Singapore as model PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 04 May 2014 13:51

By REMEDIOS F. MARMOLEÑO

 

Two comments in the recent weeks have turned my thoughts to Singapore once again.

One was the informal conversation I had with two young businessmen of our city. The questions  were  raised: “Forty years ago where was Singapore? Where is it now?  Forty years ago where was Zamboanga? Where is it now?”

I have great admiration for Singapore. I must qualify  this statement quickly by saying that this admiration is based simply on my own observations drawn from a few visits to this city-state and information gained about this country  in the media. I have never stayed in Singapore  for more than two or three days at a time.

Among my observations are that Singapore is very clean; the usual expression used to describe it  is “squeaky clean”. One does not see piles of uncollected garbage or litter in the streets. The plants in the road medians and the park-like spaces look well cared for. Public transportation is efficient and the coaches are clean.

Information about Singapore in the media is that it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world; the wealthiest in the region. Its per capita GDP is second  only to Japan.  It invariably winds up in such  lists as  “most peaceful countries”,  “safest countries” , etc.  It is constantly looking into improving services to its citizens. And perhaps among the most important is the effort to strengthen in its citizens their identity as Singaporeans regardless of their ethnic  origins; we have to remember that Singapore’s population is basically Chinese, Malay and Indian.

The questions referred to earlier came up during the lunch break at a small consultation on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the implications the CAB would create for Zamboanga City. The topic was one that raised anxiety in the local businessmen and their anxiety came from  the prospect that Zamboanga City would be what Jolo is now.  Over the 40 years or so since the start of the “troubles” with the rebels in 1974 Jolo has spiraled downwards economically.  What are the prospects if ZC becomes part of the Bangsamoro entity (BE) ?  Many people in the city have high hopes for the success of the BE  but uncertainty makes people afraid. And just a few days after the consultation fierce fighting took place in Basilan which did not decrease the uncertainty.

The other comment that turned my thoughts to Singapore was one I heard in a documentary about Pope Francis. In an interview a  close friend of the Pope described him as one who shows “humility and leadership”.  It was good to hear this but at the same time made me think of leadership in the Philippines.  Humility is not one of the more obvious virtues of people who have held the reins of power in our country.  I read somewhere that Lee Kuan Yew has lived in the same house he lived in at the start of his political life. Who among our leaders can we say the same thing?

I remember  telling my two young friends that Singapore  has gone as far as it has over the 40 years because its leader then, Lee Kuan Yew, had  the unselfish vision for the country and very little for  himself and his family.