Sunday, 12 February 2012

Singapore – time to get your ‘Mojo’ back!

It happens to the best in every field. Musicians don't dominate the charts forever. Sportspeople falter. Actors lose audiences.
Blame biorhythms, immune systems or simply a lack of concentration but the fact is clear: it takes effort to stay at the top. Unfortunately, it seems as if Singapore's time as the poster child for development and clinical efficiency is up.
Singapore, time to move over – it's someone else's turn now.
Not so fast. Sure, suddenly there are floods, murders, loan sharks, litter, crowded trains and even foreigners parading around public places in undergarments but are these terminal issues? Not really. Most if not all these issues can be addressed with a healthy dose of Singapore's historical bureaucratic efficiency.
Alas, the bureaucracy may be exactly where the roots of the current problem rest. As long as Singapore's bureaucrats could copy and replicate progress, the country leapfrogged from the Third World straight to the First World.
However, Singapore's future development script is unique and unwritten. The city's revered mandarins cannot merely look elsewhere and copy. To move forward requires creative thinking exclusive to Singapore's particular conditions.
Undoubtedly, learning from 'best practices' overseas is a prerequisite for future success, e.g. flood management. However, the best solutions will most likely be 'home grown' based on a deep understanding of the city's social environment and psychological make-up.
Fortunately, Singapore's recent mishaps notwithstanding, the city has a lot going for it.
Public participation in civic affairs has dramatically increased. Consequently, newer ideas enter mainstream debate easier than in the past.
The bureaucracy remains strong. Implementing policies is not problematic.
Most importantly, there is no shortage of funds. The last few decades of fiscally responsible policies permits the government to invest surplus moneys into problem areas, e.g. improve public transport infrastructure. If anything, the government currently rakes in too much revenue for the level of social services it provides.
Presently, Singapore is in a bit of a bad patch. But so are most parts of the world. Following Singapore's own 'Arab Spring' in 2011, it is time for bureaucrats to take ownership of the city's problems. The alternative is a continued slow but inevitable deterioration of everything that has come to symbolize Brand Singapore: public sector efficiency, low crime and a high quality of life.
Singapore, it's time to reclaim your mojo!
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Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors, Imran improves the profitability of small and medium sized businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at imran@deodaradvisors.com.

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