I’m just back from a visit to the city state of Singapore. I’ve travelled there seven times in the past few years on business. I’ve come to really like the place. People who know me say that’s because it reflects my personality – efficient, clean, safe and sunny – there you go, just like me!
So if you’ve not yet been there, here are 10 things you should know;
- It’s always hot and often humid – and usually around a constant 30c. There has been little rain so far this year and S’pore was heading for its driest February on record.
- There’s every type of food – everywhere. It’s simply impossible to go hungry – and very hard to diet here!
- Singapore = cranes! Their economy is recovering very fast indeed and 2010 growth predictions have just been revised to 4.5%-6.5%. Singapore weathered 2009 well, coming out of recession in November with just a 2% contraction. However, Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew warned Singaporeans recently that even more productivity and innovation would be needed if S’pore was to continue to grow and prosper – no pressure then!
- A few years ago the Government announced that the S’pore population was planned to grow from 4m to 6m. In June 2009 it stood at 5m – and this is causing grumbles with a public debate raging whilst I was there about too many foreign workers taking jobs and housing away from residents. Now where have we heard that before?
- Shopping, shopping, shopping is the national pastime and, some would say, obsession – more malls continue to be built. You can always browse a new shop whenever you visit!
- Opening hours are very long, often late into the evening – but it makes one wonder how, with quite so many shops, they actually all make a living?
- The new Resort World Sentosa (RWS) with Singapore’s first controversial casino complex has just opened – charging S$100 entry for any Singapore resident, supposedly as a deterrent – its foreigners’ money they want, not the residents!
- Singapore has a number of mega-churches. The largest two are led by Pastor Kong Hee, (City Harvest Church: 29,000 members) and Pastor Joseph Prince, (New Creation Church: 19,000 members). This year, Pastor Tan of the Lighthouse Independent Church was heavily censured by the Government for ‘incautious’ remarks about homosexuality. There is a very firm line taken here on racial and community harmony and no tolerance for anything that might threaten it.
- Most people believe that Asia will recover very quickly this year. The S’pore economy is powered by trade with China and Australia (one of very few countries not to have experienced recession). However, commentators warn that China has a couple of worrying ‘bubbles’ emerging; one of which is the huge growth of China’s currency reserves, a mind-boggling $2.4 trillion.
- Travelling from Europe, what strikes one so forcibly is the vibrant Asian ‘can do spirit’. For example, Asian airlines are just so much better when it comes to customer service. Why would anyone want to use a grumpy and expensive US or European carrier these days? With its young demographic, S’pore is full of pleasant, industrious and smiling people. With their strong work ethic they actually care about what you think about how they are carrying out their job for you! Try finding that in Britain.