Singapore tension harms economy: business leader

Ho Kwon Ping

Tension between Singaporeans and expats could undermine the city-state’s status an economic success story, warned leading businessman Ho Kwon Ping warned.

“One of the major reasons that I think we can decline is what I would call social schizophrenia – the tension between the demands of a global city which in many ways we are and remaining a parochial kampong [Malay for village] which we still are … This tension between the Singapore core and foreign talent, this us versus them, it can become, if we’re not careful, a schizo-city,” he told a conference in the republic.

To reduce tension, residents must celebrate diversity instead of just accepting differences. Firms, the society and the government could help create a more social cohesion.

“Companies themselves … should create diversity and inclusion committees and really try to engender diversification. If we look at statistics on gender representation on the political level, the corporate level, the boardroom level, the management level, Singapore actually has not done well compared to other countries,” said the executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings.

Speaking at the Semi-Centennial Leadership Conference organised by the Singapore Business Federation, Ho said that civil society and the authorities should promote “a sense of diversity” beyond the four major ethnic groups: Chinese, Malays, Indians and others.

He said there were three types of cities: homogenous, diverse but cohesive, and diverse and divided.

Tensions in Singapore were inevitable with its large foreign population and the divided income levels, Ho said.

Ho warned against economic stagnation, as the Singapore stock exchange was “becoming smaller and smaller in the regional and the global context”.

“We can have a choice to create a shiny exemplary paradigm of Singapore as a society. If we are aware of all these things that we need to do, then essentially all of us with our own businesses in our economy can aspire towards a common goal. If we do not have a common goal, we’re just running our own individual businesses,” he said.

Reinforcing the city-state’s reputation for upholding the rule of law, the track invader who disrupted the Singapore Grand Prix in September has been sentenced to six weeks in jail.

Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia brought out the safety car when he accessed the track at Esplanade Bridge during the race.

Dhokia was arrested and earlier this week a Singapore district court sentenced him to six weeks in jail.

“The accused’s act was not only rash but was both selfish and foolhardy,” District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said.

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