July 16th, 2012
07:20 PM GMT
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Editor’s note: Outlook is CNN's in-depth look at business climates around the world. To August 12, 2012, we’re focusing on Singapore.

Singapore (CNN) – It is 47 years since Singapore became an independent city state and a swamp was transformed into an economic powerhouse.

Fostering a sense of identity among Singaporeans was key to its early development, which is why city planners in the 1960s made public housing a priority, giving 80% of the population a place to live.

Today the building continues as the trading port, once an important stop on the Silk Route, is one of the three busiest in the world and welcoming more shipping each year.

If trade and a maritime history have made Singapore what it is today, the city’s planners are already looking to the future and other industries to keep its economy in check. Tourism has joined hi-tech and precision manufacturing as priorities for the government with long-term plans for growth.

“What they have done well is to think many steps ahead,” says Tai Hui of Standard Chartered. “Not only for the next 3 to 5 years but sometimes 5 to 10 if you look at the way they shaped the tourism industry to integrated resorts.”

But if shaping the economy has been a priority for the government of Singapore, it has also caused some problems for a population that have grown to depend on it.

“The first two or three decades, where the government delivered something this, developed a habit that whenever you have a problem you look to the government for a solution,” says Singapore’s former chief planner Lui Thai Ker. “I think this kind of culture needs to change so people look to themselves to solve their personal problems.”

To help foster creativity and wean a population off state-backed initiatives the government hasn’t completely let go of the reins. It has set the agenda by prioritizing trade, finance and tourism as sectors to grow and challenged the population to fulfil their potential.

CNN’s Outlook series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries we feature. However CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reporting.

Filed under: Outlook Singapore

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. medhat

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    July 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  2. Saurabh Gaur

    Agreed and agreed.
    I have seen and experienced it first hand for the past 7 years and believe there are a lot of things to learn from this City State
    1) How to promote racial harmony
    2) Keep crime strictly under control
    3) Keep good relations with neighbors
    4) Plan, Plan and Plan

    Something a lot of governments can draw lessons from..

    July 18, 2012 at 10:48 am |
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  4. Tony

    The article lost me at the first sentence. To assume that Singapore was just a swap at independence is mildly inaccurate. It is portrayed this way in order to give the independence story more excitement – it is far from the truth.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:51 am |
  5. Singto123

    "CNN’s Outlook series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries we feature. However CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reporting." This is quite amusing.... Go get 'em CNN...

    July 25, 2012 at 3:52 am |
  6. malaysian

    What made Singapore so successful?

    Answer: All the talented Malaysians who go there to work. All the best brains and best workers from Malaysia. Hire Malaysians, we're the best!

    July 27, 2012 at 5:22 am |
  7. Singaporean


    The Malaysians we hired here are mostly cooks and security guards... Way to go guys!

    July 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  8. Eddy

    Singapore is a FAKE state; people suffer without jobs and long hours under communist capitalist rule by LEE dynasty. Its depletion of foreign banks in US in 08 and now Euro Crisis caused many to fled; If Malaysia and Singapore border is completely opened, Singapore will sink. No tourists go there so less jobs; SIA flights for trnsits only; living cost stays higher than Europe. Money is in Hong Kong offshore. Whats so good about Singapore?

    August 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
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