imported water, NEWater and desalinated water. Known as the Four National Taps, this diversified water supply strategy ensures Singaporeans of a robust supply of water. Singapore imports water from Malaysia (from the Johor River). The treated water is consumed by Singapore and a percentage of the water is sold back to Malaysia.

Singapore Going Green

Singapore as of late is continually building its reputation as a City in Nature, with Singaporean design long having a strong consciousness to acknowledge that green spaces matter. Urban planners and architects alike have taken a conscientious decision to weave in nature throughout the city as it continues to uproot new buildings and developments, incorporating the implementation of plant life in any form, whether it be through green roofs, cascading vertical gardens, or verdant walls.

Jullia Joson

Today, Singapore is one of the greenest cities in the world. The lush urban greenery that we have is a result of sustained and dedicated efforts to green up Singapore over the past few decades.

Damian Tang, Senior Director/Design, National Parks Board.
Singapore - from Loser to a Remarkable Success

At National Parks Board, we have five key strategies to transform Singapore into a City in Nature: conserving and extending Singapore’s natural capital; intensifying nature in gardens and parks; restoring nature into the urban landscape; strengthening connectivity between Singapore’s green spaces; developing excellence in veterinary care, animal and wildlife management.

Damian Tang, Senior Director/Design, National Parks Board.
Singapore - from Loser to a Remarkable Success


How Singapore is Pioneering the Way to Creating a Greener Urban Environment >


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