Singapore still elicits mixed reactions among Filipinos. Perhaps because it is: 1) a sucess story and 2) anti-thetical to many Filipino’s beliefs on the “proper way” to develop. In fact, some of these Filipinos would even question #1.
Many still believe the Singapore experience is a fluke, an accident of circumstance. A model that is not replicable or scaleable. In other words, Singapore was lucky enough to be small and have Lee Kuan Yew, and that’s all there is to it.
Nevertheless, standing on the quay where a stone merlion spews a lively jet of water into the bay, I thought I heard voices. Not surprising since this small city state, once a sleepy backwater, is where most Filipinos see ghosts of what-could-have-been. Amidst the Jetsons-inspired tableau, with the Marina Bay Sands shooting lasers into the sky, the merlion whispered to me, “Do not be afraid. Courage is needed to go against the crowd and break out of old models. The purpose of government is to make citizens’ lives better. Everything else is ego and whimsy”.