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Southeast Asian Affairs 2005 SINGAPORE IN 2004 Vigilance amid Growing Uncertainty Teo Kah Beng Singapore has thrivedfor 32 years since independence. Its traumatic birth spurreda hardworking and resilientpopulation, ledby honest and competent political leaders ... Our challenge now is to sustain this performance beyond thefounding generation ... Our competition is becomingfiercer. So far, ourpolicies have succeeded beyond expectations. But they need creative rethinking... In a rapidly changing world, we either adapt or become irrelevant.1 Lee Hsien Loong, "Singapore ofthe Future", 1998. Introduction Vigilance has been the hallmark of the pragmatic, realist-oriented Singapore government since an unanticipated independence 40 years ago. It is likely to remain so. Singapore simply has no other option. Although Singapore has prospered to become one of the richest states in the world, and its defence capability has improved considerably, the basic mindset of Singapore's leaders has not changed. International politics is seen as being dictated by the law of the jungle. As a small state, Singapore is faced with unique constraints. Singapore has to be able to signal potential aggressors that it has the capability and the will to deter them and defend itself.2 The first generation of Singapore leaders, led by its first Prime Minister (PM) Lee KuanYew, fought to get the island's "internal house" in order to ensure national survival. The opposition was crushed, and the nation set out to carve for itself its place in the world. Forced out of Malaysia in 1965, Singapore decided that it had to become a "Global City", by making the world its hinterland. Its ambition is to Teo Kah Beng is a doctoral candidate in political science at the National University of Singapore and an Associate Lecturer at the Singapore Institute ofManagement. He is also an Intern at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 332Teo Kah Beng become a global hub for international trade, investment, transportation, medical services, and tourism. The result of that sense of vigilance, against great odds, has been an exceptional and unique governmental performance which transformed Singapore's economy from Third World to First World status within a generation. Singapore had a good 2004. The economy grew by an impressive 8.4 per cent on the back ofa strong global economic revival, compared with 1.4 per cent in 2003. The official forecast is for a growth rate of 3-5 per cent in 2005. Given its "strategic positioning", Singapore anticipates problems before they materialize. Its strategic goal is to remain competitive and attractive to foreign investors. Politically, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) retains hegemonic control in Singapore. Its leadership remains cohesive. InAugust 2004, Singapore witnessed its second smooth leadership succession. The PAP is recruiting a new generation of younger leaders to contest the next parliamentary election, likely to be held in 2005, ahead ofthe expiry of its mandate in early 2007. In foreign policy, Singapore enhanced its economic and political space and influence. Strong ties were restored with its close neighbours, especially Malaysia, after two years of uncertainty. Within ASEAN, Singapore took a proactive, leadership role. In particular, Singapore took the lead in forging closer ties between ASEAN and NortheastAsia. When the Asian tsunami struck on Boxing Day 2004, Singapore took decisive action in organizing anASEAN-led international conference to aid the victims of the disaster. The UN also accepted Singapore's generous offer to act as a regional relief centre for Indonesia, the country worst hit by the disaster. Political Succession On 12 August 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, 52, became Singapore's third prime minister in a smooth succession, from Mr Goh ChokTong. It was Singapore's second leadership change in 40 years. Lee Hsien Loong is the eldest son of Lee KuanYew, Singapore's patriarch, who ruled Singapore as its first prime minister from self-independence in 1959 to November 1990. The younger Lee entered politics in 1984. His political ascendancy received the full endorsement ofthe PAP leadership as well ofthose ofthe party's parliamentarians. This served to enhance Lee's political legitimacy, in reference to earlier allegations that his rise was due to his father's influence.3 The PAP was concerned with Lee Hsien Loong's public image. He was alleged to be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1793-9135
Print ISSN
0377-5437
Pages
pp. 329-348
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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