Singapore in 2016

JANUARY 3 — The dawn of a new year is peak season for crystal ball gazing and while the art of divining the future is fraught with difficulties and notorious failures, I’m feeling confident.


Because I am Singaporean and forecasting in the Little Red Dot isn’t all that hard.

I am going to predict more of the same for the Lion City and I’ll be pretty shaken if I’m not right, in fact we’ll all be.

As per my tarot cards and tea leaves etc; politics will continue to proceed as normal. The ruling party already holds over 80 per cent of the seats in Parliament so will pass the Bills it wants and needs to pass and the fractured Opposition will continue along an entrenched path of irrelevance for now.

Due to global economic constraints, our economy will not boom but our reserves and decades of prudent economic management means we aren’t about to go bust either.

Our media environment will remain restricted; expect no serious improvement in our 153 out of 180 countries press freedom ranking. Protests and demonstrations will remain effectively illegal.

The online space will still offer an outlet for dissent — surely a few viral revelations will circulate but the law suits that dogged Alex Au, Roy Ngerng and even little Amos Yee might suffice to muffle even that space for a time.

The basic erosion of older Singaporean identities will continue. The last 50 years we will keep being told is all that really matters. Gentrification and regulation will continue to squeeze out older traditions.

Foreign workers will also keep toiling without the recognition, rights and security they deserve. Cars are going to stay expensive and we will continue to try emerging as a major centre of the creative and performing arts.

Singapore ushered in the new year with a spectacular fireworks display over Marina Bay. — AFP pic
Singapore ushered in the new year with a spectacular fireworks display over Marina Bay. — AFP pic

Really, we can take all of the above for granted as that’s the point of the stability we were promised by our leaders from the very first days of an independent Singapore. There will be no major or unforeseen changes unless, god forbid, we encounter a major natural disaster or external security threat.

Of course even in this less than scintillating environment, there are some points of interest.

We might get a clearer idea of where the baton of ruling party leadership will go. Our premier has indicated that he’s looking to step down at the end of the current Parliament’s five-year term and close scrutiny of the ruling cohort might help us divine who is most likely to succeed him.

Foreign talent — domestic and construction workers are one thing and executives and skilled workers another. While opposition to droves of foreign professionals entering the country saw curbs on the recruitment of foreigners imposed, tighter economic conditions and the need for talent might see these curbs ebb in in 2016.

Cross straits relations — Malaysia remains a major trading partner and our neighbour’s political and economic instability might may have a knock-on effect here though again serious contagion is highly unlikely.

Basically outside of a few points, things will most likely remain the same. They always have; outside of economic growth, from a socio-political perspective Singapore has stayed remarkably consistent over the past 30-40 years. Which is why I’m inclined to call it one of the world’s most conservative nations.

The fundamental structure ruling party, HDB, Temasek Holdings, National Service. Defamation laws, strict security laws have been in place for decades and they constitute a fairly hard and robust system — one that exists to prevent dramatic change.

So basically, either the entire system will break down or it is going to stay largely the same.

I think we all know which it will be.

Here’s to the status quo everyone! Happy New Year.


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