Singapore prepares to celebrate jubilee

City state Singapore is pulling out all stops to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

SINGAPORE (AUGUST 7, 2015) (REUTERS) – Banners with “SG50” festoon buildings throughout Singapore, as workers put the final touches on a grandstand and other facilities in the city centre which will be the stage for lavish celebrations scheduled for August 9 when the city-state celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Singapore, once a British tropical outpost, has transformed itself into an affluent, global city state in just over a generation.

As the now-developed nation prepares to celebrate its jubilee, many Singaporeans are proud.

“It’s only 50 years for a small nation like us, so we have achieved so much. It’s a year that Singaporeans will want to remember forever,” said Ang Yang Jie Ling, a 17-year-old Singaporean student.

The celebration comes less than five months after the death of the country’s founder, Lee Kuan Yew, which prompted an unprecedented show of grief among its population of 5.5 million people.

“And as a Singaporean, definitely we are very proud, and that is why we make use of these four days of this public holiday to spend time with our family, to bring the kids to experience what Singapore has achieved,” said Phyllis Tan, a mother of two who was on her way to the museum to teach her children about Singapore’s history.

Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This year, it was named the most expensive city in the world to live in by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and is also listed as receiving the world’s second highest migration of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) to its shores.

Jeff Ng, an Asia economist Standard Chartered bank, attributed some of Singapore’s success to its ability to adapt and transition to move in line with global trends.

“So I think Singapore’s growth has been pretty exceptional over the past 10-15 years considered that we’ve gone through a period of time where the global financial crisis dragged economies into negative growth throughout the whole world, and also I think over the past few years where growth conditions were pretty challenging as well,” he said.

Chef-cum-entrepreneur, Benson Ng, who runs a wanton noodle bar near the central business district, says he was inspired by the founder of a popular noodle stand who set up shop just three years after Singapore’s independence in 1965.

As an entrepreneur, Ng said Singapore was the perfect place to start a business and to follow individual passions.

“Yeah definitely previous generations did their best in building Singapore, and because of them, Singapore is quite stable now, life is much easier compared to the previous generation, and compared to lots of other countries. Yeah, I think, from now, for us, it’s what we can give back to the country,” he said.

But not everyone on the island has seen the fruits of its development and economic success.

Singapore may be home to the wealthy and the many who aspire to be rich, but Singapore’s income inequality is one of the highest in the world amongst developed countries.

Lin Koong Seng spends everyday pushing a rickety trolley around Singapore’s Chinatown collecting paper and cardboard from businesses and homes to sell on for a small price.

He was 25 at independence and is in a category of people the government calls the “pioneer generation”.

“I admit, the country has improved a lot. But for us, because the pace of development has been too fast, we couldn’t catch up, so we got left behind. Once we are left behind, our lives have become terrible, how do we catch up? As I said just now, in this kind of situation, there’s no road forward, nor backwards. What can we do?” he said.

Celebrations include a military parade, a fireworks display and a four-day weekend for the residents.