21 Apr 2005

Fun City?

Andy Mukherjee is a columnist for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.

Can Singapore Rediscover Itself as a Fun City?: Andy Mukherjee April 21 (Bloomberg)-

Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, described his island nation in parliament this week as ``a neat and tidy place with no chewing gum, no smoking in air- conditioned places, no this, no that -- not a fun place.''

Lee was explaining why he has decided to overcome personal misgivings about gambling in order to back his son and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's decision to scrap a four-decade- old ban on casinos in the city-state.

With China and India chipping away at Singapore's manufacturing and service businesses, the city-state can't remain a top draw in Asia for money and talent simply because it's "a healthy and wholesome society, safe and secure for everyone,"as the 81-year-old leader put it.

Lee's diagnosis is correct. Still, Singapore should concentrate on having casinos to fulfill a limited objective of attracting more tourists and creating more jobs. Any goal of creating ``urban buzz,'' which is the jargon often used in Singapore to describe what the city is lacking, is largely a serendipitous outcome. Even a government as efficient as Singapore's can't manufacture it.

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