My 'old' friend, Harold, invited me to blog on his new site. I wasn't sure at first because Harold is a funny guy and I am not. But, then, contrast may be good.
Inspired by his piece on globalisation, I would like to make a pitch on behalf of the Singapore International Foundation. The SIF was established 15 years ago, a year after Goh Chok Tong became PM. I was very much involved in its formation. Chan Heng Chee was available after her tour at the UN; Simon Tay was prepared to help push Singapore Volunteers Overseas. So we were off to a flying start. The Swiss provided a good model for us. They were globalised long before we were and had developed a worldwide web for themselves. When they were overseas, they established Swiss rifle ranges (including one in Singapore) to keep up their marksmenship skills. When their entrepreneurs failed and were stranded in foreign lands, they had a fund to bring them home. And, of course, it was the Swiss who started the International Red Cross.
SIF has two basic objectives. First, to link up overseas Singaporeans with each other and with the home country. Second, to create an international network of friends of Singapore. Since 1991, Singapore society and the Singapore economy has become much more globalised. For a relatively small city-state, we now have quite a large international presence. Our external wing will continue to grow for many years to come. We are succeeding in transcending the limitations of our geographical confines.
I had an interesting discussion this morning with Peggy Kek, Deputy Executive Director of the SIF, and Steve Wyatt, an American from the Monitor Group who has lived in Singapore for six years. The SIF is taking stock of its achievements and reviewing its corporate positioning for the future. This is an exciting time for Singaporeans as frontiers once closed are opened to us, in all directions. We have more external space than we are able to make full use of because of our small population. Happily, we have many friends who are more than willing to help us including Steve who is working pro bono for the SIF review.
Many years ago, SIF sent a small team of surgeons to Malang in East Java to help train doctors there repair cleft lips. A small effort, but one that changed the lives of young children who would otherwise grow up scarred and stigmatised. Through various programmes, we have helped train tens of thousands of people from developing countries over the years. More than we realise, many of them treasure their links to Singapore. When the Crown Prince of Bhutan visited us recently, he told us that we have many friends in his mountain kingdom. We should cherish these friendships. There will be times when we ourselves will need help.