Colin Barry

Singapore (MOC, Tuesday, Week 7)


Singapore: real national strategy; remarkable continuity/national alignment in goals.
Successful in building state-owned firms AND in forcing/allowing them to compete with the rest of the world.
(Commentary: An awesome triumph in a small nation. But how relevant is this from the perspective of national strategy? Everyone wanted to be in IT in the 90s, everyone wanted to be in financial services and biotech in 00s, and everyone wants to cultivate tons of entrepreneurs right now. Is this really strategy, or just brilliant execution?)

Thoughts fromĀ George Yeo: former Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs, HBS graduate, and really savvy guy

Singapore has two key sources of insecurity:
-- Very small nation
-- Three-quarters Chinese => In SE Asia, where many nations are uneasy about Chinese influence.
And Singapore must make a living in that environment...

Cultural arbitrage is a sustainable advantage: it's hard to build a society that successfully integrates many peoples, religions, etc.
And when you do, it's not easy to copy...

Never get enamored of a product/service. If your current focus is not the way forward, you need to give it up.
(In Singaporean context, tons of cluster change/development over the past 55 years)

Never lose internal unity/cohesion. Nations and societies can only move quickly if they have a high degree of unity.
Income inequality ("town/gown harmony") => conspicuous consumption is dangerous and destructive

Plan for ethnic and religious strains.
"If a bomb goes off in the middle of our capital, we will do X, Y, and Z to avoid chaos and hatred."
Make people write down their plans, because otherwise they will not remember them.

"Fun is serious business." -- George Yeo