How is Singapore establishing itself as a global city? What aspects of our heritage and culture have we given up in the pursuit of the status of a global city?
For a small nation with little resources, we have come a long way to become a flourishing economy with recognition on the global stage. However, are we setting our eyes on a goal that is even greater, such as establishing ourselves as a global city? The term “global city” can be loosely defined as cities that have control over a disproportionate amount of global business dates in comparison to other cities. Hence it would be especially beneficial to Singapore to become a global city due to the nature of its economy as an open economy, and having such an important role in the global economy would secure a more stable economic future.
In order to play the part of being a global city, Singapore has made efforts to draw large players in the global economy to choose Singapore as part of their Global Production Network (GPN). Singapore makes itself attractive through the low corporate tax rates that are kept at 17%, intellectual property protection laws and a tripartite labour environment amongst others. Even its geographical location provides Singapore an advantage – attracting firms that desire to enter the South East Asian market that is fairly untapped. Additionally, Singapore maintains its focus on upcoming sectors and supports their activities in the country. One such example would be the blooming biomedical science industry around early 2000s. Facilities such as the Biopolis research centre and Medtech hub were built to support the industry, and now many large pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Roche, have set their roots in Singapore. This shows Singapore’s ability to support upcoming industries and hence would be attractive for foreign firms to come and invest.
Establishing Singapore as a global city also includes differentiating herself from the other economies. Current global cities such as Tokyo and London have differentiating factors that set them apart; a unique trait that cannot be remodeled by other countries. For Singapore to achieve the status of a global city, we are pushing our specialties to the forefront to highlight ourselves. Singapore maintains her image as a green city, from UNESCO awarded botanical gardens to the airports, the message of our desire to be a city in a garden is clear to all. Other than being a green city, Singapore builds its cultural presence through its ‘makan’ culture, where it can be considered a food haven with dishes from all around the world. Our hawker centres have been the envy of some countries, as they wish to also have the ease of convenience to a large range of delicious food in their countries. Therefore, Singapore hopes to draw more attention to these special aspects of our culture in order to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world, which is an important part to being a global city.
However in the pursuit of becoming a global city, we have left behind parts of our heritage. In order to keep up with the demand of the volatile global economy, Singapore focuses on opportunity-oriented and productivity-led growth to chart the country’s future plans. This mindset has bled into other sectors of the Singapore society, such as the education system which serves to prepare students who are able to cope and adapt to the real world. Thus, Singapore’s education system often prioritises academics and the all-rounded development of students in order to help them reach the desired outcome. For example, the academic syllabus and extracurricular activities programs such as LEAP are under constant revision to best tailor the education system to the skills and experience required by the real world. However, this deprioritises educating students on the importance of citizenship building. Although more structure has been given to these programmes, citizenship building fails to be of utmost importance to students who are constantly besieged by other responsibilities. Hence such values should be weaved into the education system, so that students will have a sense of ownership of Singapore that can reflect its position as a global city. Or else, each generation would slowly lose touch with the true identity of Singapore, which may become eradicated in the pursuit of adapting ourselves to suit the preference of the global economy.
Therefore, in our quest to become a global city, steps must continue to be taken to build an enticing country for foreign businesses. However, the fine balance between preserving our country’s heritage and progressing to fit the desires of the rest of the world needs to be kept or else the opportunity cost of achieving the status of a global city would be too great and unsustainable. After all, a strong backbone that comes from citizens that are willing and able to support the country in its endeavours is crucial for its economy to make drastic improvements.
Charlotte Teng (18-U1)
This essay was written as a submission to Geosphere, a publication of the NUS Geographical Society.