tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey PBS October 9, 2011 10:00am-10:30am EDT
>> recently we traveled to the republic of singapore, a small, culturally-perverse and highly successful city state. in less than 50 years singapore has transformed itself to one of the most dynamic and productive countries in southeast asia. with limited resources, but an openness to innovation, the government has helped make the singapore an ideal place to live, work, and play. this is america visits the republic of singapore. >> this is america is made
possible by -- the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. the singapore tourism board, there is something for everyone. singapore airlines, a great way to fly. hunsan corp., forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the rotendaro family trust. " this is america" visited
singapore in 11 years a. while the country was successful back then, it is a world-class city state now. the beautiful government headquarters, i have the opportunity to sit and talk with singapore's prime minister. >> thank you for your hospitality and for the visit. >> happy to be here. >> tell me three things that americans should know about singapore. >> first, it is a very small city in the middle of the very vibrant region in southeast asia. secondly, we are completely connected to the world, china, india, america, the developed countries. thirdly, we're working hard to stay abreast of the changes around us and improve the lives of our people. >> we were here 11 years ago.
it has turned out to be set a dynamic city state. >> the whole region has moved, and we have tried to keep abreast of the developments around us. the momentum is there because there is a dynamism from china and india opening up. southeast asia is not doing too badly, and in singapore we have tried hard to work together cohesive league, and to do things that will put us in good stead for the long term, investing in our people and city and infrastructure, educating our people, bringing in projects and jobs so that we do not just have a high gdp, but a good quality of life. >> you mentioned the people here, and ambassador chan back in washington is fond of saying the people here are the natural resources. do you agree? it is only thing we have. location is important for us.
really we depend on our people to create wealth and create our own future. we have no timber or hydroelectric power. >> is that the reason, the heavy investment in education? >> yes. we see that as our future, and our people see that, too. to go to the kids have enough time to play as well? -- >> to the kids have enough time to play as well? >> not as much as they would like to, and not as much as we would like them to, but we do not think the way to grow up is spending all your time looking textbooks. you have to play games and socialize and learn about the world and take some knocks. that is what we're trying to do, but parents with their children to do well in school, so whatever we do in school, the
parents need to add on a little bit more. >> i think the parents in the states do not know about the wonderful diversity of this culture, ethnic groups, religious groups, and how well everyone seems to get along. >> we are three-quarters chinese, maybe 15 percent signed. maybe 8% in the unscom and a smattering of other groups. e 8% indian.ercent in the en we have to get along together. in living close together, integrated, working together, serving in the army together, and it is the only way we can survive, because if we close on another, i think our country would fracture, and that would
be permanent. >> the relationship between singapore and the united states is very important to both countries. could you talk about that? >> it is one of the most important external relationships. america is the major power in the world and very important influence. in terms of the economy, the trade is a big part of our trade with them. we of a free-trade agreement with america. in terms of security, america is a major player insuring the security of the asia-pacific region, and we have a very good relationship with the united states. america has a big influence all over the world. many people from singapore study in america and send their children there. when you watch movies from
hollywood, when you read magazines, many of them are american, it is a major part of our world. of course the other powers in asia are also developing. china is playing an increasingly poor and -- the important role, and over the time the balance will shift. >> in singapore, i have the opportunity to visit with u.s. ambassador david adelman. >> how do you account for its success? it is a very successful place. >> undoubtably. it stands out in this region especially as a place that has created tremendous wealth and a very high standard of living for our people. the government of singapore deserves a lot of credit, but i will say this, in addition to singapore's people, singapore does have some things going for it that come naturally. for example, the best location
on the whole planet. about 50 percent of the good fellowship overseas pus -- pass right through here. that accounts for their first or second busiest container. in the world. a good location is and natural resource enjoyed in connection with the natural deepwater harbor. i think the key to singapore success has not been not to squander the great location and these important streets, and they have done that by getting the most out of their people. there is an emphasis on education here, similar to what you see throughout east asia, as well as in the united states, and it is a highly productive work force. i guess i would start by saying singapore is the most pre-
dependent country on the planet, which i think makes it especially important to the united states in this in new economy. in singapore the first language is english. as a former british colony, schools are taught in english, and as is the case in most of the world, business is conducted in english. again, this may come as a surprise, singapore is a very good friend to the united states. often time when i mention where i am serving to americans back home, it seems like this exotic, faraway place, and i suppose that is true, but it is a place that sense of the very beginning, since its founding as an independent country, has been a close, a strong friend of the united states. >> what are the mutual interest between the countries and the
mutual concerns? >> to start with when we say mutual interest, i have to say the relationship between the united states and singapore is truly multifaceted, but at the very foundation of the relationship is our interest in security and peace around the world, and especially peace and stability in southeast asia. that has different parts to it, including freedom of navigation. these are very important global comments for international trade, and the movement of cargo from the united states to the united states and in and around asia is especially important to singapore and to the united states. the other side of that coin, i guess, may go to some of the
mutual or care -- or scared concerns. we all have concerns with security, counterterrorism, non- proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, other dangerous weapons. modern-day piracy has been an increasing problem in this part of the world -- all of those issues our mutual concerns between our countries. >> we were at the national museum a little while ago, and looking at the great history, a short history, and all of a sudden independents. can you think back or at least draw for us those early days and what some of the challenges were to create this city- state's/-- city state country. >> the challenges were whether we would survive at all. we were expelled from the federation of new asia.
the issues were fundamental. first, make a living and get the economy going, because we planned on being part of a bigger economy and the nation. second, to provide for, because we really have no armed forces are owned. -- of our own. third, to create a nation, a sense of identity and pride and unity so that we can feel as one people and do things together. >> can you plan a country? >> you can make sensible moves, and then you see how those turned out, and you make removes, and fortunately for us the moves we've made turned out well, and the conditions were favorable, and so we were able progressively to take step-by-
step and make progress and get here from where we were, but we did not know when we started off that nearly 50 years later we would have today's singapore with marina bay and resorts and skyline and standard of living for our people. >> does the fact that it is a small country, does it make it easier to innovate, it may change as, try things? >> it has. the sense of being the same boat is stronger. wherever you may live in singapore, basically you see the world in the same way. secondly, the world is right at your doorstep. thirdly, if you can get everyone
together on the same page and persuade them, then when you move, it is one level of government, you do not have state or cities, just one national government. that is one of the advantages. the last five years have been tumultuous ones. conditions have changed fast. we have had high growth some years. negative growth other years. we have had significant inflows of foreign workers of immigrants, so it has been a difficult time for our people. it has been a difficult time for the government making policies, because conditions change fast. when you do not anticipate it quite right, you will find we do not have been of houses for our people, so there is a queue for public housing. our public transport is more congested than we would like it
to be because the pet -- population has grown faster than we expected it to. we did not have perfect foresight. take a world-class city, no doubt about it. you look at the skyline and know things are happening here, but some people abroad would say it is too perfect, it is maybe too strict, how you respond to that, to people that have never been here before and have an image? >> there are some constraints you have to expect when you are 5 million people in one city that is also a country, and you have no place to go on the weekends to decompress. this is where we live, and so we have to make accommodation so that life is tolerable for all of us. we are loosening up and opening up. i think there is a buzz in the city.
whether it is resorts, integrated resorts of the casino and entertainment or the art scene, or whether it is people doing their own thing in volunteer organizations, protecting the environment or the arts or whatever. i think it is opening up. we are part of the world, we speak english. we're all connected to the internet. there are 2 million facebook accounts, so it is not possible for us to be cut off from the world and be totally apart from house arrest of the world is. >> how about the whole idea of myths? what are the myths he would like to get out of people's minds about singapore? >> as i say them, i reinforce them. [laughter] it is a myth we of solve all of
our problems. there are always new issues we have to tackle and deal with. when people say they're monolithic and completely controlling, that is totally untrue. i think it is a myth that singaporeans do not know how to enjoy themselves and let their hair down. we're not that very different from people in other countries and the world. >> would you say singapore is a good place to work and do business? >> i would say so. many countries have found it so. families are very happy to be here, and often they write to us and tell us how often they -- and how much they enjoy their stay. >> i talked to michael think of single -- city group. >> it is a financial-services center as sophisticated as a new
york or london. -- i talked to michael zinc of citigroup. it has all the infrastructure, software to match toto the best financial centers in the world. that may come as a surprise to people at home. that does not mean that's the financial centers in new york and london are about to disappear. that is just not true. it means one more competitor has risen up, and that is part of the story of asia. fast economic growth that has translated into better quality of life for hundreds of millions of people. sustainable economic growth, and a sophistication that is not fully visible to everyone and what we used to describe as the west. >> our single most -- single largest operation is asia pacific.
with 9000 employees here in singapore. weirdo largest employer in financial-services. we employ more people here than even the big domestic banks, because we of a collection of businesses. big businesses domestically, corporate banking and private banking. the consumer bank as 1 million credit cards outstanding. on top of these domestic businesses, we have regional businesses that serve all of asia. our global markets, which would be foreign-exchange and interest-rate derivatives, commodity businesses based here in singapore. a lot of our transaction services for multinational clients that pay and collect around the region are based here in singapore. private banking for asia, and this is part of the world generating more millionaires than anywhere else today based in singapore. finally, we have one of the most important centers of excellence
for our technology and processing, and as you understand today, the world is digitizing, and our business is digitizing more quickly than most. the ability to process transactions, process and protect data is critical to success in financial services, so alarming data center for asia pacific and the biggest processing center, serving about 45 countries. it is more than just a show here in singapore. >> how about a good place to live? >> i would say that also. it is not like living in our rural part of america or britain where you have green fields and endless expanses. it is an urban environment, but a good urban environment with greenery and streets were traffic close where you can enjoy yourself, even in the
midst of many other people. >> i asked a couple of the guests about living in singapore. >> of course i think singapore is a good place to live. i think we work very hard in making a very livable. it is not all about economic growth. we're trying very hard to address quality of life. singapore is very safe. crime rates are low. you have a great help system from a great education, and at the same time we need to provide for the life style needs of different types of people. it is highly cosmopolitan, so we have multiracial mix, and everyone has different needs. what we do is provide different offerings for recreation and leisure. i think it is highly livable. >> i think singapore is a great place to live.
i think it has become a global city. we're starting to attract some of the best performers in the world. some of the best bands. i think it is attracting a lot of people in the region to singapore. infrastructure is fantastic. it is easy to move around in singapore. it is a very steep city. a very clean it city. i think if you ask any person they will tell you it is an extremely -- most people feel that singapore is a great place to live it. >> how you protect your own culture and at the same time be open as young girl -- young people certainly are to the influence coming from america? >> it is a challenge for many countries, especially for us because we're english banking. one of the ways we do it is to
make sure our children learn it at school. those of us better ethnic chinese like me, our kids will have to learn mandarin as a subject. so do the indian children. the language of instruction is english, but you must turn your mother tongue. that get to a sense of fruit and heritage. >> as we're coming to the end of our conversation, let me ask you a very broad question you have referenced other countries in the area. when you look at the world right now, if you are a very important leader, when you look at the world -- and you are a very important leader, when you look at the world and the term moral, what you see and feel? >> i think in the short-term we have concerns because we have so many problems.
in america with york economy still not picking up as well as for fiscal problems which are deep and structural, and the political gridlock is making it difficult. so many other issues are uncertain. as we look at asia, i think we have reason to be confident, and it will continue to grow. i think india will also be growing, although it is seven years behind china in the progress it has made. the country's throat asia are transforming themselves. there are positives in minuses, but if you take it on the long- term basis, i think the
preconditions look good for us to continue to prosper, provided we continue to adapt ourselves to a changing world. >> thank you. thank you very much. special thanks to the staff of the alert andfullerton hotel. for information about my new book, "the chance of a lifetime" and on-line video for all our programs, visit our website at
thisisamerica.net. this is america is made possible by -- the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children in public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. honson corp., forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the rote family trust.