Economic, foreign policy and security challenges for Singapore

11 Dec 2018

A large part of Singapore’s success in the international arena is attributable to a foreign policy of being a friend to all states, while also prioritising its own national interests. As Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has stated:

The ultimate objectives of our foreign policy are first to protect our independence and sovereignty, and second, to expand opportunities for all Singaporeans to overcome our geographic limits. The existential challenge is how we achieve this.

Singapore occupies an area smaller than New York City, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has declared that while his is a small country, it has a strong international reputation that allows it to participate globally. In the Indo-Pacific region, Singapore is a key economic hub, with foreign direct investment standing at 19.65% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The small, thriving state may, however, be confronted by a more challenging future, with competition and security issues potentially threatening its success. Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are both growing as rival economic hubs. Add to that the challenges produced by transnational issues, such as terrorism and changing regional geopolitics, and there is a clear need for Singapore to re-consider its traditional foreign policy objectives.

Key points:

  • Singapore is exploring new economic initiatives to maintain its prosperity.
  • The changing geopolitical environment will present challenges for Singapore in the future.
  • Singapore’s balancing act between China and the United States is an attempt to maintain regional stability.
  • Australia’s own relationships with the US and China are, in many ways, similar to those of Singapore, which is helping to foster even greater collaboration between the two countries.
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