Singapore celebrates 50 years of independence (Business Mirror (Philippines))
SINGAPORE proudly showcased its vast economic gains, as its embassy in the Philippines celebrated the country’s 50th National Day at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati City.
Ambassador Kok Li Peng, who arrived in the country four months ago, outlined her country’s economic surge after gaining independence from the United Kingdom.
Our GDP [gross domestic product] was under $1 billion; unemployment stood at about 10 percent; life expectancy was about 64 years. As of 2014, our GDP stands at $3 billion; unemployment hovers at 1.90 percent; and Singaporeans can live until their 80s, Li Peng said.
Li Peng credited their founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23, for their economic success.
He was supported by a formidable team, but they did not work in a vacuum. They are keenly aware of the roiling geopolitical tides brought by the end of the catastrophic World War, the recession of the British Empire and the nascent cold war. Such was the political upheavals of the last 60 years, she said.
Li Peng said that as a society, Singapore was plagued by uncertainties, memories of racial riots were still vivid, and with inter-ethnic relations far from kindly.
But then, she said, Prime Minister Lee built a government based on trust and tolerance among Singaporeans, so that, gradually, patterns of normalcy rose, civility became a byword and foreign investments flowed in.
Li Peng said her generation and generations after have benefited from the labor and discipline of Singapore’s finer generation. She then quoted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said that they will need a strong sense of identity and nationhood to continue the success they have.
If we have that fundamental conviction and motivation, then we can make everything else work, then we can overcome all challenges, she said.
Li Peng then gave a nod to the Philippines, whom they will be celebrating 50 years of bilateral relations by 2019.
We enjoy excellent relations, two-way trade investments; and people-to-people ties are deepening each year, she said, while noting that both countries are founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, where they have pushed for inclusive growth.
During the celebration, Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said unity, discipline and the pride enabled Singapore to become a regional powerhouse and an outstanding global citizen in the community of responsible nations.
Singapore is now our fourth-largest trading partner. They are also now our fifth-largest foreign investor in the Philippines, del Rosario said. He also noted the 180,000 overseas Filipino workers in Singapore who have remitted more than $500,000 during the first five months of the year alone.
Interviewed by the BusinessMirror, former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos said the country can replicate the success of Singapore.
There is no comparison, because we have a population of 100 million and still counting. They have 5.50 million. Also our territory is not one compact city-state, it is 7,1007 islands spread out all over between two great oceans. That is a big advantage for us. Therefore, I would say our prospects for the future are better, Ramos said.
Ramos added that the Philippines only need good leadership.
For his part, British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said Singapore is so unique in its success.
No matter what has happened, economic upheaval, or some difficulty in the region, Singapore just keeps bouncing back, Ahmad said.
He added: But I think it is a legacy of taking the best part of good governance, which actually means, whether in respect to democracy, minority rights and developing in a careful way, a controlled way.
Ahmad said they are proud that Singapore is part of the British family.