A British journalist’s book about Singapore and how it could suffer from complacency has drawn mixed views on social media, with many arguing that it is the establishment in Singapore that is complacent, not the people.
The writer, Nicholas Walton, had lived in Singapore for over three years as he worked for the Economist Intelligence Unit. During his time here, he walked across the entire country in one day and produced a book, entitled ‘Singapore, Singapura: From Miracle to Complacency,’ covering his thoughts about the country.
In his book, Mr Walton notes that modern Singapore is a “miracle” especially given its lack of natural resources and small size but wonders whether the nation’s achievements have “bred a dangerous sense of complacency among Singapore’s people?”
Pointing out that there is talk of a “Singapore model” in the globalised world today, Mr Walton said that there are “challenges ahead, from public complacency and the constraints of authoritarian democracy to changing geographic realities and the difficulties of balancing migration in such a tiny state.”
Highlighting Mr Walton’s book on his personal Facebook page, distinguished diplomat Tommy Koh wrote that he found the book interesting. Noting that Mr Walton’s previous book was on the Italian city of Genoa, Prof Koh felt that the author was wondering “whether Singapore’s success will endure or will it suffer the fate of Genoa.”
While some netizens appreciated Mr Walton’s views, others disagreed with his assessment. One netizen, Facebook user Stavros N. Yiannouka, said that he has “always found the framing of such historical analogies to be unhelpful.”
Noting that Genoa and its rival Venice were “remarkably successful city-state polities that endured for several centuries,” Mr Stavros pointed out that “rather than asking how can Singapore avoid the fate of Genoa or Venice, we should be asking what did those polities get right that allowed them to survive for so long in an environment that was hostile to city states.”
In a separate comment, Prof Koh said that he agreed with the netizen’s views. Others argued that while there is complacency in Singapore, the culture the ruling party created is to blame, not the people:
Meanwhile, Mr Walton commented on the thread and said that he was delighted Prof Koh had read the book. He added: “And even if you didn’t like it, I’d hope it made a visually arresting paperweight.”