Similarities of Singapore and the Idea of Georgian Manhattan

Just recently I had a debate with a lady of Tbilisi about “greenness” and she argued that “green” means the wild, intact nature and no money and investments are required for maintenance of such nature and hence, she was against the project of Georgian Manhattan! In her opinion, it does not imply greenness?.. It’s amazing, no one desires to listen to the arguments and suddenly I recalled the Singapore (we are of the same age, that lady, I and Singapore). It has 50th anniversary and it is a symbol of unique combination of green flora, skyscrapers (see the picture below). This is an Asian Manhattan and you can judge, whether it is successful or not. Its author, Lee Kuan Yew regarded it as a prototype of Manhattan. This is the charm of this city, for this it attracts the bankers and the businessmen and for this it became one of the key centers of the world’s business elite!

As George Orwell wrote, when people are 50, each of them has the face he/she deserves. Singapore, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence on 9 August, can be proud of its young energy. This is a mythical and magic city: with the skyscrapers, well regulated traffic congestions, and outstanding representatives of globalization, like HSBC,
UBS, Alianz, Citi and others; with the tankers in the sea, ferryboats and container ships; with one of the most loaded container port of Asia in the west and the largest factories and oil & chemical complex. In the eastern end of Singapore there is one of the most beautiful airports in the world. Nevertheless, the city remains “green”. In this context, today, the declarations of the Singapore government that they were building the city in the garden does not seem strange. Singapore has deserved the word frequently used by its government – a “special place” and this status is conditioned by many of its qualities: the only fully functional city state; real international hub of trade, finance, marine transport and travel; and one and single among the richest countries of the world, which has not replaced its governing party.
This year, the Prime Minister of Singapore (Lee Hsien Loong) said, in his speech that “to survive you should be a special one” . This speech gave answers to many questions about why Singapore is so successful for 50 years. But the question, whether it will go on its way with similar success was left without answer. Singapore has passed 50 years of success and flourish but in the following half of century it will face some difficulties The greatest challenge for Singapore, perhaps, will be its self-confidence – the belief that the policies proven to be success for 50 years will be able to deal with the world’s new challenges.
In 1965, Singapore was in the Malaysian Federation, the country located to the north from it, connected with the bridge with it. Father of Lee Kuan Yew, current Prime Minister of Singapore, who became the Prime Minister in 1959, initially regarded Singapore within the Malaysian Federation but Singapore has gained its independence in 1965. After this, Lee was sure that Singapore, mostly populated with Chinese people, will always be success die to Malaysian policies.
Lee passed away this year, in March, in age of 91. The days of mourning showed many things. Singapore can be proud of its people and their response, standing in the long queue all day long, in the rain and sun. People’s response showed one more miracle: a country, never existent before, has emerged from the immigrants of different races – most of them are Chinese (74%), Malaysians (13%) and Indians (9%). Nevertheless, the citizens of Singapore have showed their national identity. People expressed not only mourning for the death of Lee but also they showed the celebration of their patriotism.
Current Prime Minister has contributed to the “special” nature of Singapore. He rules the country since 1990 and he is distinguished with the pragmatic governance style. He rules Singapore as a benevolent dictator. International Security Act, adopted in the colonial period, in 1960, eliminated the opposition forces. Now Parliament is basically the echo of the Prime Minister, rather than actual executive power. No opposition candidate has had a place there since 1981. Local mass media follows the government’s line, moreover, the political bankrupted opposition parties and opponents to the government are not able to attract the attention from the side of the foreign mass media as well. At best, they can appear in the invisible places of the western press.
Singapore is often called the Lighthouse of Asia located in the geographical heart of the continent, without any chaos, dirt, low quality water and any traffic jams. It is also called the Lighthouse of Democracy, with almost all components of democracy but at the same time, without any pre-election mess. Singapore is special, as it has a single-party but legitimate government for 56 years, since Lee’s People’s Action Party (PAP) has gained the power. The system has numerous supporters, both, within the country and abroad. The level of crimes in Singapore is very low and the formal corruption is almost absent there. It is one of the world’s leaders with respect of human development, high per capita GDP and low infant mortality. And still there is a question, whether a system built by Lee will be able to deal with the current reality or not?
It has two challenges: the first one is absence of strong opposition. Though the government successfully fulfills its duties but its actual testing is possible only in presence of the string opposition. Second, PAP may become the victim of its own success and relatively weak achievements in the elections (2011) evidence this. Singapore high class schools, colleges and universities have graduated the well educated generation, global citizens less tolerant to PAP, than their parents’ generation. In 13th June, 28.000 people came to the parade to support the LGBT and they clearly showed their dissatisfaction with the conservative policies of PAP. In addition, the young citizens of Singapore are not afraid to be in opposition of PAP.
One more achievement of PAP, now working against it, is increasing life standards. The share of aged people increased and they feel that PAP has broken the main promise given to them, with respect of their careless elderly age. Not only pensioners are dissatisfied. Many of Singapore citizens are bored with the significant inflow of immigrants. The great number of immigrants causes two significant problems: increasing population and lack of space.
Regarding all these, the question, whether the following 50 years will be as successful as past half of century for Singapore, becomes more and more significant. It has a simple answer – regarding that Asia is the most rapidly developing region of the world and the quantity of money in this region, including tax protecting and tax evading measures – Singapore will be success. It will have more green cover and unique skyscrapers in harmony side by side! This is Manhattan and profit of the Manhattanization idea. Maybe it is worth to think about!
Source: The Economist
July 2015