In case you might be thinking that I'm pulling yet another Adam Khoo...
Happy Chinese New Year !!!!
Singaporeans with a Malaysian background already dominate many spheres in Singapore. Our nation has grown from the brain gain that we have received from their ethnic Chinese population.
Khaw Boon Wan ,our National Development minister, came from Penang and should recently be congratulated for reducing COV to about $5,000.
Olivia Lum, founder of Hyflux, started out the in sleepy Malaysian town of Kampar and is responsible for the creation of many local jobs in Singapore today.
According to The Triple Package by Amy Chua of the Tiger Mother fame, Malaysian Chinese form an ethnic group which I think has the same traits as many successful American immigrants today.
Let's examine each component of this Triple Package :
a) Sense of Superiority
We can say that Malaysian Chinese do have a sense of superiority. While it is'nt targetted towards Singaporeans, I would say that they feel very much persecuted at home and denied many privileges back in Malaysia. Many could have done well in the Universities in the north but are very much better off studying here where their merits can be recognised in our country. The sense of superiority would be directed back to their homeland where they feel that they are still doing well economically despite being constantly forced to function with a handicap.
Although Malaysians do integrate well in Singapore compared to other foreign talent. It would be naive to think that they do not suffer from some scorn within Singaporean society today. Some Singaporean Chinese complain that they speak Mandarin with a strong accent, and many are disadvantaged in the workplace due to poorer English. Any group which faces scorn or a drop in status will develop a chip on the shoulder so I would think that naturally many Malaysian Chinese do want to prove themselves here. Not just to the meaner Singaporeans they face at work but also to their fellow citizens back home.
c) Impulse Control
Immigrant populations come built-in with a lot of impulse control. Imagine the life the Malaysian student in Senai, who has to wake up at 4.30am to attend a Junior College in Singapore. He probably spends 3-4 hours travelling. He does that because he thinks that a Singaporean education is a ticket to a better future. That kind of willpower and conscientiousness simply cannot be imagined if you are a local. As it often happens on the ground, Singaporeans still do better in school and do well in academic scores, but I bet Malaysian Chinese may do better over the long run because a difficult lifestyle also means more opportunities to develop resilience and grit.
So, what this all mean for us Singaporeans ?
I won't want spread any fear about Malaysian Chinese, half my family is Malaysian, my daughter practically grows up in Johor as well. I also consider the brain gain from Malaysian a primary reason why we are an economic miracle today in South East Asia.
Here's what I think :
a) The advantages of being Malaysian Chinese will not last one generation.
The main reason is that we are not too bad and remain largely kiasu. We already work the longest hours in the world.
Unlike the US, Singaporeans of all races would rank pretty highly with the Triple Package. Singaporean parents always think that their kids are the best and very much more neurotic than our ASEAN neighbours. The kids of Malaysian Chinese are likely to grow up Singaporean and will adopt our values and weaknesses. They will not have the fighting spirit of their parents. Many will end up requiring Adam Khoo's services like Singaporean kids these days.
b) Policy considerations should be made to keep Singaporeans and the country "Insecure" and conscientious.
The Triple Package may have policy implications.
Singaporeans have been recently asking for too many populist measures from the Government. We already have a fairly good healthcare and social security system.
But some changes do bother me like taking out the t-score for PSLE. Why do we want to make our future generations less competitive ? I think the West gets it wrong, we need to master something before we should be given any self-esteem. The worse thing for Singapore is that our children think that they are really smart but get rolled over by harder working students in China who are better at handling stress.
Stress is necessary for the building of character. Introduce a t-score for University entrance.
I would'nt want to get into the welfare or minimum wage debate but it's quite clear where I stand on this debate.
c) Fight the Philistine culture
The rise of a materialistic philistine culture is also something we need to guard against. My observation of the Singapore middle class is that as hardworking as it is, it has never developed a culture of intellectualism. Even intelligent Singaporeans do not focus on ideas, they focus on material goods and things. There are over 400 Maseratis in Singapore but not a single Nobel prize.
Impulse control is cultivated by a culture which promotes Intellectualism as you need patience and dedication to develop a philosophy and outlook on life. The Patek Phillipe watch just needs a bank loan.
And we've chosen the quick fix as a way to measure status in our society.