In this essay, I will argue that Singapore will always be a nation in the making. Although Singapore’s nation building efforts have been successful, there is still a continual need for nation building efforts to persist as Singapore is a vulnerable migrant society, aptly illustrated as “an 80-storey building standing on marshy land” by Lee Kuan Yew. This reveals continual nation-building is critical for Singapore as it ensures her survival amidst vulnerabilities. What defines “a nation in the making”?
Singapore will always be a nation in the making as her social and political landscapes have been continually shaped to address issues that threaten Singapore’s vulnerability. With incessant challenges ahead like globalisation and Singapore’s ageing population, there is a crucial need to further shape these landscapes. This includes reshaping and redrawing the boundaries of Singapore’s nation, defined as an “imagined political community” . 1. Social
The Singapore government had been effective in nation building through measures like the housing policy, the establishment of Self-Help Groups and the top-down approach by the government to form a common national identity for “strengthening the ‘elements’ to solidify the ‘whole’” . 1.1 Housing Policies
Singapore is a migrant society that is “complex and multiracial”. Its population is made up of four races, the Chinese being the predominant race by more than 70%. The racial riots of 1964 in Singapore between the Chinese and Malays which caused much causality demonstrated the importance of racial harmony and social stability that would attract foreign investors vital to Singapore’s survival. In the early 1960’s the Singapore Government decided to integrate the races through the public housing they built, known as Housing Development Board (HDB) flats. They employed racial quotas to prevent a huge cluster of a particular minority, spreading the minorities such that no particular race cluster would be present to pose as a dominant threat. This policy was formally coined in 1989, as the “Ethnic Integration Policy” whose aim is to “promote racial harmony” . Since the minority clusters were dispersed across different segment of the nation, there has been no further breakout of racial conflict and violence. However, to counter the challenges of an ageing population, the need for “foreign talent” becomes increasingly vital for Singapore’s survival. This incites the government’s need to encourage citizenship of Singapore Permanent Residents (SPR) through the SPR quota implemented in March 2010. The SPR quota has been put in place to allow social integration between Singapore citizens and SPRs. This new scheme makes the issue of social integration even more complex as it could be a source of conflict and xenophobia, rather than encourage social integration. This is exemplified by the “curry incident” last year— a mediation case cited by Today sparked a backlash online over its settlement terms — that an Indian-Singaporean family only cook curry when a neighbouring Chinese family from China was not home. Thus, Singapore is always a nation in the making as its migrant societal nature constantly alters the demographics of Singapore, threatening social cohesion
1.2 Self Help Groups
Self-Help Groups such as Mendaki, The Chinese Development Assistance Council and Singapore Indian Development Association have been vital in socially and financially supporting each racial segment of Singapore’s nation in the form of scholarships and bursaries. This plays a crucial role in strengthening the social fabric in Singapore that is vital for nation building. However, as the threat of terrorism in a highly globalized world and the vulnerable economic circumstances continue to ensue, there is a constant need for Singapore to strengthen its social fabric to avoid conflict and domestic unrest. Recently, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean warned of the threats of terrorism which...