Singapore’s Golden Jubilee makes me feel unspeakably proud. Since our improbable conception as an independent nation sited within an unstable geopolitical environment, we’ve managed to vault into pole position in the region, punching well above our weight both economically and geopolitically.
With the pride comes a deep sense of awe and humility as I use this landmark anniversary to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead for Singapore in general, and Mountbatten in particular.
To my mind, it’s not enough to ask what we need to do to maintain Singapore’s standing: we need to push ourselves to ask what it will take for us to make Singapore an exceptional country.
To me, the answer to that question lies in our people and our communities.
One of the greatest challenges we face as a nation moving ahead will be to maintain and strengthen community bonds in the face of increasing population pressures.
Nationally, increasing social mobility is critical to keeping Singapore strong and cohesive. Our national philosophy of meritocracy must continue being our guiding light, but we need to recognize that as each succeeding generation of Singaporeans passes, our system of meritocracy confers inherent advantages to those already ahead that the less economically well off do not benefit from.
Locally, what makes Singapore strong is our sense of community, reflected in our built environment and our common spaces. When we speak of bringing back the “kampong spirit”, we must never lose sight of the fact that for the “kampong spirit” to thrive, our “kampongs” need to be preserved.
There is no better place to reflect on these challenges than from the vantage point of Mountbatten.
Within the constituency, there’s a diverse range of people from different socio-economic backgrounds: some of the wealthiest in our country live in the landed estates in the constituency, while some of the poorest live in rental housing estates.
Singapore’s challenge, in closing the mobility gap between those who’ve made it and those who aspire to make it, is writ large in Mountbatten. This is a challenge we need to confront, and a gap we need to close.
Singapore’s challenge to preserve, promote and enhance our national identity, is also Mountbatten’s. Mountbatten is a constituency with a unique identity and a rich history.
Encompassing parts of Katong, Mountbatten has a distinctly “Katong” spirit that’s hard to put your finger on but which you’d immediately recognize if you chit chat with the elderly convent schooled aunties at Dakota Crescent.
The built environment of Mountbatten is also unique: one of Mountbatten’s most recognizable estates is the 17 blocks at Dakota Crescent, with the iconic small tiled dove playground.
To keep our Mountbatten community strong, we need to preserve, promote and enhance the built environment of Mountbatten, as well as the local businesses that have taken root in the community and which sustain it.
Mountbatten is a small constituency, but one with a distinct identity. I believe Mountbatten, like Singapore, can punch above its weight if we get our priorities right.
While celebrating how far we’ve come as a nation economically and on the world stage, it’s important never to lose sight of the people and communities that make up Singapore. Our people and our communities have made Singapore strong, and I am committed to strengthening our people and our communities because I believe that together, we can make Singapore exceptional.
Happy National Day. Majulah Singapura!