Friday, April 18, 2008

Does Singapore Really Cares About Malaysia?

Talking to Malaysian friends, I have a sense that they have a lil uneasiness with Singapore. It is not shown directly, but you can get a feel of it sometimes. Even a friend of mine pointed it out.

One can understand why to one extend. The island city is hardly anything in size compared to Malaysia yet it has gained from '3rd world to 1st world' before reaching 50 years old; while Malaysia is nearly 51 and is 12 years to its Vision 2020.

The branded 'kiasu-ism' in Singapore could be another factor. And at one stage, which was even reported in the press, there was an 'ugly Singaporean' image. However, some have changed somewhat since the humble pie of the economic crises back in late 90s and including the outbreak of SARS which hit the country badly.

So, the Singapore Flyer takes off with a big bang - but Malaysians are calling it a kiasu approach to KL's temporary The Eye On Malaysia.

Honestly, I don't think Singapore did the Flyer which cost over S$200m was built just to beat or rival Malaysia's. Besides, this was planned in 2003, when the KL Eye was not there yet. Of course, I'm not sure did Malaysia planned The Eye before 2003 and it leaked to Singapore? Actually, which was planned first - and who copied who?

In any case, I see it more like a fight of kiasu-ism (for a good cause) against London and even China (the Flyer is now the world's tallest - beating the Star of Nanchang, and before it gets beaten by the Great Beijing Wheel in 2009. (more at Singapore's The Roundest)

Some other reasons I think Singapore don't compare with Malaysia - take a look at the Formula One race. Malaysia's Sepang touted as the hottest race in the world has just celebrated its 10th race! And Singapore is only starting its maiden race this September! And we always thought Singapore is much more 'advanced'?

I believe that the reason Singapore is bringing F1 here is because it aims to boost Singapore's image internationally. And that is because many other Asia cities have done so - including international cities Bahrain & Shanghai. I see that Singapore is more concern in loosing its appeal to these 2 cities than to KL.

They are taking calculated gains & risks for the F1. Of course, they are smart in making it the first night race in the world. Again, if they are so concerned with Malaysia, they would have done the A1 Grand Prix as well.

On a sidetrack, Singapore's partnership with Mark Burnett, the producer behind Survivor is part of Singapore's aim in branding the island.

Another example - the Commonwealth Games. Malaysia hosted this in 1998 - and it was a huge success bringing the nation together. It also put Malaysia in the limelight at least amongst the Commonwealth countries.

But why does Singapore don't bother to even host the SEA Games what more the Commonwealth Games? If I'm not wrong they passed their chance in hosting one of the previous SEA Games. If they were so concerned that Malaysia has been hosting it, then wouldn't they quickly host the Games as well?

Now, then one would say, yeah, but Singapore is hosting the First Youth Olympics. Again, are they really competing with Malaysia here? From my perspective, it's again a fight with the other Asia countries - again China. China is hosting the World Summer Olympics come August. Well so Singapore can say they hosted the Youth Olympics - though at a smaller scale.

Next, the integrated resorts. Yes, Malaysia has the Genting casino. And soon, so will Singapore - which will be operated by Malaysia's Resort World. Here, I may say, yes, they are looking at the huge gains Genting make yearly and the Singaporeans driving up to the clouds for a night or two trying their luck. But I also think, that they have looked beyond that and their main rivals are actually Macau.

In my conclusion, this self-proclaimed lil red-dot is not really competing with Malaysia. It has taken a shift to try to stay ahead with the awakening (or already awaken) dragon, China and also the countries in the Middle East. Their main competitor is HK, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai and even Seoul and Tokyo.

So for us Malaysians, let's not bother too much on the things (little or big) that Singapore does, but focus instead of competing with the bigger boys. In any, we should work with Singapore rather than against her and succeed together.



  1. You've come up with a very nice, concrete points of views.. Thank for sharing this with us. No worries, it's not an offend to me of course since there are some true facts behind it.

    Somehow, I hope Singapore and Malaysia can work together- not pulling each other down (and I know this won't happen..)

    It's better to compete with the world other than Asia itself.. ;D

  2. Most countries are afraid of losing appeal, not only Singapore and Malaysia. There are still areas that Singapore cannot compete with Malaysia.

  3. Yes, a win-win situation would bode well for both nations. It stands to reason that everyone gains.

  4. Yes, both country should work together. Especially neighbor, I'm always agree what SG PM (Lee) said before....."Meritocracy"!
    Hopefully in or before 2020, MY can archive this.

  5. hi curryegg

    nice of u to drop by. it may just work - these 2 countries. dont wanna sound political or pro anything, but act pak lah (malaysia's pm) has helped strengthen the relations a bit thru his administration :)

    yup, quite a bit act - and i think on some matters, singapore has to resign to the fact that malaysia is unique by itself. hence, it positions itself in other areas that it can compete directly or indirectly :)

    yes, that will be the best. there are already some progress within the 2 countries which is good - just imagine we combine 28m + 4.5m = 32.5m market share.. and if we add thailand even better. ppl need to realise we are too small to compete with each other :)

    yes, meritocracy is the way to go! and i think if malaysia wants to go global, it needs to realise this - which it slowly is (but of course more can be done) :)

  6. The points you stated are really good and valid. As a Singaporean myself, though we have a competitive working/studying environment here, I doubt the government's main aim is to compete with Malaysians in any way, I believe every country is doing that to each other.

    If you're looking at casinos/integrated resorts, more and more countries (eg. Thailand, Taiwan) are in plans of doing one too, so are they competing with both Singapore and Malaysia? I seriously doubt so, instead they just want a bite on the amount of money casinos can bring to the country, and it's A LOT.

    In any way, I believe the path Singapore and Malaysia takes are different. Singapore has no natural resources nor enough land, so we brunch out to service industries (e.g. airport, technological hubs) which does not require both of that. For Malaysia it's another case, there are resources and ample land, thus there are projects on farming (e.g. palm oil) too.

    I believe for both countries to advance, the people have to kick away the thinking that we're just competing with each other, but instead, like what you've said, we're competing with the world, bringing more attention from the World to our small and insignificant South East Asia.

    In fact if you think about, why Singapore is able to advance so fast is mainly because we're small and thus more manageable to govern.

  7. yes..why do we need to always like this? we are neighbours..

  8. Hello Kuaci, I write a post about your post

  9. Great points and great views on this issue. I believe both Malaysians and Singaporeans would agree with you too, and I'm sure it is not any of our goals to try to 'squash' each other in any way.

    I guess one reason why Singapore had problems with he hostin of events is due to the huge logistical nightmare that encompasses land restrictions. No doubt the night race would be the first, it would also mean that Singapore's roads in the city area would have to be shut down - quite a huge risk, and I'm waiting to see how things go.

    Perhaps the only thing I believe we are competing for would be port traffic and shipping-related issues. As for kiasu-ism, I guess it just faded off into 'just another joke', or even to some people, one of the reasons Singapore is able to make its progress.

    Anyways, great post, and I'll be back for more! See you around.

  10. One of the casinos here is awarded to a Malaysian company. In other words, Malaysia stands to gain as well. A terrific situation for both nations.

    In my line of work, I order a lot of products from Malaysia. And these products are good. Convenient to order since they are near by.

  11. I hope we are one of those friendly neighbourhood.
    [Ignored our government/political issues]
    But does any Singaporean here wish to work together with Malaysian?
    Together we can build a good future, and a steady country for our own 2020.

  12. msia's eye thingy was brought up within 2 wks. it was a rush job where the idea came up and was implemented within a mth itself. so, no advance planning, just an idea being developed in a braim storming session

  13. I don't think Singapore is competing with malaysia. Singapore is doing this for it's own good and prosperity.
    I wonder why m'sian keeps thinking that singapore is competing with m'sia and some of them shows hostility towards us. Is it because mahthir or the local press brain washed you all?

  14. JoeJoe

    Agree with you on your points there - when SEA works together, we will be a force. I guess that was the main aim act - but it has not fully materialised yet.

    Killer Blogger
    Things are looking up I guess - slowly we are becoming more friendly neighbours? (its good that you have that mentality that neighbours should work together - it can start from us, the people, and not just the govt) :)

    Thanks for your visit :) Read yr post - didnt expect so much perceptions on Singaporeans by Malaysians? lol :)

    Yes, agree - there is always small rivalry, but the big picture is both countries have their own different goals

  15. Scud
    Believe me, lots of Singaporeans want to work with Malaysians. In fact, a lot of them have opened biz in Malaysia - for its proximity and the closest environment to Singapore :)

    Thanks for the share. In a way, it is good for Malaysia not to have built a permanent The Eye On Malaysia yet. Let this be a good experiment for 1.5 years and see if its worthwhile to make it permanent.

    (I wont be suprised it becomes the world biggest if ever Malaysia aims to do it lol).

    the press plays a big role in that. i realise that as i read both the countries papers and the things reported are usually the worst things of all. of course last time, there was the 'ugly singaporean' attitude in malaysia which when played up by the press becomes doubly bad.

    hope that this post have helped cleared the air. in any case, if we can see each other from a neutral point, without judging from the start, then our neighbour friendship will be better :)

  16. It's the politicians who always pick issues to quibble about, and bicker for publicity.. to be heard.
    The people always want to keep out of this. They rather go about their daily lives, make money, enjoy security, travel freely without restrictions ( at one time this was possible).
    Relatives are on both sides of the causeway, and freedom of physical and trade, and monetary movement at all times are very much cherished.

    So let's work to achieve co-prosperity, mutual understanding, cooperation, to grow to greater heights TOGETHER as added strength comes from working together.. (I dare not say UNITY).

  17. emk,
    do you know there's a book politicians say the darnest thing - a take on malaysian politicians. now that would be a nice read! haha.

    no wonder who's highly featured (starts with S).

  18. Well this sort of behaviour is not going to help! Maybe it's political? I'm sure Malaysians would never really do this to their SG neighbours.

    Seen in Australian Politics blog.


Oh hey, thank you for commenting! :)