Fine Landing in Singapore

A quick look at a small country that might have a large impact on the world of finance.

SingaporeOriginally published in the Clawson Patch newspaper May 2013.

Michael:  “The pilot made a very good landing,” the man behind me in line said as a statement. It took a moment to register that he spoke to me. No one has ever done that before in a customs line. But this place is different. Instead of being run down a hallway that feels like a cave with large local advertising screaming for your attention, passengers are greeted by a large well lit area. The ceiling rests three stories above while a wall of growing plants feeds oxygen to the place. And it is devoid of those metal fences or ribbon lanes that herd you like cattle to the next available agent.

However the 27 hours wedged in a United Airlines excuse for a seat in economy class did little for my disposition. Though now I could feel better. That fellow passenger showed it to me. I was in Singapore, a completely different world. Yes, this is a place where people constantly speak positive instead of negative. “Yes, it was an excellent landing,” I said with a smile on my face.

Graciela:  They had sufficient people at two in the morning. Only two people were ahead of us in line to clear customs. It went fast and a candy made in Singapore was offered at the conclusion.

Michael:  This is our third trip to Singapore in as many years. Previous conversations with Americans revealed most had no idea of this very important place. It is not a part of China as some told me. Singapore is a country in Asia, a country of five million people on an island. Its history is rich from having been a major trading port since the 1600’s. That made it a British colony starting from back when the United Kingdom ruled the seas. The population diversity of the island is made of three backgrounds, Chinese, Malaysian and Indians. Learning the history of how these groups arrived to the island is fascinating.

Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, one of the least wealth gaps and one of he lowest corruption rates. Seventeen percent, or about one in every six Singaporeans, is a millionaire with wealth counted as that amount above the value of the home. But even more important is that by the year 2020 this small island will be managing over one-third of the entire world’s wealth unseating Switzerland for the top spot.

Graciela:  The country is extremely organized. The government demonstrated an honest concern for the betterment of its citizens. Mass transportation and shopping is a dream compared to many other places. And the people promote not just good tasting, but healthy food at affordable prices.

Michael:  I first came to Singapore after watching a documentary with a purpose that seemed to be to show how the recent financial meltdown in the USA impacted the rest of the world. The film mentioned how hard hit Singapore was. However when I showed up a couple years later, while the US continued to languish in its return, this Asian country moved forward decidedly. Research showed the main difference between the two countries to be Singapore investing in all of its people not just the corporations and wealthy. Parties pulled together for the betterment of everyone.

I have identified three main areas that the Singapore government concentrates on. These areas have been a priority since the country’s freedom from British rule. The base from which the country grows is a belief that every citizen has access to descent and affordable housing, education is a priority and third a lack of corruption in both public and private sectors.

The government builds large housing projects then offers residents places at low rent or to purchase with low interest rates. Each complex has social areas and located near major shopping areas and mass transportation. This way control is maintained about traffic. They are proactive rather than reactive. Rather meaning the correct size road, shopping areas and other things are built before the people move in not after.

Graciela:  Education is promoted. But a bang for the buck is wanted. The government does not just throw money at the educational system. There seems to be a feeling of we need to educate ourselves in order to make the world better. Starting this year students are required to learn three languages.

Michael:  The feeling I get are these young people want to learn. They push their educators to offer them more. They use social media as an education tool rather than a way to waste time. While riding the mass transportation I have watched high school students doing advanced business model calculations that I did not get until my fourth year of university.

Fifty percent of the flag of the country is white. That stands for being against corruption. The idea is that without corruption, money spent gets a better value and helps everyone more. The government has an entire anti-corruption section dedicated to rooting it out. While the USA has been declining over the years on the international corruption index, Singapore has been moving up the ladder. This tiny country is rated at number five in the world behind Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and Switzerland. The United States has 18 countries above it looking better.

Graciela:  While my husband is ready to live here, I do not see things as perfect. Singapore is near the Equator and hot. They joke about it being a “fine” country meaning that there is fine for everything from smoking too close to a public place, not flushing a public toilet, walking around naked in your house, bringing chewing gum into the country and eating on public transportation. Not to mention that it is one of the ten most expensive places to live in the world.

Michael:  Sí mi amor – my wife and I are still negotiating where to live.

Our intent is for future writings to show a little more about Singapore. However here are links to our writings from earlier years.

Singapore Part I
Singapore Part II
Singapore Part III
Singapore Part IV
Singapore Part V
Singapore Part VI
Singapore Fashion Designers

Follow us on Twitter:  @Michaelgraciela

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