Singapore IS the world

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By Fredrik Härén – an author, speaker and publisher on the subject of business creativity.

“As an author of creativity books, how on earth can you live in Singapore?” I have lost count on the number of times I have been asked this question. And when I reply “Because I think it is the best place in the world to live for a creative person”, most people think I am kidding and everyone asks me to explain.

But no, I am not kidding. And yes, let me explain.

I moved to Beijing from my native Sweden in 2005 because I wanted to be in Asia when Asian countries truly started to embrace creativity. The defining moment for me was when Hu Jintao held a speech to the Chinese people where he said that “China should be an innovative country 15 years from now”. Since I write books on business creativity I just had to move to Asia and see this shift happen. After two years in Beijing I knew two things: 1) I wanted to leave Beijing (a fascinating city but too much traffic, too much pollution and too little water for a Swede brought up in the Stockholm archipelago.) and 2) I wanted to stay in Asia.

So I went on a grand journey. While I was doing research for my book “The Developing World” I constantly traveled over a period of more than 10 months. I went to 20 developing countries and when I came to a new city that I thought had potential to become my new home town. I made sure my schedule allowed me to stay a few extra days to get a “feel” for how it would be to live there. I spent two weeks in Seoul, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai. Mumbai, New Delhi, Istanbul – and Singapore. Then I made a list of positives and negatives for each city. Obviously, Singapore won.

Singapore Virtues

So why?

Well, many reasons. Like quality of life. (I drink as many fresh mango juices in Singapore as I did beers in Beijing), weather (no, I do not mind the heat – I love it.), security (I love countries where there is a chance you get your iphone back if you forget it in a restaurant), and convenience (like the fact that Changi airport has great connections to the world, since my work involves a lot of traveling with more than 100 overseas business trips to 17 different countries on 5 continents in the last 12 month.)

But those are the usual reasons that make most people come to Singapore.

But the main reason I live in Singapore is because Singapore, to me, is the one place on earth where it is the easiest to have a globally creative mindset.

Some people say Singapore is “Asia for beginners”. I do not agree. I think Singapore is “globalization for beginners”, or rather “globalization for early adopters.” With a huge mix of races, religions and nationalities, Singapore is not only the slice of the world – it is also a time capsule of what the world will look like in the future. And I love that.

New York may call itself “The Capital of The World” – but Singapore IS the world. Because unlike New York, which is a global city in the USA, Singapore is just a global city. A global city state. Singapore is a city in the world, not a city in a country in the world. And this makes it easier to have a global outlook here since nationalistic barriers doesn’t block the view so much.

A beautiful mix

A positive side effect of this is that Singapore is one of the least racist countries in the world. Now that does not mean that there is no racism in Singapore, but I have worked in more than 40 countries and I have never felt less racism than I do in Singapore.

And that is important to me. Not only because we are a mixed raced family with myself being from Sweden, my wife from the Philippines and my son a happy mix of Stockholm, Manila and Singapore.

As an European I am ashamed, and a disappointed, when European leaders recently have gone out to say that “the multi cultural society does not work”.

I just wish they would come to Singapore.

To live in a place that is celebrating “western New Year” and “Chinese New Year” is not only twice as fun, it also gives you the feeling that there is more than one way of doing things.

On a recent New Year’s Eve party we realized we were 10 people with 10 different passports. A friend told me how they had had an after-work-beer at his company and 14 people – from 14 different countries – showed up. At our wedding we had 40 guests from 8 countries and of at least 4 religions and 4 races, and, at the time, no one was counting.

It all just felt as the most natural thing in the world. The point of course is that it is NOT the most natural thing in the world. Unfortunately. In most places in the world it would be rare, strange and exotic to have such a natural mix of backgrounds. For people living in Singapore, it is so natural you do not understand how unnaturally natural it is. And how valuable.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that knowledge of your own culture and background is not important. It is.

It is often said that a person without roots is fickle, doesn’t know how to connect to who he is and easily can be manipulated because there are no basic values keeping him grounded. Roots are important.

But if one are going to use a metaphor (in this case of likening a human to a tree), one has to use the whole metaphor. Because it is equally true that a tree without branches also dies. A tree that is not spreading its branches out in all directions to gather as much energy as possible might have deep and strong roots, but it will still wither down and die.

Or in other words. To be rootless is dangerous, but so is being branchless.

And if your own culture are the roots, the cultures of the rest of the world is the energy that your branches need to reach out to so that you can get new ideas about how do do things by learning from others, be inspired to try new foods, get new habits and try new traditions. It will allow you to be curious of other ways of doing things, be inspired by different ideas and energized by alternate points of views. And that is what creates creativity.

And nowhere in the world is it easier to let your branches spread out than in Singapore. Want some American influence? Watch American Idol the day after it airs in the US. Want some Indian culture? Attend the Deepavali Celebrations together with 100 000’s of Indians in Little India. Want to practice your Chinese? Go and order frog in Gaylang.


The Icelandic vikings who lived 1000 years ago had a word for the people who never left their farms on Iceland, who never ventured outside. That word was “heimskur”. It means moron. As they saw it a person who did not open up to the world to find new ideas from other cultures was a moron. I think the Icelandic vikings would have loved Singapore. I sure know that I do. It is the one place that I have found that have the fewest heimskurs.

Too many people limit their potential, their creativity – and in the end – their lives, because they are not embracing the whole human spectrum of creativity. They are not taking full advantage of the potential of the world, because they are not living in the world. They are stuck in their own corner looking inwards, seeing what ever that is different as “foreign”. And I think that answers the question of why I am living in Singapore: because Singapore makes me more human by making me more part of the world. Part of humanity. And by being part of the world I have a bigger change to be inspired to have new ideas. Ideas that will benefit us all.

— Fredrik Härén

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We are all the same

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~ Sassy1~

“Are you going to school?” I asked little Aliyah.

“No.” she shook her head and ran off to play.

It was the first day of the new school year. Aliyah is seven years old and she was supposed to embark on her new journey in life with the other little ones.

Unfortunately, that may not be possible, for now.

Aliyah is a Filipino. Both her parents are also Filipinos and all places for foreign students have been filled up in the schools that they had applied for.

This Filipino family is my neighbour. They rent the flat three doors away from mine.

With a tinge of sadness, Aliyah’s mummy who works in a fast food restaurant, said to me

“I pray hard that she can get a place here.
I don’t want to go home “.

Unable to explain, but I felt apologetic instantly. Looking at mother and child, flashes of adjectives that I have been hearing / reading about foreigners came to mind but no matter how hard I tried, I was not able to link any to the duo.

“Foreign trash”, “Cheap cina PRC”, “Husband snatchers”, “Low class”..and the list goes on.

Yes, above are some names that I have come across both offline and more frequently, online.

It is sad that decent people have been called names by some locals. What did these foreigners do to deserve such? Like us, all they want is just to earn a decent living and to make lives better for themselves and their children. They probably see Singapore as their ticket to have their wish come true.

A certain group of Singaporeans have been crying foul that foreigners have been taking away their jobs. And thus the “attack” on these foreigners. They call them names, complain that they are the reason why we are not able to get into the train, and that they make us feel like we are in a foreign land.  Sadly, even children are not spared.

It does not help that politicians choose to milk the situation and stoke the sentiments of the people. Ms Nicole Seah of NSP, during her GE11 campaign, said

Now, everytime I take the train, it feels like I’m in a different country. It is like taking a holiday, I don’t even need to bring my passport

That, to me, is too extreme a statement to make.

We behave as if each and every of our jobs is lost simply because of a foreigner. I believe there are many jobs that Singaporeans shun, and it is these foreign workers whom we so antagonize, that get those ‘unwanted’ jobs done.

Foreigners are here seeking opportunities that probably their own countries are not able to provide. In the event that they find it hard here too, they will have no choice but to return or go elsewhere. Why do we need to express hostility towards them is something I cannot comprehend.

Of course, there may be some bad apples amongst the thousands of foreigners working/studying here. Many have yet to understand and adapt to our local culture. But who is to say that we Singaporeans are perfect ourselves? Do we not rush for any “lelong” or push and shove just to grab that free sample?

About 150,000 Singaporeans are today studying or living overseas. How will we feel if our own flesh and blood are being labelled “Foreign Trash” in another country?

Do not get me wrong. I am a born and bred Singaporean. I love Singapore and I love my fellow Singaporeans. Our Government is currently at task in regulating the influx of foreign workers and I have trust that actions taken are for the betterment of Singapore.
Whatever is the case, it does not give us any right to “bully” another person just because we are holding the pink I.C while he/she is not. Let us not develop into a nation of xenophobes.

So, as we stood up for one another whenever any perceived racist remark is being made, let us also show the same empathy for our foreign friends.  After all, we are all the same.  We belong to the same human race living on planet earth.

Lastly, I sincerely hope that little Aliyah will get to go to a local school here. She is such an angel 🙂

Managing Strays…yet again

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source: Tan Chuan-Jin on Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 12:24pm

The saga over the stray dogs in Punggol has been very revealing.


Recently, these dogs in Punggol Waterway chased and attacked two joggers and chased another cyclist. The story of the lady jogger being bitten was reported widely in the media. One jogger had a deep bite at the ankle and over 20 scratches on the calf, another suffered four bites. They were administered tetanus shots, antibiotics and painkillers. They were also badly shaken by the incidents.


AVA has been tracking the situation and stepped up action to round up the stray dogs. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the correct action to take as safety of the public is paramount.


However, a number of animal lovers responded with hostility. Some of them questioned if the joggers’ accounts were true. Some blamed them for intruding into the dogs’ territories. Hate mail had been sent. Some called this a massacre and various false stories have been circulating.


Let’s be clear. When strays are rounded up, culling is not the default action. AVA has been working with the Animal Welfare Groups (AWG) on this. 12 dogs have been rounded up. 8 of them have been assessed to be aggressive and not suitable for re-homing, and have been humanely put down. I understand that one has been re-homed and another three up for re-homing.


We engaged external contractors to round up the dogs. The company is registered in Singapore and a number of their staff are Malaysians and their vehicle is approved for use in Singapore. Some seem to want to inject a nationalistic angle into this issue. But this is not the real issue, is it? A video had been circulating online about a pregnant stray feeder questioning these contractors. Her being pregnant seemed to have drawn some attention but again, it is not relevant is it? The couple in question were stray dog feeders and had been following the contractors for several hours. They were getting in the way of them doing their jobs. The Police was thus called in.


Feeding of strays in the area was obvious. Plastic bags of cooked meat were strewn around the grassy patches. A man driving a patisserie delivery van was seen throwing bags of food in the area. He said that he did it regularly. We are also concerned that dogs have been dumped in the area by errant owners.


We have been working actively with the AWGs to manage the issues on the ground. What has been clear to me is that there are many who are uncomfortable with animals as well and we have to respect those concerns. Our commitment is to ensure the well being of Singaporeans, and to also make sure that we treat all animals humanely and with care. 


Individuals have to decide what route they wish to take. Singaporeans have to also judge for themselves what they make of the tone and approach taken by many of these animal lovers. The volunteers in the AWGs have years of experience and deeply care for animals, as do many of our staff in AVA. They are all taking practical and concrete steps to improve the common space. Those of you who are keen to work on this, do step forward and join the AWGs to champion your concerns. 


Meanwhile, do contact ASD at 6100 2737 or email them at The pics below are of a year old male cross-breed, and a 3 years old female cross-breed. Do help them find a new and loving home in this new year!



SMRT Breakdown – What it Actually Tells Us.

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By sassy 1

ST: Commuters walking on the train tracks between City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut stations. They took the three-minute walk through the tunnel after being trapped in a train for about an hour. -- PHOTO: LIM HWEI LEE

The carriages were pitched dark, filled with stale air. This was what probably thousands of commuters experienced when their train stalled in the tunnel on December 15 2011.

To prevent suffocation, a passenger broke a window with a fire extinguisher. After closed to an hour, the trapped passengers were finally being ‘released’, only to find that they have to walk along the dimly lit tunnel to the next nearest station.

I would never have imagined such a scene in Singapore.

We have always boasted being first class in almost everything , our transport system being one of them. Yes, train breakdowns have been quite frequent recently but one of such magnitude, I do not recall.

Amidst all the anger among citizens, one thing we can all learn from this is, NEVER take things FOR GRANTED.

SMRT , has recently, in my opinion probably been taking things for granted. From security lapse to constant train disruptions and the latest mishap. Can all these be avoided? Well, I am no engineer but I certainly think that the experts within the company should have been able to dealt with these better, after all, machines are under command of humans, no?

Perhaps the top management has also taken for granted that their operational crew are taking care of stuff? Could all the recent mishaps been avoided if each and everyone of them put in more effort to see to it?

Of course, we the commuters, whom have all this while been enjoying our excellent infrastructure , might have not been too appreciative of our system too, especially when everything is working without any hitch.

Yes, Singapore has been too well managed. So much so that many of us have taken it for granted.. We expect everything to be perfect to what we want.

Yes, this breakdown has caused many inconveniences and angst.

But what this major breakdown actually showed us is – no system is perfect. We must never ever take for granted the good that we have been enjoying. To maintain a good system, efforts are needed. Things do not just fall into place from the sky. We have to work hard towards excellency.

Similarly, Singapore has had years of peacefulness, harmony & efficiency. We, the people, have been too well taken care of till we do not realise it. Most of our children have never had to go hungry for a day.

But, all these can just go down the drain should we not be careful.

No system is a guarantee and Singapore does not have any special privilege either.

Quote: “Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things.” ~Horace

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Charlie Munger – full of praise of Singapore and Mr Lee Kuan Yew

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Mr Charlie Munger:

“I think Singapore is the single most successful governmental system that exists in the world.”

“Study the life and work of Lee Kuan Yew, you’re going to be flabbergasted


from wikipedia:
Charles Thomas Munger (born January 1, 1924, in Omaha, Nebraska) is an American business magnate, lawyer, investor, and philanthropist. He is Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, the diversified investment corporation chaired by Warren Buffett; in that capacity, Buffett describes Munger as “my partner.” Munger is also the chairman of Wesco Financial Corporation, based in Pasadena, California, and the Daily Journal Corporation, based in Los Angeles, California.

Lift Upgrading Programme Tampines GRC- Why 4 units not offered.

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On Mr Baey Yam Keng’s (MP-Tampines GRC) facebook:3 Dec 2011 –

Baey Yam Keng

I had a session this evening with some residents to explain why their units would not be offered the lift upgrading programme due to cost issues. It was a very difficult situation and I know many of them are disappointed. We have had many meetings with the authorities and architects but we could not come up with alternatives that would meet the budget constraints. We also held two rounds of discussion with the residents to explain the challenges and I hope for their understanding.

Baey Yam Keng

This is a very special case. The blocks involved are only 4 storeys high with fewer than 30 units per block. The challenge is that the blocks are segmented and three separate new lifts will have to be built to serve every unit in the block. There is this particular segment with only 4 units. At $30k budget per unit (where resident will pay only about 10%), $120k is not enough to pay for the lift which costs about $250k, more than twice the budget.

Of course, we can ask the government to give more budget. But should it be limitless? What about cases which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit? Should the government be using taxpayers’ money this way?

During last month’s parliament sitting, Minister Khaw shared that for the 200 odd blocks island-wide which will not have LUP due to various reasons, the ministry is working out another scheme to help them. Details will be shared when ready.

I will do my best to help these residents under this new scheme.

Baey Yam KengThere are three segments in the block, the one with just 4 units unfortunately did not get LUP becos based on the budget of $30k per unit, there is not enough $ to build the lift shaft. For the other 2 segments, there are more units hence the budget was enough and LUP will proceed for these two segments.
6 December 2011
On TOC’s posting about my reply on why LUP could not be offered to some units, Dom Su asked a valid question: “With 30 flats at $30k budget, that comes up to $900 k for each block. 3 lifts at $250k each comes up to $750k for each block. So block-wise, the budget should be enough to cover right?”The $250k lift I mentioned referred to a small lift which caters to a small no. of units (in this case 4), but for the other 2 lifts which serve 2 other segments of the same block (10 and 13 units respectively), they are bigger lifts which cost $400k each. So collectively, the budget for 23 units is just enough to pay for the $800k ($30k per unit from B and Town Council plus a small contribution from residents). However, $250k is just too much to be borne by 4 units. Hope this clarifies.



Firstly, my apology, the sentence should read “$30k per unit from HDB and Town Council plus a small contribution from residents”. The figures I quoted are ballpark. The share of residents is capped at $3k.



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1983 – Cable Car Tragedy

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. By: Ms Elaine Lim
.Volume 3 Issue 1

29 January 1983 – Tragedy struck when the towering structure of a Panamanian-registered oil rig struck the cable of the Sentosa Cable Car and caused two cable cars to plunge into the sea. The disaster happened shortly after 6 pm when the oil rig, which was being towed away from Keppel Wharf, became entangled in the cable and caused it to snap. It also left thirteen people trapped in four other cable cars between Mount Faber and Sentosa.

This accident was the first involving death or injury since the cable car system opened in 1974. A total of seven people died in the cable car tragedy.

This operation involved all the three Services of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The Diving Unit of the Singapore Navy was assigned to conduct the underwater search for the passengers in the two cable cars which had plunged into the sea. It took the unit three hours before they recovered the four bodies from the cable cars. On land, the Army had established an operations HQ and medical facilities at the wharf-side.

The main rescue effort was undertaken the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). The 120 Squadron of the RSAF were tasked to rescue the people who were still trapped in the four cable cars as the cars could not be moved along the remaining cables. Though an extremely risky measure, it was considered the fastest and safest way as the cable cars might plunge into the sea at any moment.

Helicopters from the squadron, fitted with floodlights approached one of the cable cars. Despite the strong winds and danger, an airman was winched down. He reached for the door of the cable-car, unlocked it and went inside. He soon came out with the first of the rescued who was strapped to his body by a harness. The winch quickly pulled both of them to safety. This was repeated until all thirteen passengers were brought to safety. The rescue took three and a half hours of risky hovering in darkness and high wind conditions. The competence and daring of the air crew was instrumental in the success of the rescue.

The first person rescued was Mr Allan Gregory Brown, a twenty-year old New Zealander who exclaimed, “Thank you, Singapore!” Another Canadian woman hugged and kissed the winch operator in the helicopter. The recipient of this gratitude, Staff Sergeant Ho Tzu Keng said, “It is worth more than a thousand words.”

This daring operation was directed by then COL Lee Hsien Loong, Chief of Staff (General Staff). COL Lee praised the daring young men of the RSAF 120 Squadron for their performance as the operation was difficult and dangerous. He said, “We are relieved … that we managed to rescue all the people who were stranded on the cable cars. We are proud of the pilots and crewmen who were involved and whose performance made possible the success of the plan.”

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