Free Malaysia Today: Singapore, is what Malaysians want?!?!

Singapore, is what Malaysians want. That's the title of the article published in Free Malaysia Today.

Yes, at first glance it may simply be the classic case of "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence".

I wonder, though, if there's such a website called, "Free Singapore Today" which also responds with its article, "Malaysia, is what Singaporeans want". Heh.

A nobler choice for Bersih may be on how to seek policies and programmes that make a difference in the lives of Malaysians, because as always it is soft power that attracts.

For all the upheaval over Bersih, Singaporeans are just not having any of it. Hardly a peep rings out about Bersih in Singapore. That happening as it does, also sums generally the sentiments of the legions of Malaysians working or living in the Republic.

Many Malaysians, from all anecdotal samplings are resigned to working and enjoying the good life in the city-state. Politics has little or no bearing, let alone be fodder for the chattering classes.

Yet that is not the only draw about Singapore.

Statistics from Singapore’s Tourist Promotion Board said close to a million Malaysians visited the city-state in February of 2011, suggesting that geographical proximity and the soft power attraction of a well organised and modernised city does make a huge difference like how it is with the United States and Canada.

And again like the US and Canada, cultural ties and ethic affinity could have just mirrored that tourist explosion because for one thing, a common cultural contract in language, customs and traditional practices are the intangibles which can be tapped into, for commercial spin-offs.

Yet there is something about Singapore that Malaysians just cannot resist.

The allure lies in the tour packages offered by Singapore tour operators aimed just at Malaysians. Discounts are averaging 50% or more. That’s message enough for Malaysians to give their country a miss and head to Singapore. It may be a drain on valuable foreign exchange reserves for Malaysia, but the spirit of competition is extraordinarily “animal-like” in the city-state.

There are various shopping districts in Singapore. Little India, Orchard Road, Bugis Street, Marina Bay and Chinatown may be few and far between, but they nonetheless exude an allure unmatched by the wide variety of goods and trinkets that every Malaysian who has lived, worked and visited the nation knows how to partake in.

The nobler cause for Bersih

As how one shop owner said, our goods are, “appear every bit ‘Malaysian’ as they do when in Singapore”. Perhaps the very gamely exercise of appealing to Malaysians has two reasons. One is Singapore’s market is too small to exploit on economics of scale. Secondly, if anybody needs to expand his or her business the natural choice is to get Malaysians to hawk their wares to.

There maybe wide price disparities in goods between both nations, to speak of. But the security and the sure confidence that Malaysians will always feel safe in Singapore more than makes up for the disparity in exchange rates between both the nations. That makes many shopping belts in Singapore to operate until 11pm and some like Little India’s Shamsuddin Mustaffa are open all day!

In a tight ship where the model of democracy has often been likened to a corporate form of governance, the national ethos in the southern Republic has always been about preaching the virtue of pragmatism over dogma.

That cardinal difference of only seeking a betterment of peoples’ lives over abstract notions of freedom and human rights etc; does indeed set Singapore apart from the rest of world in developmental and material aggrandisement terms. If that gives a certain kind of international “heft” it sure is beginning to look it is.

Earlier this year the widely circulating national daily the Straits Times reported that Malaysians are lionising the city-state’s newly opened casinos. The other draw is the Formula One car races along with the Great Singapore Sale that lasts for two months at least.

Not to be outclassed is the Singapore Zoo. With its world-class billing, its 28 landscape hectares and open concept are a far cry from the sad concrete confines some zoos retain. There are more than 2,500 animals in this zoo.

Completely different from the Singapore Zoo is the Night Safari. Tourists can tour past a parade of 120 different spot-lit nocturnal species in an atmospheric 45-minute train ride. With just 400 animals in some Malaysian zoos, it is little wonder many from across the Causeway do know where to discover an “enriching” experience.

Malaysia is a privileged country as far as Singapore is concerned. Because Malaysian tourists who visit Singapore for a different experience only need to pay half the price of tour packages compared to other tourists from elsewhere.

These could well be pointers for Bersih.

Seeking electoral reforms and the use of indelible ink for elections are noble causes indeed. A nobler choice for Bersih may be on how to seek policies and programmes that make a difference in the lives of Malaysians, because as always it is soft power that attracts.

From Free Malaysia Today, "Singapore, is what Malaysians want".


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