Singapore – Global City
To compensate for the lack of land and natural resources, the nation has had to define its role in the world from a defensive posture. Thus, Singapore embarked on a process of globalizing its economy, its population, and its culture to make the nation relevant to the needs of the rest of the world. This approach is drawn very much from Singapore’s historical past as a fishing village and geographical entrepot, positioned as a natural point of trade between the East and West.
However, contemporary globalizing strategies have become more than just responsive policy options but proactive initiatives to define the values of the nation. For example, the challenges the nation faced at its founding, including a confrontation with its formidable neighbor Indonesia, created a focused mindset of survival, with this value remaining prominent in public discourse today As a result, a series of globalizing strategies were put in place long before globalization became a buzzword.
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Such strategies include establishing English as the language of politics, business, and education; building the economy through close cooperation with multinational corporations; importing popular culture from around the world, including the United States, Britain, Australia, India, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea; sending large numbers of Singaporeans to study abroad; and encouraging the immigration of large numbers of “foreign talent” to complement its only natural resource—its people.
These strategies have largely paid off in terms of economic development and political stability. In fact, by any account, Singapore is one of the most globalized of nations. The inaugural AT Kearney/Foreign Policy globalization index acknowledged Singapore’s nature by pronouncing it the most globalized nation in 2001, and it has since remained in the top four The management of the consequences flowing from the decision to attract more talented migrants has become a political challenge in the economic sphere.
With globalization forces creating more acute income inequalities and placing a high premium on talent, Singaporeans at both ends of the skills spectrum fear for their future. At the lower end, the possibility of cheaper labor from neighboring countries has created the pressure to improve skills more effectively. At the higher end, Singapore’s push into higher value-added industries has also storm skills deficit. Better educated Singaporeans have become vocal aloud being placed at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive job market.
There is also concern aloud on the impact of sizable migration on the formation of Singapore’s national and cultural identity, and on the state’s management of ethnic diversity Education in Singapore has moved in the past few years away from rote learning for students, to increasingly emphasize new elements. Perhaps the most notable of these elements is creative and critical thinking. The government budgets of the crisis years and after have recognized the new importance of education with increased funding.
Beyond the formal education sector and schools, worker upgrading and the learning of new skills, including the smaller and medium-sized enterprises, have received more emphasis. Schemes to help achieve this include the Manpower Development Assistance Scheme to help those in the work-force to upgrade their skills and knowledge continuously; and the Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund announced by Prime Minister Goh in August 2000, with a budget of $1 billion, to help equip workers with the skills to take on existing and new jobs, create new products and services, and capture new markets in this stage of economic development.
However, the globalization of Singapore’s economy has created another set of problems by weakening the already tenuous emotional ties Singaporeans have for their nation. This problem is demonstrated by a series of phenomena, including awakening of social cohesion and a pragmatic attitude toward the collective good and self-sacrifice. In addition, a number of highly talented Singaporeans choose to live abroad, thus depriving the nation of much needed education, business skills, and finances.
The Singapore government has grown increasingly alarmed by these trends, thus issues of national identity have taken a central role in political discourse in recent years. The government has presented a strategy to create and maintain a stronger sense of national identity and patriotism to counter crises, imagined and real, which have become the defining vocabulary of Singapore’s short history.
This strategy is designed in many ways to address the excesses of earlier policies, including reemphasizing Asian languages and values, appealing to overseas Singaporeans to return home, and attempting to build local corporations and institutions that would appeal to national pride. If Singapore’s policymaking style had to be summed up in a phrase, it would be the practice of selective globalization; that is, the conscious effort to encourage certain forms of globalization and to discourage others.
For example, the government, on the one hand, encourages economic globalization through the synchronization of local financial regulations and policies with international standards while, on the other, energetically protects an Asian “conservative” society from the ills of satellite dishes, pornographic magazines, and other unwholesome global commodities. Conventional arguments for cultural and ideological protectionism may sit well with the character of nation-states, but are increasingly incongruent with the functions of global cities.
And since a global city cannot be willed into being but becomes one only when others recognize it as such, all global cities require cultural legitimacy from the international community of transnational professionals, creative classes, and international opinion-shapers who have the power to confer it recognition. The competition to distinguish oneself as a global city is, in reality, the competition to win legitimacy and recognition from this international community This constant oscillation between being globally open and locally particular has given rise to the Singapore paradox.
The city-state enjoys its status as one of the most globalized countries in the world in terms of migration, global finance, and telecommunications, and yet regularly garners criticism from international human rights institutions for its insistence on practicing its own brand of politics, whereby certain civil liberties are curtailed in view of local multiethnic and multi-religious realities. The practice of selective globalization expresses the need to remain globally connected for the sake of nothing less than national survival, and the desire to retain certain notions of tradition and conservatism that protect pecific dominant interests. The fact that Singapore’s survival as a nation-state depends on its status as a global city means that the government has little choice but to constantly shift gears between the national and the global when it comes to policymaking, thus compelling it to send mixed signals to this international community. Casinos are allowed but satellite dishes are not, topless cabaret shows are permitted but civil disobedience is not, and the list goes on.
These discrepancies are at the heart of the dilemma facing Singapore at the dawn of the 21st century—globalizing at one’s own pace and terms may be prudent for a small nation-state, but how much of this prudence can an aspiring global city afford? In the past we attracted entrepreneurs who came to start businesses that created jobs for Singaporeans. These days Singapore has become a playground for the rich… the rich that are here because they see Singapore as a haven that protects their wealth from taxes and protects them from scrutiny.
The excessive conspicuous consumption in the form of Ferraris, nightclubs with thousand dollar cocktails, and the expensive brands dominating shops along Orchard Road have become painful reminders of the large polarizing income gap in our society, The PAP has pursued policies that turned Singapore into a magnet for the rich. Policies often have to favor one section of the society over another … and Singapore becoming a haven for the rich shows which segment of society PAP policies has leaned towards and all this is the outcome of the choices the PAP govt has made.
Public expressions of anger or dissatisfaction with Singapore’s transformations are limited, since protests for the most part are prohibited. Yet signs of unhappiness are multiplying. The city-state’s ruling party retained power with its lowest percentage of votes in Singaporean history in 2011, and a thriving blog culture is prodding officials to consider some changes to the country’s economic model, including the creation of a bigger social safety net for the poor, which likely would require higher taxes.
Whether being a global city is good or bad for the build of Singapore “nation”: There is not good or bad in this case, Singapore for sure would not became such a develop country if it didn’t became global city opened to new investors. On the other hand, there a big class different between poorest and richest. So, in conclusion there wouldn’t be Singapore if it wasn’t open as it is, but they need to adjust their system, so that there is more equality between richest and poorest.