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[February 11, 2013]
Social harmony key to growth for multinational states: former Singapore minister
DUBAI, Feb 11, 2013 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- A former Singaporean minister said here Monday that well organized and technologically advanced government services are essential to keep societies where many ethnic groups live side by side stable.
Speaking at a panel discussion of the two-day United Arab Emirates Government Summit, which started in its first edition Monday, Chan Soo Sen, Singapore's former minister of state for education, trade and industry, said Singapore's economic success story was not only based on building up a liberal and well- connected economy, but also on social harmony.
"Social harmony through good governance and public services is key for sustainable prosperity," said Chan, "especially for city state like Singapore, which has no natural resources but has a multicultural society." According to the official, 75 percent of the 5.3 million Singaporeans are of Chinese origin, while 15 percent are Malay, 8 percent are Indians and 2 percent are of other origins. Religious diversity is likewise high. While Buddhists and Taoists make up to 53 percent of the total population, Muslims and Christians stand for 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
Chan gave a number of examples of how stability can be reached among people of different ethnics. Every citizen in Singapore is obliged to speak the language of his origin and English, he said, "This is compulsory and important, otherwise Singaporeans would feel their origin has no place in society and we could not communicate with each other or with the world." In addition, Singapore established a National Council that supports voluntary organizations so that people get a feeling that helping each other is supported by the state. The city state also upgraded its government services by rewarding the use of e-public services.
"If a I apply for a new passport at the ministry of interior, I have to pay 80 U.S. dollars, but if I do so online, I get a 10-U.S. dollar discount," Chan said such incentives made people happy and contributed to social harmony. "People who are angry at the state because of bad services are not good for harmony," added Chan.
According to the World Competitiveness Index developed by IMD Business School in Lausanne, Singapore ranks second behind Hong Kong in public services.
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