Weekend, June 2, 2007

Time feels the Singapore buzz

Efforts to re-energise Republic draw the attention of world media

Jasmine Yin
[email protected]

ITS multi-billion-dollar surgery for a new face is not even half-done, but what has been promised — casinos, luxurious waterfront living and, more recently, F1 speed machines — have landed Singapore on the latest cover of Time magazine.

The six-page article documents the slew of transformations, such as the Marina Bay Sands casino resort and the French Rivieria-inspired Sentosa Cove residences, that are taking place to woo foreigners — especially those with deep pockets — to visit, live, work and play in the Republic.

It cited Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's outline of Singapore to be a "tropical version" of New York, Paris and London rolled into one, as well as comments by the Singapore Tourism Board's chief executive Lim Neo Chian that Singapore, which "is changing its image in the eyes of the world", has set its eye on "self-transformation".

Also featured in the article was a Singaporean banker who, after five years in New York, decided to return because she felt that life in Singapore would surely become "less boring" and "more cosmopolitan and sophisticated".

While political and media watchers welcomed the positive spin, they also cautioned the possible social downside of branding Singapore to the international crowd.

Dr Ho Khai Leong, a political observer from the Nanyang Technological University, noted that positive international coverage — with Time as the latest foreign media to report on Singapore's expensive facelift — suggests, "to a certain extent, that our efforts have been given serious attention".

The signs in recent years have been nothing short of promising: Foreign students and talent coming to study and work, as well as multi-national corporations that still consider Singapore as an attractive investment location, in the face of other emerging regional economies.

Yet at the same time, Dr Ho told Today that the "global-city efforts have widened the gap between the haves and have-nots" — a point that was a