“Warning: this is the long article I mentioned. It’s long winded, it’s loaded with references and it contains no pictures. Read at your own peril.”
Singapore has a vision of what is wants to be and it enforces rules in order to make sure this vision comes to fruition. Every aspect of life is analyzed and looked into to ensure people will be aligned to this vision: healthcare, housing, education, finance, personal security, hobbies. It’s quite strict but I can definitely see the merits of such a system.
Becoming a key player in the global economy (Education and Language Policies)
Singapore aims to be a key player in the global economy. The dialect that had started to spread in Singapore is “Singlish” which is a mixture of Singapore English and Chinese. This dialect would isolate Singapore from its goals of economical dominance. Something needed to be done to protect the economical well-being of Singaporeans. The government enforced regulations to ensure “Singligh would disappear.” Everyone should speak and write English fluently. This is enforced in the educational system, of course. But, Singapore is also proud of its heritage. Students must learn their own language as well (Malay, Indian, Chinese)
By the same token, in order to be a key player, labor must be trained. Singaporean’s receive a top notch education and education is mandatory for all. If parents do not send their kids to school, they will be fined and they might be jailed. Students cannot drop out until they have reached the venerable old age of 16-years-old. (Source: http://ia201114.eu.archive.org/qa_tna_february/20130220111732/http://www.inca.org.uk/comparative_tables.html)
Students have 40 weeks of curriculum time. (Source: http://www.moe.gov.sg/schools/terms-and-holidays/2013/)
Also, education is mostly free for Singaporeans, a little expensive for permanent residents and all bets are off for private schools in Singapore.
On the job training is also highly encouraged in Singapore and is subsidized for native Singaporeans.
Providing Easy Access to Homes and Protecting Singaporeans (Real Estate Policies)
In Hong Kong, people speculate on real estate. But for that same reason, property acquisition is not given to all. In Hong Kong, 100,000 people live in coffin, cage homes and rooftops. 40% of the population lives in subsidized housing. (Source: http://feedinghk.org/hunger-stats/) People beg in the streets. Money is hard to come by and life seems really difficult, there is a high number of working poor)
In Singapore, most people live in government housing. They buy apartments from the government. This is not accessible for permanent residents or foreigners. Banks will lend buyers money for the mortgage but, only in so far as paying off the mortgage does not take up more than 30% of your salary. There is also regulations to ensure people can only purchase two new government subsidized units in their life time. Poverty exists in Singapore but it’s well hidden. There is no official poverty line in Singapore. If you are truly in need, the country will provide you with lodgings. But the level of help remains insufficient for the truly poor. The average household income in Singapore is 20% higher than in the US.
Foreigners cannot purchase homes but only condos. Access to landed homes is for Singaporeans only. This protects the country from a foreign invasion whereby all the land would be acquired by foreigners and the law of supply and demand would not be favorable to native Singaporeans.
Foreigners are welcome but under specific sets of conditions.
Safe and Clean Streets (lifestyle policies)
Singapore wants to maintain a clean country. The country is proud of its beauty.
In order to maintain such a vision, there are rules in place. No gum chewing means no gum on the floor. No begging in the streets. No public displays of affection. Modesty in dress is encouraged (this does not apply to the skirts which are worn quite short) No toilets should be left un-flushed. Though the country is very well policed, police wear street clothes.
As a woman travelling alone, I truly appreciate how clean this country is and how safe it is. If I wanted to send my kids to school in a foreign country and I could afford the exorbitant fees, I would not hesitate to send them to Singapore.
In order to maintain traffic levels that are more reasonable, there is a hefty tax levied on cars. Access to a car is therefore very difficult. Most people use the MRT and the bus. The MRT is their metro system. But this means that streets are not too busy, that getting to work is not too time consuming. That the city’s hustle and bustle is more controlled.
An Audi 6 in Singapore will set you back 260K Singapore Dollars.
A small car will cost you $65,000. Back home, for this amount of money, you can get a Mercedez.
A license to drive is also quite costly.
The car you purchase is only good for 10 years. Then, you need to scrap it and buy a new car.
My Two Cents
Singapore is a wonderful cocktail of oriental and western worlds.
Singapore is a very orderly country. The weather is lovely. The people are friendly and hospitable.
I believe the system in place works for Singaporeans. I believe Singapore is a lot more fun for the filthy rich than the middle class.
In most countries, we would educate people on certain aspects of life and try to get them to willingly behave in line with the national vision. In Singapore, the rules are enforced. It’s extremely effective but one might wonder if there is not another way to achieve the same goals (education.) But with education, you stand the risk of people electing not to follow the national vision. In Singapore, failure is not an option and the vision for the country is translated into edicts and laws. The country is quite successful. It is a key economic power. It is thriving. Singaporeans are protected and well educated. Foreigners cannot come in and try to take over everything. Pollution is low (Noise, ambient)
Are they happy?
When I ask Singaporeans if they are happy, the answers are a bit lukewarm however. The country’s happiness index is 39.8 (they ranked 90 out of 151) (Source: http://www.happyplanetindex.org/countries/singapore/) The index measures how governments from around the world provide long, happy and sustainable lives for their people, based on three factors: life expectancy, happiness and environmental sustainability. The ecological footprint in Singapore is extremely high. (Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/singapore-ranked-90th-in-latest-happiness-index.html)
Why are they not happy? For none of the reasons mentioned above, apparently. Singaporeans like the system in place. Singaporeans are always trying to make more money. “Money, money, money, money”. If shopping is the national past time in Singapore, you require money to shop. And if you need to acquire designer brands, you need to acquire more money. They also “Work, Work, Work”. Evenings, weekends are not only for relaxation and rest. Most people work extremely long hours in Singapore. And the formula to happiness is not WORK WORK WORK to SHOP, SHOP, SHOP.
Singapore is a place to visit (and visit regularly) but not a place where I would live permanently. Every time I travel, I learn more about a country and its culture, I am happy to peak behind the curtains at the countries’ modus operandi but I constantly feel, there is no place like home. If you come to Singapore, you’ll shop until you drop, you’ll eat like a king and you’ll be safe. You’ll discover different cultures. And you’ll come home, happy to be headed home.
The key to a successful trip is to be happy to leave and happy to come home. I can honestly say my trip to Singapore was a success. I’ve made great friends and learned great things.