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Tommy Koh: Hawker food is part of our national identity

The ambassador at large made reference to the book, Fifty Secrets Of Singapore's Success where he said simple hawker fare had often 'saved' many a Singaporean

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Singapore—At the launch of a new book entitled Fifty Secrets Of Singapore’s Success, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh said that the seemingly simple hawker centre food “saved Singapore,” since it allows everyday Singaporeans to enjoy a wonderful meal at a very low price.

The book, which Mr Koh edited, was published by Straits Times Press, and was launched on Wednesday (Jan 29) by Eddie Teo, the chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers. The launch was held at the National Museum of Singapore.

As the title suggests, it is made up of 50 essays written by people at the top of different fields expressing how Singapore has achieved great success.

As the launch began Professor Koh said, “Hawker food makes Singapore unique. It is part of our national identity.

I must say that my wife and I are great fans of hawker centres. We go to the wet market every week. We often have lunch on a Sunday or Saturday in one of the hawker centres.”

The professor wrote about the inception of the book in his first column for the lunar year in both the print and online editions of The Straits Times (ST), saying that it had been inspired by two events. First, in a meeting with Mexican university students last year, he had been asked by one of the students what the secret is to the country’s success, to which he replied, there is not one, but many. She then asked that he write a book about it,

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Second, shortly afterward the Ambassador of Finland to Singapore, Paula Parviainen, gave the Professor a best-selling book entitled 100 Social Innovations From Finland, which further cemented his intention to write about Singapore’s success.

The straitstimes.com reports that during the launch, Mr Teo said that he had initially been surprised that a book about the country’s success had stories about toilets and hawker centers. But later he realized that these essays, authored by World Toilet Organisation founder Jack Sim and Singapore Management University president Lily Kong, “convincingly explained how important they are for nation-building and national development”.

He expressed the hope that young Singaporeans would learn something about the country’s history, “So I hope that this book will not only reach foreigners, but will also find its way into the hands of younger Singaporeans, if not the hard copies, at least the e-version.”

“To succeed, they must have the same passion, commitment and love for Singapore, which our founding generation leaders clearly had,” he added.

According to Professor Koh, while Singapore is too small to be a model for other countries, its stories can serve as sources of inspiration for other developing nations.

“We are not a model, but we can be a source of inspiration. We can be a source of practical solutions to many of the problems that developing countries face.”

President Halimah Yacob wrote in the book’s foreword, “Our journey has not been easy in the face of global challenges, but we have always pulled through because we were determined to make something for ourselves.” -/TISG

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