I first noticed this as I watched the 2013 National Day Rally, during which Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, outlined government policy and programs for housing, education and healthcare reform. Sound familiar?
However, there were distinct differences from a typical USA State of the Union Address:
- It was actually a policy and future strategy speech, not a partisan campaign speech
- Prime Minister Lee actually described specific policy: for example, providing 25 minutes of detail on the actual cost of new housing in a specific housing complex as well as providing details on healthcare coverage thresholds and rules for new school choice programs.
- No discussion on foreign policy, funding Middle East regimes, or whether or not the military should be involved in the rest of the world's issues.
- No discussion on gun control, legalization of drugs, or undocumented workers etc. It's illegal - end of story.
Obviously, it's a little easier to manage a country of Singapore's size, age, population and border situation - but still, it was interesting to see the difference in approach and content.
While the speech itself was clearly designed to address the average Singaporean's concerns about their life, their children, and their future, it's only one part of the country's approach to resolve the concerns of Singapore's residents.
Another tool, very often on display in Singapore are the various government and local company Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that do their best to address several other "issues" across the country. Some advertise new incentives or solutions to some of the biggest domestic issues - while others simply try to influence behavioral change among the residents. Either way, a heavy dose of PSAs are in action across the country.
Here are a few I find the most interesting:
- Give up your seat to elderly, injured, pregnant, or otherwise in-need passengers
- Allow passengers to exit (alight) the train before trying to get on
- Move in once you get on the bus, allowing space for others to get on behind you.
Dengue is a real issue across Southeast Asia, and Singapore is no exception. The virus is transferred by the Aedes Mosquito and there's really no drug to cure it. There are several deaths a year in Singapore, and the only real way to prevent it is keep the mosquitos from breeding. There are annual campaigns led by the National Environmental Agency, encouraging Singaporeans to "Do the Mozzie Wipeout" to prevent breeding and the risk of the disease. (see the video here)
Don't Get Rubbed the Wrong Way:
By far, however, one of my favorite knee-jerk reaction ad campaigns, is the "Happy Everywhere" television ad put out by one of the local cable television / mobile phone providers, Starhub. In 2012, according to some Gallup study on how emotional the citizens of various countries are, Singapore was rated the least emotional country in the world. Not a country and government to let something like a Gallup study define them, a full court press of PSAs, commentary from the Prime Minister, etc. aimed at changing perception, and encouraging residents to show they are "happy". I can only imagine the mayor of Philadelphia - or better yet Detroit - trying to sell this ad campaign! (enjoy multiple videos here....and here...and here...and here..and here) - you get the point.
While I poke fun at some of these ads, I imagine they are having an impact. I've obviously noticed them. Now, if I can just get Gallup to produce a study stating the price of alcohol is too high in Singapore, and that's what's causing residents to be unhappy...maybe the government will react swiftly and address that domestic issue next!