Dear Thomas Lee Chee Chee,
I read your letter to Today about your concern that “tax dollars” is spent on Singapore Day despite the “looming global economic downturn”.
I might not be an expert in foreign affairs but let me share with you my two cents about why is Singapore Day important to all of us.
Yes, when I say us, I mean you as well.
1. It strengthens our international ties
Something that has been brought up many times recently is that no matter how much we have achieved, Singapore is still a small country and we depend heavily on good diplomatic ties.
An event of such extensive scale in other major cities is testament to our strong foreign relationship with most parts of the world and it is something we shouldn’t take for granted. Remember what happened to the Philippine independence day that almost happened in Singapore?
2. It creates jobs for Singaporeans in Singapore too
You talk about “improve living conditions here” in Singapore for the Singaporeans here and this is exactly what happens with Singapore Day – think of the local hawkers/ food vendors, event companies, performers, design team, logistic planners etc who were engaged for this project?
4. Increasing Tourism / FDI into Singapore
Because buzz to the non-Singaporeans in San Francisco/ rest of the world.
Also, is there really a better way to spend the money?
According to Chee Chee, “There must be other ways to spend the money. Even building more covered walkways would benefit many people here.”
$4.4 million might sound like a lot as a collective figure, but if we were to look at it objectively, it’s a drop in the ocean.
For example, if we were to put this $4.4mil into healthcare for Singaporeans… it amounts to $1 per person.
We are ‘investing’ in our future.
This might not be the most popular opinion but these overseas Singaporeans carry with them a wealth of experience and exposure and to quote our labour chief Chan Chun Sing,
“If we are only living in our own well then we won’t have that diversity and if we don’t have that diversity, we won’t have resilience, we won’t be able to cross-pollinate ideas from different societies to enrich our own.”
We need to encourage Singaporeans to live/ work in other countries so that they can come back and bring back with them knowledge that goes beyond our shores (and so that we do need to always hire expats if we have Singaporeans here who already have these insights) and hence, the emphasis here should not be about having “fewer Singaporeans leave” but about more Singaporeans returning.
Ultimately, this is where the river always flows.
Your fellow Singaporean in Singapore,