Tue, 09 Aug 1994

Singapore success: Against all odds

Fireworks will sear through the evening sky in Singapore tonight as the city-state marks its 29th independence anniversary with a rousing celebration.

Singaporeans join in unison with a spectacular parade at the cavernous National Stadium, to be highlighted by displays from the country's defense forces and a medley of patriotic songs.

Against the odds could be a fitting title for the remarkable success story that is Singapore today. A small island dwarfed by larger neighbors, ethnically diverse and with few natural resources, Singapore has carved out a place of prominence for itself in the world's financial, economic and political circles.

From the sprawling fishing village then known as Temasek in the 14th century, Singapore has prospered to serve as a center of regional and, increasingly, world trade.

In the last three decades, following Singapore's withdrawal from the Malayan Federation and its establishment as an independent republic, growth has been rapid.

Skyscrapers and gleaming office buildings, superior telecommunications the match of any in the world, an efficient and safe transportation system the envy of other countries, and clean, tree-fringed streets greet the first-time visitor.


Historians credit Sir Stamford Raffles, the English explorer and administrator of the British East Indies company, for paving the way for development by declaring Singapore to be a free port.

In modern times, observers point to the prudent planning and programs executed by the Singapore government as the key to its present high standard of living, continued economic growth, as well as social and political stability.

Others cite the melting pot of peoples, cultures and religion which fuse together in Singapore. The theme of this year's National Day celebration is "My Singapore, My Home," which is a proud acknowledgement of the unique characteristics of the Singapore population.

Singapore is proof that ethnic diversity, the bane of several developed and Third World nations around the globe, can be an instrument to creating a unique, harmonious and dynamic society.

Descendants of Chinese, Malay, Indian and peoples from other lands who built Singapore will join arms together in celebrating the National Day. Although members of each ethnic group retain pride in their cultural and historical legacies, as well as abiding respect for those of other peoples, this is combined with fervent nationalism as a Singaporean.

The concern for drawing out the best talents and qualities from people begins at an early ages. People are the country's most precious resource and Singapore children receive excellent educational opportunities.

The Singapore government invests heavily in education, striving to improve quality and ensuring that subjects are attuned to the changing needs of the workforce and the world.

Of course, population numbers are important. The concerns raised by the declining population rate in the 1980s--itself the result of the government's successful campaign to lower spiraling rates from the 1960s--have led to a campaign for couples to marry younger and have larger families.

There is also the realization that talent is not only home- grown. Singapore seeks to attract the best and the brightest from around the world, particularly talented Asians, who can contribute to the nation's continued growth and change.

These individuals, capable, innovative and skilled, are the modern descendants of the men and women from faraway lands who contributed to making today's Singapore. They will ensure growth and regeneration as the nation enters its 30th year of independence and approaches the exciting opportunities of the next century.