Nguyen Thi Truc
Recently, journalists from the ASEAN community, including Viet Nam, completed a tour of Singapore hosted by the country's Ministry of Communications and Information.
The tour provided them with valuable insights into daily life, the nation's political system - and values guiding the operation of society.
Importantly, it also provided a compelling reminder for Viet Nam: to reap the gains from opportunities to perform on the international stage.
Local media report that five years after the Grand Prix was first held in the Island State, the event continues to benefit the local economy. Each race weekend brings in about S$150 million (US$125 million) in added tourism revenue, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore.
Eager to build its reputation as a sporting and events destination, Singapore's government forecasts that tourist arrivals will rise to 17 million and tourism revenue to US$30 billion by 2015.
The country's ability to parley events into economic prosperity is a positive reminder of the benefits Viet Nam will be able to reap from hosting the 2019 Asian Games, officially known as the eighteenth Asiad. The event will require a US$150 million investment, a large sum considering Viet Nam's struggling economy.
The Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Hoang Anh Tuan, said at this year's June 13 National Assembly Question and Answer session, that more than 80 per cent of tourists surveyed across Viet Nam said they would return. Taking a long term view of the infrastructure needed to host the event, he said this would enable Viet Nam to prepare itself to host the Olympic Games.
During our tour of Singapore, journalists visited Ang Mo Kio, a six-member group in the northeast of the Island Nation that allows MPs to meet constituents one night a week. The forum allows the complaints of locals to be heard, many of whom are elderly citizens.
Visitors spoke about their problems; ranging from health care, housing - and employment for newly graduated sons. Sometimes, they discussed quarrels between neighbours, and even husband and wife.
Inderjit Singh, an entrepreneur, has been a politician in Singapore's parliament since 1996. His experience enables him to hear the problems affecting constituents. He said that about half the complaints could be satisfactorily resolved.
It was easy to see why and how Singh had become so successful as a politician and a businessman. he is currently executive chairman of Tri Star Electronics Pte Ltd and CEO of Infiniti Solution Pte Ltd and Solstar International Pte Ltd.
"What is the Singaporean identity?" was the question many journalists wanted to ask of a city that is largely Chinese but has strong Malay and Indian communities.
The Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, said it was not easy to describe, and that it was easier to talk about "certain values. "For example, Singaporeans upheld meritocracy. "
Regardless of race, language or religion, that phrase stands out. It is the very core of who we are," said Wong.
The same day, the Singaporean daily The Straits Times reported that the Public Service Commission (PSC) was casting its net wider to schools that did not traditionally produce government scholarship winners. This was a bid to increase diversity in government ranks and prevent elitism.
PSC chairman Eddie Teo was quoted as saying the commission would reduce elitist cliques by taking students from different socio-economic backgrounds and sending them to a wide range of universities. The result? The proportion of scholarship holders from traditional sources has shrunk.
PSC scholarships are seen as a pipeline for future top senior civil servants. But, until now, the perception has always been that they are given mainly to students from top junior colleges. "A public service comprising only the privileged and upper classes would add to the impression that meritocracy leads to a lack of social mobility in Singapore," Teo said.
"We need a diverse public service to avoid ‘groupthink' and to appreciate the needs of a diverse Singapore population," Teo said, adding that the PSC now used psychological interviews and psychometric tests to determine qualities such as leadership, character, interpersonal skills and stress tolerance.
This was a solid reminder that Singapore has the most advanced education system in Asia with some of its universities ranking among the top institutions in the world. In Viet Nam, we talk year after year about education reform, but little is done.
Vietnamese university entrance exams provide moving examples of young and poor students overcoming poverty to achieve high marks - especially those from remote areas. Our Prime Minister has assigned a special bank to provide loans to enable students to continue their studies, however, there is more to be done. Poor students continue to be weighed down by the responsibility of caring for their next of kin, even while in college.
Finding a job after graduation can be a big problem in Viet Nam. One on-line newspaper reported that Phan Thi Thu Trang, a masters' degree holder in central Da Nang City, met Chairman Nguyen Ba Thanh from the Party Central Committee's Home Affairs Commission. She told Thanh, who is also a National Assembly deputy, that she had been looking for work for three years without any success. And she said she had friends in similar circumstances, too.
As a nation hoping to reap the gains of economic opportunity and build the foundations to achieve the lofty heights of Singapore as a trading, investment and even sporting nation, we need to look at ourselves first before we seek help. — VNS