Cultural Policy and the City-State Singapore and the “New Asian Renaissance”
It is not routine for nation-states to be praised for being funky. For years, however, Singapore was portrayed in the Western media as the archetypal interventionist state, with rules that affect almost every sphere of public and private life. Hence, one finds frequent references in foreign media to bans on the sale of chewing gum or sexually explicit literature and to social campaigns for promoting courtesy or toilet flushing. But the Time cover story was not simply an indication of a new turn in the perspective of foreign media. Referring to the article during the annual National Day Rally address-the equivalent of the State of the Union address in the United States-in August 1999, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong suggested that there was nothing inappropriate about Singapore being regarded now as funky. Indeed, he said that “making Singapore a fun place” had long been part of government policy: “People laugh at us for promoting fun so seriously. But having fun is important. If Singapore is a dull, boring place, not only will talent not want to come here, but even Singapore will begin to feel restless” (Straits Times, August 23, 1999).