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Towards a city-state of happiness

Singapore has made an impressive journey since its independence, and it will be 48 years old on Friday. What then is the next step?

Singapore has made an impressive journey since its independence, and it will be 48 years old on Friday. What then is the next step?

The National Pledge has the answer.

It outlines that Singapore’s blueprint is “to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress”, and this city-state has already enjoyed the prosperity and progress. It is time to move on to happiness.

I see at least two outstanding social issues. The first is income inequality: Singapore’s Gini coefficient has been above the warning line of 0.4 for decades, and has risen from 0.454 in 2001 (before Government transfers and taxes) to 0.478 last year.

Singapore’s income gap is higher than that of the developed Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

The second is social compassion: Singapore’s rank in the World Giving Index, compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation using data gathered by Gallup, fell from 91st in 2010 to 114th last year, far behind its regional peers of Hong Kong (19th), South Korea (45th) and Taiwan (52nd).

There is an old Chinese saying: “Inequality is more troublesome than deficiency.”

It is not easy for people to live happily in a society where the pressures of competition and comparisons prevail.

Singapore has not suffered social unrest from its income inequality and there is no question either that happiness needs some material support. However, the key to a happy society lies more in the solidarity among its members.

As a successful business society, Singapore’s bigger challenge is not how to sustain economic growth in the future, but how to create a city-state of happiness, where individuals enjoy quality life while also caring for others.

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