Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Can Singapore Survive? by Kishore Mahbubani


I picked up this book at Kinokuniya when my paycheque came in because that’s what I usually do. I was actually looking for Chee Soon Juan’s Democratically Speaking which was sold out, and this title caught my eye.

It is an interesting and refreshing read but is somewhat repetitive after a while.

This is a collection of essays and speeches Mahbubani’s written over the course of a decade which have been previously been published, mainly in The Straits Times and in a handful of other newspapers throughout the world.

I liked the fresh ideas Mahbubani proposed for Singapore. These include an innovative ban on cars - to maximise usage of public transportation and a national, bottom up effort to learn Bahasa Melayu.

In addition, I appreciated the fact that he took time to sketch a brief picture of our late leaders that he had worked with, namely Goh Keng Swee and Rajaratnam. I would love to hear more about them from him first-hand, if I ever get the chance to.

It was good to learn that multi-ethnic and multi-religious Singapore stands out as an anomaly to the norm of ex-colonies of Britain who have not seen much harmony over the past decades. But when our stellar reputation compared to Sri Lanka, Fiji, Cyprus or Guyana is pointed out more than five times in as many essays, it can get a bit trying to read, as well-intentioned as it may be.

It took me some time to read at a moderate 270 pages because I got tired of all the repetition and had to put it aside after each reading.

This is a fascinating book written by one of the top minds in Singapore and would have been more compelling with tighter editing. Nonetheless, it would be good for all to take a look and learn from him. You can get this book at Kinokuniya like I did. Enjoy.

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