How does Singapore keep being “Singaporean”?


NOVEMBER 4 — Every time I travel, and I find myself introducing myself as “Singaporean” I am often met with one of two common responses — on diametric opposite ends of the spectrum (well, three if you count: “Is that in China?” but that is related to the first one).

The first is the extremely annoying “But you are not Chinese!” which reduces my multi-generational heritage and multi-ethnic city to a single dimension.

The second is one to be proud of and it celebrates our world-renowned efficiency.

And it is true. In the last 53 years, the city state has become one of the richest, most successful countries in the world.

No small feat for a place with no natural resources or hinterland.

Singapore is known for being clean, green and fundamentally powered by a nation of determined and hard-working people.

Now, what if this community of hard-working people motivated to make something of themselves and their country become one filled with wealthy, comfortable and unmotivated individuals?

Do we lose our edge?

This thought (or concern) occurred when I read the recent revelation that the worst cyber attack to have happened in Singapore could possibly have been avoided if the senior manager had raised the alarm earlier.

The modern metropolis of Singapore... where would it be without hard work and grit? — Reuters pic
The modern metropolis of Singapore… where would it be without hard work and grit? — Reuters pic

The SingHealth cyber attack compromised the personal data of 1.5 million patients and outpatient prescription information of 160,000 people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and several ministers.

In an inquiry, a key IT manager shared on an internal group chat two days after the attack was discovered: “Once we escalate to management, there will be no day, no night.”

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He meant there would be a lot more work and pressure.

Apparently, he had failed to report previous suspicious activities to which he had been alerted.

It was reported that at the inquiry, he said, “I thought to myself: ‘If I report the matter, I will simply get more people chasing me for more updates.

“If they are chasing me for more updates, I need to be able to get more information to provide them.”

He also added that he mother had been hospitalised and so he was under considerable duress during that time.

We may never fully understand his circumstances and why he ultimately made that decision but it does lead to this question: Can we maintain our competitive advantage as a nation if our population is increasingly shy of hard work?

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.



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