14 March 2006

"Heart of Asia". Heheh.

Today I came across this article:

Business Times - 14 Mar 2006
S'pore has key role to play in Asia's rise, say IT leaders
Republic should aim to be region's hub for innovation, export and security

SINGAPORE is known to be the 'heart of Asia', and there is no reason why it cannot continue to play that role even as China and India expand rapidly.

These were some of the comments from world information technology business leaders after a meeting of the Infocomm International Advisory Panel (IAP) here yesterday.

The IAP is an initiative of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. It is a high-level panel of strategic advisers, comprising leaders and visionaries of the infocomm industry, tasked with giving feedback and new ideas for Singapore to capitalise on growth opportunities in the global marketplace.

Speaking to reporters, William Green, CEO of Accenture and a member of the panel, said Singapore has had the 'heart of Asia' reputation for many years and there is no reason why it cannot continue to be that and even expand its role.
.... and the question that popped into my head was:

Since when was Singapore ever known as the "heart of Asia"?

Type words like "heart of asia" and "where is the heart of asia" into Google and Yahoo! search engines and you will see what I mean. The results will be quite varied and include match-making agencies, books about the Himalayas, photos of China, conferences for cardiologists in Asia, CDs with Asian music ...... but after viewing pages and pages of search results, I still find nothing which connects Singapore with "heart of Asia".

On a few other occasions, I have come across congratulatory (or self-congratulatory) words of praise generated within Singapore (usually uttered by our dear leaders or their bureaucrats), which upon further investigation appear to have little real justification. The next time I come across such cases again, I'll point them out to you.

The danger of such apparently harmless (if vain) utterances of admiration is that this country may begin to delude itself, in some ways at least, into believing that it is something we are not. The best place to start climbing towards success is right where you are - not where you imagine yourself to be.

By the way, does anyone remember the "Swiss standard of living" that the Singapore government informed us that we had already attained in the year 2000?

According to Google's image search engine,
the "heart of asia" is .... Afghanistan.


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

The other great invention was "Asian values", heheh.

Anonymous said...

As usual these utterances are meant for domestic consumption. The little booger is well known for boastful remarks. Mybe its leaders and bureacrats are just detached from reality. Or both.

Anonymous said...

It is the "Swiss standard of living" financially.

Anonymous said...

I always thought we were heading towards the Swaziland of living.

Anway its hard to respect journalists or publications that constantly makes up preposterous claims like this. They should get Comical Ali to be the editor-in-chief, he'll feel right at home with these comedians.

Anonymous said...

Yah, if only we have 10% of Swiss standard of democracy.

Switzeland is arguably one of the most democratic countries in the world.

Politics of Switzerland takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary democratic republic, whereby the Federal Council of Switzerland is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Switzerland is the closest state in the world to a direct democracy. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory; for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested.

he Index of perception of corruption puts Switzerland among the least corrupt nations. In the 2005 survey, Switzerland ranks 7th (out of 158 surveyed), with 9.1 out of 10 possible points, representing an improvement of 0.4 points over the past four years.

Together with seven other European nations, Switzerland leads the 2005 index on Freedom of the Press published by Reporters Without Borders (with a score 0.5 points, zero being the perfect score).

veii said...

How about "New Asia", the retired slogan once used by the STB?

Anonymous said...

2010...I mentioned before to a friend that if Mah Bow Tan is still around then, he might out of desperation buy a whole team. But he had a U-turn..oops I mean rethink...and said that 2010 is only a target...yeah well .

angry doc said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
singaporean said...

If ships are blood vessels, then Singapore deservably can be called the heart of Asia for the past hundred years. But more recent "hub" initiatives are now little more than lumps of blood clot.

Instead of Swiss standard of living, all we attain is Swiss cost of living. And for a country at the frontline of two world wars and the cold war, their national service is as little as 9 months (unless you choose to serve as a Swiss Guard in the Vatican which would make the service 3 years).

As for Goal 2010, it was a frivolous call from the very beginning. GCT wanted a showcase to prove to Singaporeans that we NEED foreign talents. What a spectacular backfire. Young Singaporeans love football, but yet even many of the best funded primary and secondary schools do not offer it as a sport. Obviously Goal 2010 has absolutely nothing to do with developing local football talents. The shortsighted GCT fail to see that the French national team may be born all over the world, but their citizenship never depended on their ability to kick a ball.

angry doc said...

According to PM Lee, we have already attained the Swiss Standard of Living in 2000.


"Back in 1984 we set, as our target, achieving a Swiss standard of living by 1999. At the time many people were sceptical about this ambitious goal. But we attained it last year, just one year late. This achievement traces back to the Productivity Movement, which has succeeded in getting our workers to work hard and work smart, in order to improve our lives."

So where's my cuckoo clock? :)

Anonymous said...

The following terms can be added to the dictionary:

"World class university"
"Boston of the East"
"global hub"

That's my list

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

In this 2005 study on the quality of life in the world's cities:


the Swiss cities of Geneva, Zurich and Bern are ranked world no. 1, 2 and 8.

Singapore is ranked no. 34.


angry doc said...

OK, what if he meant we attained the 1984 Swiss Standard of Living in the year 2000?

Anonymous said...

IMO Singapore isn't so bad a place to live in, really. It's just that Singaporeans have come to expect very high standards. The only thing that sucks are the weather, restrictive social atmosphere and the limited political participation. Even that is not really bad in a terrible sense.

I believe only people who have lived in several cities have a right to comment on the 'liveability' of various cities. Tourism doesnt count.

disclaimer - I do not qualify, since I have only lived in 2 cities, including Singapore.

Anonymous said...

"Heart of Asia" my foot. More like the "Big Mouth of Asia!"

I wonder if our dear leaders or those bureaucrats have ever been to the US other than mixing with Mickey Mouse & Co in Disneyland. Cuz when I was there a few months ago, nobody know where I was from lei..

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, one of your readers took a dig at your local blogger celebrity status in today's Today. Check out page 3.

BTW, what happened to the student forum on Blogging which you agreed to be a guest speaker? All talk and no action, I hope not?

Anonymous said...

Today’s Internet generation may go on ad nauseam about how much Singapore needs to be more liberal and all that but it will remain sound and fury involving nothing
more strenuous than putting up another comment on their blogs to say that Tan Sai Siong (The author is a former journalist who writes on social issues.) has written another silly column and signing themselves off as another Mr Wang.

All you Mr Wangs out there, put your election deposit where your mouth is!

Anonymous said...

For those of you who don't know, this Tan Sai Siong spinster is formerly with SPH. Her articles are extreme in their pro-PAP stance and sycophancy.

Anonymous said...

(One wonders what the reporter's marital status has to do with anything.Shows you how small minds are prone to making personal attacks.)

Mr Wang>>

I also find it funny that right after you write about dreams, you go on to talk about how we need to improve our standard of living even more because you think we fall very far short of Swiss standards. What do you think we lack/can improve on? I think apart from the weather and space constraints, we're as good as a tiny spot can ever be.


Anthony said...

I'm pretty sure that a high standard of living and living out your dreams are not incompatible. In fact, I'm almost sad to see someone suggest that it is.

I recall being challenged to do something when I wrote about the Straits Times and editorial integrity a while back. It came down to this - you can either choose to acknowledge blogging about these issues as "doing something" or you can choose not to.

As for the specific issue about standing for an election, I call it for what it is - a "straw man" argument. The chances of winning an election -and- effecting real change even if you do are slim to none. I fail to see why an election is the ONLY venue of effecting political change. It's certainly not the case in the US.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mugster, I have read Mr Wang's post, no where did I see him mentioned that SIngapore needs to improve on the standards of living. He was simply stating historical statements made by our leaders and commenting on the consistency of their claims.

Anthony, I think the problem with all these anonmynouses making claims of NATO are that they are repeating what someone else in authority have issued as the way to go, they have not much of a voice of their own, that's why they persist in parroting what other wishes as their own.

At the end of the day, personally, I don't really care if Singapore remains as it is, becomes more politically liberal or becomes an overnight benevolent dictatoship, as long as the red passport allows me to go anywhere I want to pursue what I want, I don't give a damn to what all the noisy anonmynouses say or think. They can remain the mindless happy little ants they are, I would be steadily working to bring my family out of this red dusty, smogy dot.


Jolly Jester said...

Mugster, I think you read Mr Wang's comment in the wrong light. He's not talking "about how we need to improve our standard of living even more because (he) thinks we fall very far short of Swiss standards."

But rather, he's on the point of our officials issuing such self congratulary statements when the truth of the statement is very much in question. Doesn't this sound like self-delusion to you?

We quite likely haven't reached the Swiss standard of living, as much as our leaders would like us to believe.

Anonymous said...

We will be the Heart of Asia if sg govt is not a plagarizer.

Anthony said...


While I don't disagree with you Ted, I think it's important that Mugster's comments be addressed on its own terms. I believe it fails even on those grounds, however well-intentioned/ill-intentioned Mugster may be.

On your point about how little it affects you - I'm beginning to discover how much it affects me, even when I'm no longer on the little red dot. Like it or not, a good part of my identity still stems from the place I've spent almost 30 years of my life in, and these ties tend to die hard.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Waaah! So many comments overnight.

I'm glad that some readers at least get my point, which shows that I can't be writing that badly. It must be the other readers who are reading badly.

I wonder how many of you are interested in self-improvement courses and books? I like Brian Tracy. One of the key points he often makes is that to aim for success in anything, you must first ascertain exactly where you stand right now. Know what your weaknesses are, how you compare to your peers, where your difficulties and problems lie - and then you can start working towards an ambitious BUT realistic goal to improve things.

Extrapolating from individuals to countries, I think that Singapore has a problem here. We bandy around so many lofty phrases and self-congratulatory messages that we forget where we really are.

Take a look at the Business Times article - the very first paragraph:

"SINGAPORE is known to be the 'heart of Asia', and there is no reason why it cannot continue to play that role even as China and India expand rapidly."

What are they saying??? Singapore is so absolutely vital and important and critical and essential in Asia that .....

the rise of CHINA and INDIA ....

pose no challenges for us at all???

The US is concerned about competition from China. Europe is concerned about competition from India. But tiny Singapore, that small little red dot, has nothing to worry about?

You can believe that, if you like. I choose to interpret the BT article, however, as another example of the deluded self-congratulation that happens waaaaay too often in Singapore.

Where did the BT article go wrong? Right from the first 10 words in the article:

"SINGAPORE is known to be the 'heart of Asia', and there is no reason why ...."

Excuse me hor. Since when did you get the idea that Singapore is the "heart of Asia"?

Deluded, from the first sentence.

cole. said...

the last i heard, we were the 'pi sai' of asia...

Recruit Ong said...

A little island where its self-installed leaders openly shamelessly proclaim themselves as 'whiter than white', 'gentlemen beyond reproach', or super talented etc etc.. what can you expect from its media mouthpiece with 3 digit ranking?

Anonymous said...

Your comments must be hitting home! Tan Sai Siong just took a hit at you in yesterday's paper!

Anonymous said...

Really? Been poking around online, couldn't seem to find any such article. Do tell me where to find the article, if you know.

-- Mr Wang

onekell said...

Mr Wang,

I'm not sure what was originally meant by the 'heart of asia', but I think that Singapore has a unique advantage of being a bridge between the 'East' and 'West', insofar as such labels are useful.

I don't mean this just geographically. Historically, we were on the main shipping routes between Europe, America and Asia. Today, we can still fulfil this role culturally and economically.

onekell said...

To everyone else commenting, I understand your bitterness and the gratification of expressing it.

May I point out though, that Singapore would be better served if we participated or at least attempt to participate either in the political arena or through civil society groups?

I'm learning to, myself. :)

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"Singapore has a unique advantage of being a bridge between the 'East' and 'West".

I think you have to ask yourself whether the above is true, or is wishful thinking, or is yet another example of unfounded self-congratulation.

Yes, I do recall that SM Lee previously had this idea that Singapore could, in particular, play a role in facilitating business between the East and the West, in particular between China and the rest of the world.

What's the reality?

Point me to any media report which shows how Singapore has actually helped to facilitate any business between, say, the US and China. Show me an example of any UK or French or German company which asked for Singapore's help in setting up its business in China.

I may be wrong, but I don't think you can.

onekell said...

Thanks for your reply, Mr Wang.

I'm not one for self-congratulations. Allow me to clarify my intent: given the current problem of structural unemployment, I'm concerned about job creation for Singaporeans and the future of our economy. I wish for us to find a stable niche in the world, just as many small states have.
This is not an observation fed to me by politicians or the state-owned media, even though it may sound like it. ;) When I backpacked overseas and saw for example the Mexican, Chinese and Malaysian creativity and enterpreneurship in the smallest ways, I worried for us, because I think our generation has grown up too comfortable and we lack the edge that helps people survive and thrive. Aren't creators at the top of the food chain?

When I was in China, it seemed to me that Singaporeans culturally fit in somewhere between the Europe/US and Asia. Whether or not there is economic value in this proposition is something I hope that policy-makers and businessmen can explore. How have we acted as an agent? We still do in shipping, logistic, finance and oil refining. I don't have many bright and novel ideas, although I do wish environmental technologies and engineering would be explored too.

Personally, I would love to see us become more integrated with other neighbouring countries and us forming something like a union of south east asia in the future.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

If you really want to know, there IS one way that Singapore acts as a bridge between China/India and the West.

Basically we use our taxpayers' money to give scholarships to bright Chinese/Indian students to come here to Singapore to study in our JCs and universities.

After they graduate and spend a few years here, they leave Singapore to work in the West. For the PRC Chinese students, this is perceived as being particularly important as they have a chance to acclimatise to the semi-Western environment of Singapore, before they jump off into the real West.

That is precisely what it's all about - I know and have spoken to some of these Indian and Chinese students, and this is their game plan from Day One.

As I see it, basically we're the suckers - we use our taxpayers' money to fund these students' studies, in the hope that they will settle here for good and be our "foreign talent" -

in truth, their game plan from Day One is actually to get what they came for and leave as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, your last comment is brillant!

Wang for Parliament. You have more insights than the average PAP backbenchers. I hope you can join our "world class" backbenchers!

onekell said...

I know about this intention too, that they see Singapore merely as a stepping stone and I'm very disturbed by this trend of awarding scholarships so easily to foreigners when local university fees keep going up.

The policies towards 'foreign talent' seems to indicate that Singaporeans will be gradually replaced because they're not 'valuable enough'. I wonder myself if I have a place in the future of this country.

bornappleT said...

On one hand singapore is inviting the foreign talents, yet on the other hand,

No foreign publication had a right to sell in Singapore, which was a removable privilege; no foreign publication could meddle in the internal politics of Singapore.