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Singapore celebrates 50th National Day

8 September 2015

Over 50 years, the average income of Singaporeans has grown from US$500 at independence to over $50,000 today, a 100-fold increase.  We now have the world’s best airport (Changi Airport), and the world’s busiest port after Shanghai; we have the world’s best public housing (where 80% of our people live in), and the best schools in the world according to the OECD;  we are one of the world’s top financial centers; at the same time, we are also the biggest manufacturer of oil rigs in the world, and home to some of the world’s largest and most advanced oil refineries (owned by Shell and Exxon); we also have some of the best companies in the world such as Singapore Airlines, DBS Bank, Keppel shipbuilding, SembCorp power, Hyflux water (which is building the world’s largest desalination plant in Algeria), and agro-commodity companies such as Wilmar and Olam which are active in Africa.  We are the first country to introduce night racing in Formula One.

Photo: High Commissioner Thai-Keong Chua of Singapore and Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Enver Surty toasting to Singapore’s 50th National Day.

 

Remarks by Singapore High Commissioner Chua Thai-Keong at the Singapore National Day reception

 

4 September 2015, Pretoria

 

All of us at the Singapore High Commission would like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone.  Thank you for joining us this evening to celebrate our 50th National Day which falls on the 9th of August.

Over 50 years, the average income of Singaporeans has grown from US$500 at independence to over $50,000 today, a 100-fold increase.  We now have the world’s best airport (Changi Airport), and the world’s busiest port after Shanghai; we have the world’s best public housing (where 80% of our people live in), and the best schools in the world according to the OECD;  we are one of the world’s top financial centers; at the same time, we are also the biggest manufacturer of oil rigs in the world, and home to some of the world’s largest and most advanced oil refineries (owned by Shell and Exxon); we also have some of the best companies in the world such as Singapore Airlines, DBS Bank, Keppel shipbuilding, SembCorp power, Hyflux water (which is building the world’s largest desalination plant in Algeria), and agro-commodity companies such as Wilmar and Olam which are active in Africa.  We are the first country to introduce night racing in Formula One.

Singapore has reached where it is today primarily because of three factors.  First, there is social order based on racial and religious harmony.  Second, there is the hard work of the people who believe in self-reliance and meritocracy.  Third, there is political order where most Singaporeans trust a government that does what it says and says only what it means.  

But after 50 years of independence, multiracial Singapore, comprising Chinese, Malays, Indians and others, is still grappling with nation building. While it is true that we have some successes in education and saved some money for rainy days, Singapore remains fundamentally a small boat in the stormy sea of a globalised and volatile world.  

We therefore need friends everywhere, not least in Africa.  Singapore and South Africa are strategically located in our respective continents of Asia and Africa.   Singapore is only 10 hours away by plane, which makes us not much further than, say, Algiers is from Pretoria.  The Singapore airport serves more than 100 airlines flying to 320 cities.  Every day, almost 1000 planes land or leave Singapore.  They bring 54 million passengers, 10 times our population; passengers that include South Africans who do not require visas to visit Singapore.  

Even as we celebrate our Golden Jubilee this year, we also mourn the loss of our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew who passed away on 23rd of March.  Without him, there will be no Singapore.  Mr Lee combined the best from the East and West to give us the rule of law, a democracy without the evils of money politics, and economic development that is not ideological, neither pro-market nor pro-state, but pragmatic, based on evidence not politics, using the free market liberally but intervening where market failure is apparent, always forward looking and not mired in history.  As a result, Singaporeans enjoy the best inclusive growth in the world by any measure.  Mr Lee was our Prime Minister for 31 years, having won 8 general elections.  He voluntarily stepped down in 1990, ie. 25 years ago, in order to groom the next generation of leaders.  On the sad occasion of Mr Lee’s demise, H.E. President Zuma appointed a Special Envoy to attend Mr Lee’s State Funeral and sent us a most touching condolence message, for which we are deeply appreciative.

On that note, may I invite you to join me in a toast to the growing friendship between Singapore and South Africa, to the happiness and prosperity of the peoples of our host country South Africa and its neighbours in all Africa, and to the good health of its head of state President Zuma. 

 

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