Tuesday 18th January
I am sitting here at the keyboard and the sound of
heavy artillery and the sound of large calibre machine guns is cracking the
air nearby us. We are at the border of Malaysia and Singapore and there is an
army training ground and firing range nearby. They are showing their muscle to
their neighbours who have in the past threatened them.
Singapore takes its strength seriously. The frugal
government - let me just repeat that F-R-U-G-A-L Government - recognise more
explicitly than I have seen anywhere else in the world so far, exactly what
their role should be. Frugal and Government cannot be used in the same sentence
in the UK or Europe generally. While our governments squandered our national
income over the past 15 years Singaporeans individually and collectively through
their Government saved. Singapore now has one of the largest Sovereign
Wealth Funds in the world. Right now you and I are working to in part pay them
as they have had money to lend us and we must work to pay them the
interest. This is not obscure or something which does not affect you. It is real
and it does.
The Government in Singapore I would say does
not cow tow to any "left" or "right" wing political dogma. The operate what I
would call a pragmocratic system. Whatever is best for Singapore overall they
do. It appears to operate with very strong leadership, perhaps slightly
authoritarian which has recognised from the outset (the country is only 45
years old) that you can not have a strong country without a strong economy
and you cannot have defence or a health system without a strong economy. So
they have set about systematically to build what I guess must be one of the
most productive economies in the world. They have no natural resources,
they don't even have enough water for themselves. But they have had the
incredible resource of hard work, individual responsibility and strong
leadership with long term vision.
They have clearly recoginsed from an early stage
the fundamental fact that a country's economic output is simply the sum
total of the individual output of its business which is the sum total of the
individual output of its inhabitants. There are no pensions - each
individual must work throughout their life to save for retirement. People only
generally borrow anthing at all for a house. Everything else is from savings.
You can only borrow 70% of a houses value which has now been reduced to 60%.
They have just introduced 16% stamp duty on any house builtt and sold in one
year. Every single person I have spoken to said they had a good
Where the government can do something better than
individuals they are not shy to get on and do it and they do it in an efficient
way as a private company would. They control planning in an unbelievable way,
with incredible vision zoning areas, building the most efficient
infrastructure tearing dowm things that are in the way.
We visited Sentosa Island to the south of the main
town. It clearly has been zoned as some sort of leisure metropolis and built. I
am guessing the zoning and infrastructure was done by the government and some by
the private sector and the building and development done by the private sector.
There was a bridge, cable car and mono rail system to the island. The scale of
the vision and the development is mind blowing.
Crime is just not tolerated. A taxi driver was
recently robbed of S$130. The guy threatened the driver with a knife. He was
caned and jailed for 1 year. No social background reports, no mitigating
circumstances, no this that or the other. You know the rules you dont break
them. You're a big boy so you will take responsibility of your actions and face
the consequences which you clearly know and understand. If you have more than
two 20cent coins worth of drugs you area dealer and you will face the death
penalty. Simple, straightforward and guess what? no drug problem and no drug
We need to grow up.
Sentosa was an incredible place. We walked around
wioth our jaws hanging open at the building and architecture of a multi faceted
resort island. Next was the equally impressive "Sky Park" where they built 3 57
storey buildings which in themeselves are very impressive, but then built
another building on top of them which spand all three buildings and
resembles a ship. It has a swimming pool, bar, restaurants etc etc up
top. From there you also look down on the largest ferris wheel in the world
beside the Singapore Formula 1 track and also a floating Football
The monrail system around the island is cheap,
efficient and of course spotlessly clean - nobody would dare drop litter
in Singapore because they know the consequences are
We spent some time in the famous Long Bar in
Raffles Hotel, home of the Singapore Sling. here you eat peanuts and the shells
are thrown to the floor. A system clearly developed by the British
before the modern Singapore Government decreed that litter dropping was
The Slings were great but the prices were
With Chinese New Year coming up we visited
Chinatown at night to see the spectacular lighting and displays.
We visited a Hawker Centre where maybe up to one
hundred small stalls are selling food - each of them competing for your
business. The food on offer was just wonderful all types of small dishes from a
couple of dollars up to twenty five. The woman whose stall we ate at
peformed the word and tone perfect sales pitch on us and delivered to
promise 100%. I had Sting Ray (i think it was skate wing), spicy beef, tom Yam
seafood soup curries and rice and two coconuts all for £12.50 per
Another day we went to a Food Court which is a
modern version of the same but with a more "international" flavour to the
choice of food. Singaporeans love their food.
This comes from the ethnic Indian, Chinese, Malay and Indonesian mix plus the
fusion of these. It is worth visiting just for the
Trish visited the Zoo which is spread over a large
area and has the animals in open areas like a safari and is one of the best she
has ever seen. I stayed back and fixed things on the boat. On Sunday night we
went to the Night Safari at which you can walk around secure paths between the
animals and also ride through the varied habitats on a small tram. It was
On saturday night we were invited out to dinner to
the home of an ex-pat French couple and friends we made in Batam who run a
shipyard there. The location was beside the Botanic Gardens. It was a wonderful
treat to be asked to someones home and we had a very pleasant evening and dinner
in good company.
Now we must leave for Malaysia which we are looking
forward too also.