Happy 53rd Birthday, Singapore

I’m proud to be a Singaporean.

This year, Singapore celebrate its 53rd birthday – an infant age compare to the long heritage of other countries. But what we lack in terms of history, we made it up in foresight and drive. In the short span of time, we have come a long way from a city-state with no natural resources to becoming a case-study for others around the globe.

We have the most powerful passport in the world. To many of us here, Visa is a form of payment – like Master or AMEX or Diners. As a Singaporean, most wouldn’t think of Visa as something we need to apply when visiting foreign countries. Because everything is already taken care of, thanks to our good ties with many nations. Just last week, my boss had to take a day off to apply visa. When she was there, she realised she had left out a document and had to retrieve it back home, then return back there again. Such a hassle, I thought. We Singaporeans have been so pampered all along that we never understand how valuable our passport is.

Our Changi Airport is routinely voted as one of the best airports in the world. I think it’s a truly fantastic hub. Not just a place for transit, or to take off. Housed within the amazing premises, it has spacious aisles, play area for children, excellent wayfinding, clear display for flight information, a comfortable environment, and an efficient tax rebate counter. If one is bored, they can shop around merrily in the airport – it’s just like any of the big shopping malls in Orchard Road. There are plenty of local brands mixed with internationally renowned labels. I know some people travel all the way here to see shop around, dine here, watch the planes take off, and keep the children occupied with many kids-friendly activities. Not many airports can boost this kind of attraction. I for one, used to come here to study and to clear my mind. It’s quiet and calming. And watching the planes take off ignites my wanderlust spirit and get me excited to plan my next trip.

There are many other things to be grateful for too. We are always diplomatically neutral. With that, we have played a pivotal role in the global stage supporting or advocating on several key issues. Most recently, we played host to Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un for the meeting in Sentosa. Who would have thought these two nutheads would actually come together for a meet up? During the tour-around one night, I wondered what went through Kim’s mind. Is he smiling because he really enjoyed the beauty of our city? I hope he picked up a few pointers to transform North Korea into a better place. Everyone stands to gain if they stays off nuclear and starts to open up. If they do so, Singapore would’ve played an important role in this success.

I know there are significant voices echoing around that our ministers are being paid too high. The ministers’ side of arguments are, if the party needs to attract top talents, they must be compensated on par with the top salary elsewhere. If not, it’s difficult to convince them to drop what they’re holding and join politics. On the contrary, many people countered that serving should be from the heart, not because of how much one would get paid. I’ve had my reservation on this and I see both sides of the coin. Putting that aside, I’m of the strong belief that for any party to see progress, there must be continuation. Since our independence, one party has been ruling the nation. Some are not happy, some want change. Some want change for the sake of change, to shake things up. Is this for the better? Just change la, don’t change never know. But look at how constant chopping and changing effects long-term stability. It’s like a slippery slope.

There are of course many things to improve, like accountability and keeping the party in check through constant reviewing. But in general, this is not a decision to be made in haste. It affects the future of Singapore, and our children’s future.

But things don’t work this way, not in national building anyway. Things take time to see result. You can’t measure the impact a venue like Esplanade can have immediately after its opening. A decade later, it’s now the place for arts and cultures. Its unique architecture has also become an icon and is recognisable worldwide as a symbol of our country.

Before that, people questioned its importance and if we’re throwing money into the drain by building something not many can appreciate. But foresight doesn’t come cheap. I remember once attending a workshop and this guy called Andy told the class, if you can see 10, 20 years into the future, you can shape it. And if you can shape it, paying you a handsome salary is worth it. Our leaders had the vision 53 years ago to build our nation.

And when I’m overseas for more than a week, what I miss is the food. Local food is a big part of Singaporeans and I get food-sick if I don’t have my fix of local delights like bak chor mee, carrot cake and nanyang kopi. Our hawker centre is one of its kind, serving inexpensive and tasty food that fills our tummy and warms our heart.

For our pioneer generation, we had them to thank for creating what we have now. The torch is now with us to carry the nation into the future. Happy 53rd Birthday, Singapore!