Singapore’s 10 best ideas (and five screw-ups)

Singapore’s 10 best ideas (and five screw-ups)

From a humble fishing village to a first-class city, Singapore has had it share of bright moments ... as well as some embarrassing ones

Best ideas


1. Housing Development Board (HDB)

This public housing policy cleaned up Singapore’s slums in the 1960s with affordable housing. More importantly it helped foster good relations between different races as every block is required to have a specific proportion of different races.

Fingerprint clearance at Changi Airport

2. Fingerprint clearance at Changi Airport

This nifty process ensures you spend almost no time at immigration. Just swipe your passport, press your thumb against the sensor, and you’re outta there in less than 90 seconds.

F1 Night Race

3. F1 Night Race

The best money we've ever spent on promoting Singapore. The first F1 Night race was quite the affair when Fernando Alonso came from behind to win. For non-race fans, the best parts are the musical acts and dusk-till-dawn parties. It’s also an annual affair that boosts Singapore’s tourism economy.


4. NEWater

Pee, filter, and drink from the tap. Folks across the Causeway laughed at us for reclaiming water, but with increasing water shortages around the world, perhaps we might just get the last laugh.

Marina Bay Sands

5. The Integrated Resorts (IRs)

Our euphemism for casinos with attached attractions has received brickbats for promoting gambling, but it’s undeniable that the IRs have given the city a brand new skyline, a bunch of amazing restaurants and shops, and a much needed place to spend quality time in.

SOTA Singapore

6. Learn to be creative

After getting short shrift for years, would-be artists and designers can go to School of the Arts (SOTA) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) for formal grooming in their creative fields. The former being dedicated to pre-tertiary arts education, while the latter combines design with engineering. Now that’s a far cry from the days of churning out technicians!

Fibre Optic Cables

7. High speed optic fibre broadband

We’re linking up every home to broadband networks that boasts speeds of up to 100Mbps. This is part of Infocomm Development Authority’s (IDA) masterplan to roll out data-intensive Internet services such as Interactive IPTV, telemedicine, and highly interactive MMORPGs for us to use.

Singapore Police Force

8. Safe streets

What are tough laws without enforcers? That’s where the boys in blue come in. They keep the riff-raff off the streets whilst spouting cheesy slogans like: “Low crime does not mean no crime,” “Together we can prevent crime,” and -- our favorite -- “Pick up zone” to keep Singapore safe.

Hakwer Center

9. Hawker centers

Rounding up roving food vendors into permanent centers might have raised the heckles of roadside eatery purists, but we’re giving this idea kudos for keeping our stomachs safe, and making it easy to find almost all our favorite food in one place.

Singapore Zoo

10. Zoo without cages

Imagine animals that roam freely within their natural habitats. Imagine looking at deers and tigers as they pad through trees, splash in moats and look back at you. That’s what you get at the Singapore Zoo which pioneered the open zoo concept.

Go to page 2 for Singapore's top five screw-ups...


Stop at two policy

1. Stop at two population policy

Introduced in the 1970s, it was so successful that Singapore’s population began to decline, which led to policies that encouraged foreigners to immigrate here. It stabilized Singapore’s population, but created an intense debate over foreigners’ suitability for citizenship.

Legal graffiti walls

2. Legal graffiti walls

Graffiti is illegal in Singapore. So how can graffiti artists (we have them here) express themselves? The only options are the legit graffiti walls (all four of them) at *scape. Sad, ain’t it?

Battlestar Galactica

3. Battlestar Galactica ride

Universal Studios Singapore opened their signature ride in March 2010, and closed it down one week later. Reports suggest that “fatigue cracks developed in a welded component on the ride’s seat-post support.” Does it mean that a seat flew out?

YOG Food

4. Youth Olympic Games (YOG) volunteers get bad food

As hosts of the first Youth Olympic Games, it was embarrassing that the YOG volunteers had to make do with food that “doesn’t look fit for the dogs!” Credit to the authorities who made things right with better food although it took photos posted on Facebook to catalyze it. 

Martyn See

5. Pulling Martyn See’s video off the Internet

Filmmaker Martyn See Tong Ming’s short video of "Dr Lim Hock Siew," a political detainee’s speech about his time in prison was ordered off YouTube and banned “for public interest.” How odd, considering that it’s an innocuous video of one man recounting his history.

I am a computer dude and ex-academic (although I won’t say it too loudly) who took time off to tour Asia and write about it. And I’ve not stopped writing since.

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