06 Aug SG50: The past, the present and the future
Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Mr. Frank Lavin, Former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore discuss Singapore’s journey to success over the past 50 years, in this segment for CNBC’s ’50 on the Dot’ programme.
Singapore Then & Now
Mr. Lavin: The fundamental strengths of Singapore, I think we’ve seen unfold over the last ten years, high capacity for innovation, high capacity for technology and adaptation. There’s also changes in the polity, what do the citizens expect from the government, what kind of participation do they want in the government, and what is the government prepared to do to accomodate those desires. All of those are part of a broader term.
Prof. Tay: I think living here in Singapore, the last few years have just been sort of choppy. This year of course was the historic watershed of the founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s passing. But even before this, the last General Election has led to a certain sense of uncertainty. So I think Singapore is at an important juncture. It’s good to see that you and I think we’ve got a lot of fundamental strengths that can take us forward.
Mr. Lavin: Well, I think the first 50 years, simply establishing a successful model was quite a journey. I mean, simply getting market rationalism to dominate, moving from the third world to first world, and getting a stable polity enshrined was a very important series of steps. But I think, you say…now what, what for the next 50 years?
Prof. Tay: That’s very true. And when you look at this infrastructure, you think it’s going to be physical. And I think it’s not. And of course we’ve got to get this infrastructure right. The keys are the mentality. We’ve become quite a different, perhaps exceptional city in a very dynamic region. And that’s where both the challenges and the opportunities are for Singapore.
Singapore on the Global Stage
Prof Tay: Frank, after you left Singapore you became the Deputy Commerce Secretary for America. And then you’ve been in and out of China building a business there. Looking more geopolitically, what do you think the big moving plates are for Singapore in Asia and the world?
Mr. Lavin: Well, the consequential political development of our era is the emergence of China. How China defines its role in the region. And what other countries in the region, including the United States, think about that is really the political issue of the moment. And I think this will go on for years, decades.
Prof Tay: I think the next ten years will be really dramatic for the US-China relationship. Singapore is in a really sweet spot. We’re pretty close friends with both sides. What Singapore needs to do is remain close to both, if possible, but not necessarily by itself. Here in ASEAN, Singapore has got to try, with other members of ASEAN, to knit that group together, so it’s never always on one side or the other, but really becomes a kind of anchor for the discussion.