City vs Country

I believe that one of the most profound and abstract contradiction that Singapore experiences is its dual existence as a city and as a country. The city is the basis for economic existence, but the country is the basis for national survival. The city is about being open to flows of ideas, people and capital; a country is about security, community and stability. The two of them have counter-acting tendencies, and they will always be in tension. Slide5

In Singapore, one cannot do without the other; the city provides the economic basis for funding the programmes for the country; the country provides the security for the city to carry out its business. Yet the city’s tendencies affect the ability to form communities will be challenged as it constantly adapts to the inflows of capital, people and ideas. Communities could also do with new ideas, and people, but there will always be a time period required for assimilation. Too many people and too many ideas can challenge existing community norms too much. Capital also has its dangers, as it pushes up the costs of living for the rest of the inhabitants. 

Yet there is also no other way about this. Again, we need to the city to prosper, but the country to survive.



  1. Andrew

    You could have a city in the country. If we adopt the City of London method, the CBD are could be gazetted as a separate city from the rest of the country and we could manage transactional immigration (ideas, people, capital) through the city and manage “true” immigration through the areas around the city. Simple change in immigration laws, zoning of areas and you could essentially achieve both. Admittedly you might see more citizens “moved” out of your downtown core, but you will end up in essence with the best of both worlds. The cosmopolitan city required to create the wealth and opportunities and the country and community need to sustain those opportunities.

  2. K.

    A city is not a marketplace nor a trading post. My concept of cities vs country would be like those of ancient China. Each city had to care for its own security and economic progress, very much the same concerns a country would have to deal with. They are just miniatures of countries. It is only recently that cities could with abandon relegate those duties to a central government i.e. America.

    I would however look at the openness of each economy to understand the pace of change required out of the city/country, as the dependency of an economy to its trading partners would better determine the change in the economic model and hence necessary culture to fuel that change in a battle for survival in an every globalizing world. Looking at the rising comparative advantage of countries which are moving towards a similar production model as you are might be a hint of what kind of a cultural/mindset shift you might need to compete in the same products.

    How far a society can afford to mantain its culture it how much competitive advantage that culture has created in the production of the goods and services it provides. Its just a supposition but I hope it makes some snese. My two cents worth =)

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