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Deconstructing the Singapore Dream

Posted by intellisg on August 21, 2007

This essay talks about the Singapore Dream. It will be integrated into Christopher’s current project Sowing the Seeds of Prosperity, a beginner’s guide to personal finance

There is a lot of talk about what the Singapore Dream is. Books have been written about it but there are seldom any specifics on what it really is. Could the Singaporean Dream be one where a person becomes a millionaire? Is it the accumulation of all the 5 Cs? Or is it is a complicated journey involving Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and reaching self-actualization?

“Living the Singapore Dream”, a book written by Tan Yong Soon, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, attempts to highlight the lives of 23 Singaporeans who are living the dream. The stories were originally meant to inspire fellow Singaporeans to stretch themselves to achieve personal success and happiness in their lives.

The original intention of the author was a very good one. His chapter headlines were all universally good advice. We are encouraged to “Triumph over life’s imperfections” and “Pursue your goals with passion and persistence”.

But sadly, this piece of work failed to inspire me. In fact, my personal assessment of this piece of work was that it was very flawed as it showcases only a small number of elite Singaporeans and presenting a very parochial view of what success is like in Singapore.

I took all 23 profiles of so called “successful” Singaporeans listed in this book and analyzed it based on some of the attributes of the people who were mentioned. Instead of focusing on what these people did like the author, I took a snapshot of who they were because this analysis can reveal underlying biases subconsciously introduced when selecting profiles of personal success. Another words, I performed some data mining with a pen and paper.

Here are the results of my findings:

Out of 23 profiles, only 3 were female. 20 profiles were male.

Of the same 23 number of profiles, 13 came from Raffles Institution. More shockingly, only two profiles were not explicitly linked to Raffles Institution or National Junior College. Perhaps there were only two schools of renown in the sixties and seventies.

All the profiles were Chinese with the exception of two, one was Malay and one was Indian.

All 23 profiles showed people with University degrees. There was no mention of anyone with HSC, Polytechnic diploma’s or ITE certificates. It may be possible that there were no polytechnics in those days but the road to success was overwhelmingly confined to graduates. No lip service was even paid to late bloomers in Singapore.

The only heart-warming news is that out of 23 profiles only 10 were scholars and there was an equal distribution of successful people from the public and private sectors.

With these findings, we can conclude very disturbing things about the Singapore Dream if we choose to believe the answers from our senior civil servants.

It looks to me that the Singapore Dream can only be lived by those from elite schools. If you do not invest enough time to your academic studies to get a solid university education, you won’t be significant enough for mention in Singapore. It is also much easier to live the dream if you are a Chinese male.

Now this is fantastic news for the Rafflesian or NJCian Chinese male. My concern is what happens if you are not part of this demographic. Do you give up, emigrate and pack up to go overseas?

Right now all I can say that many changes on the top are trying to convince Singaporeans that Singapore now recognizes people with diverse talents and skills. Education is being reformed to do something about the self-esteem of those who are not necessarily the best at regurgitating information. The prime minister’s latest rally is a testament that our government is committed to change.

But as a concerned citizen, I can’t help but urge readers to be realistic. Change does not happen overnight as our public service organizations are run by many old-school mandarins who came from a different era.

The solution lies with you, my fellow citizens.

Here’s what I think you can adopt towards a better world:

1. Accept the fact that the Singapore Dream is dead. We are much better off that way.

2. Determine what actions and deeds give you a sense of meaning and pleasure and pursue it regardless of what the authorities say.

3. Do not confine yourself to working and living on this little red dot. Your ability to work in other countries and your skills are powerful tools to enforce a democracy in Singapore, policy changes will reflect the need to retain intelligent people in this country.

4. Lastly, like any finance author would recommend all of his readers. Earn money, save money and invest intelligently. Once you gain your financial freedom, no one can tell you what dream you should have.

Disclaimer: The author is a NJCian Chinese male but he’s still insecure.


Christopher Ng Wai Chung, 32, is an IT Project manager who dabbles in personal finance and wealth management. His books, Growing your tree of Prosperity and Harvesting the Fruits of Prosperity meld his philosophical ideas with the realities of seeking financial independence in Singapore. His books can now be found in all major bookstores in Singapore.

His own blog can be found in He can be reached at

For more information about Chris Ng and his Prosperity Series, click here


14 Responses to “Deconstructing the Singapore Dream”

  1. Reader said

    We all to ought kill our fathers.

    ‘Haven’t you read Joseph Campbell?’

  2. Xiong said

    So out of millions of sporeans, only 23 are living the dream. Great.

  3. Super-Glue said

    The dream has already been shattered in to pieces beyond repair.
    How are you going to reconstruct it? Use super-glue?

  4. sitis said

    Dear all readers,

    The BH Press has relocated to this site. Sorry for the inconvenience and late notification. We hope you will continue to visit us and please pass the word around to your friends.

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  5. […] For an essay on the Singapore dream go to this link. […]

  6. Mainman said

    “Living the Singapore Dream” is a bad book, but I think one should not compare the Singapore dream with success.

    Achieving the Singapore dream is like an ultimate goal which is beyond success. So the demographics need not matter that much as its just a “dream state” which is sort of like financially enlightenment… Hard to get there… But it exist.

  7. anon said

    The new singapore dream is try to get your CPF monies out before 55.

  8. abs said

    Is darkness going to write to support small blogs in ABS? I hope he does. He talks so much about the power of small, but I notice when it comes to forwarding and making the idea work, he leaves it others. Is this just all talk and no action?

  9. discarded said

    Are you sure that ABS exemplifies the “power of small”? If Darkness or any other individual/group is expected to make the “small” and powerful group, it becomes a “big”, and is no longer the “power of small” but an “evil power of one”.

  10. discarded said

    By the way, I am shoestring but my posts are always “discarded” whenever I used that moniker and associated email.

  11. reader2 said

    is this piece a…partial joke?

  12. […] Misanthropic And Loving It!: I live in a country populated by idiots – The Intelligent Singaporean: Deconstructing the Singapore Dream [Wai Chung’s review of Tan Yong Soon’s book “Living the Singapore Dream” sheds light on the […]

  13. Ieatnutsfordinner said

    abs said
    January 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Trust me. You dont ever want those guys to help you.

    4 or 5 yrs ago. In the Pacific Basin gaming network, a group of EU and US gamers thought it was a very good idea to set up the international gaming confederation.

    This was supposed to be something like NAFTA. One of their agendas was to limit the powers of privateers like the brotherhood. I dont think they wanted to kill them, but it would not be too far fetched to say they certainly wanted them to be put into something like Indian or aborigine reservations. They considered them vermins.

    Many were surprised when the IGF were getting their act together, bros didnt stop them. They didnt even protest. Infact, many said, they even gave technical assistance and even helped them behind the scenes to secure the signatures as it was not easy to get such a thing passed.

    When the IGF sat down for their first meeting to read a resolution to force the brotherhood to register.

    Unbeknown to them, out of 9 spokesmen 10 were secret brotherhood proxies. They had all been bribed or coerced into supporting their hidden agenda through the network of guilds. At around the same time, brotherhood forces parachuted elite mercenaries to seize all their communications and to arrest the ICG representatives in the virtual under trumped up charges. For 12 hours the game was even down, a complete blackout.

    It was executed with such military precision – first they hit the communications, sealed off the major trade routes, established blockades and declared martial law. It was done with only a handful of people, not a whole lot. Within 24 hours they had all but cut off the balls of the ICG – then under these conditions, they sent their diplomats to discuss terms and conditions for a new peaceful con-existence pact, they called the pact of steel.

    By that time, their tanks had taken over every single building. All ICG allies had by this time been neutralized and an exclusion zone was in force effectively blockading the planet D’ni.

    This was when they started to negotiate terms with the ICG.

    It is dangerous when you create a game. People will always play it. And what if they play to win?

    Use you brain.

  14. stickman said

    Those ahmorg all deserved a brotherhood shit chocolate cake. The way I see it, they deleted all brotherhood discourse. They even warned all forummers, ALL BROTHERHOOD DISCOURSE WILL BE DELETED>

    End result they became extinct instead. The way I see it, its survival of the fittest.

    If you are not in the league then dont make threats. If you do, it fair game for anyone to cut you to size.

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