Singapore NO, Jamaica YES!

Upper class verandah talkers love to compare Singapore to Jamaica. “How much better off we would be with a Lee Kwan Yew!” they lament. Now you have to admire Singapore’s accomplishments. Starting from virtually the same level as Jamaica in 1962 it has become one of the 10 richest countries per capita, and is spotlessly clean and crime free. 

Of course the place dubbed “Disneyland with the death penalty” is one of the world’s most tightly regulated countries. You can be prosecuted for chewing gum or not flushing a public toilet or wearing your hair too long. Press freedom is non-existent. And with 82 of 84 parliamentary seats the People’s Action Party rules unchallenged, regularly suing and bankrupting those who criticize it and never losing a case. But are economic prosperity and freedom from fear not worth a few inconveniences? 

Singapore became rich the way all non-oil producing countries do, just look at this list of office space in the city! They did have an exceptionally intelligent and energetic founding leader in Lee Kwan Yew, but a coach can only be as good as his team. One thing that struck me in Lee’s 2001 book “From Third World To First” – a surprisingly popular work with the Jamaican intelligentsia – was how threatened Singapore felt in its early days. Having left the Malaysia Federation under acrimonious circumstances this minute mostly Chinese island not only lived in constant fear of being overwhelmed by its much larger Malaysian neighbour, but had virtually no natural resources. No wonder its people were and remain so relentlessly driven. As Sam Johnson remarked, the threat of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully. 

  

Jamaica and Singapore economyOur island paradise on the other hand is incomparably blessed by nature and has not faced an external threat since 1655. Independent Jamaica has never had any pressing reason to put its nose to the grindstone, and hasn’t. 

Now I’ve often wondered if given a choice the average Jamaican would swap his lifestyle and all it entails for the Singaporean equivalent. Would we be collectively willing to work like bees in a hive and give up our exceptional emotional freedom in return for wealth and security? 

Personally I doubt it, and the Jamaicans I know who have been to Singapore tend to agree. I’ve only made one short visit there and certainly have no desire to return. It was clean, rich, safe, sterile and boring. And while not visibly miserable the people were no bundles of joy – I didn’t hear much laughter. As a friend joked, in Singapore everything works and people should be happy but aren’t. While in Jamaica nothing works and people shouldn’t be happy but are. 

Apart from its economic success Singapore has made practically no mark on the world at large. Lee Kwan Yew is the only Singaporean whose name rings a bell outside his country. Contrast this to – and these are but a few – Usain Bolt, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley and Merlene Ottey. As far as I know there is no such thing as a recognizably Singaporean culture, while the Jamaican lifestyle and its music are admired and imitated all over the planet. All this must count for something in a national comparison. 

But these are the opinions of a relatively well off Jamaican. Maybe, I used to say to myself, poor people here would gladly welcome a Singaporean mode of existence in return for a good education, well paid job, comfortable house, nice car, first rate health system and crime free environment. But then I read this article. 

“Singaporeans have little time for sex”.

“Work is killing Singaporeans’ sex drive. Too stressed from their jobs, they have little drive to make love at the end of the day, a study shows. The result is that Singaporeans below the age of 40 have sex six times a month, far lower than many other societies, said Professor Victor Goh from the National University of Singapore…. The low sex rate is a dilemma for the government which has come up with a variety of schemes to boost declining birth rates among a wealthy population obsessed with chasing careers, condominiums and cash… And do Singaporeans want more sex? Results from the study are not promising. About 40 per cent of men and only 20 per cent of women below 40 said they wanted more. ‘Sex life should be more important.’ Goh said. ‘You have to prioritise and make the effort…’” 

  

At first I thought this was a joke. Only after re-reading did I realize Goh was serious. When I mentioned it on the phone to a friend he laughed in derision – “That is one sick and perverted country!”

This study is incontrovertible proof that Jamaicans will never adopt a Singaporean lifestyle. There is no way on God’s earth jobs or money will ever rank higher than sex on this country’s list of priorities. No one will ever be able to say with a straight face that “Sex life should be more important to Jamaicans”. And hell will freeze over before any study shows 60 per cent of Jamaican men saying they don’t want more sex. 

It’s definitely possible to place too much emphasis on sex. But as Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote to his wife “…all the rest is determined by it.” And while one can understand individuals choosing celibacy, a country that has no time for physical intimacy must be fundamentally unhappy. For are not a people who spurn the act of procreation in essence committing national suicide? 

Now the “six times a month” Singaporean figure made me wonder what the Jamaican rate is. The AIDS society and the UWI sociology department don’t know of any local study on the topic, but perhaps the nation’s resident sex expert Daddy Oh can shed some light on the subject. Although you have to wonder how such a thing can be measured accurately. 

In 2000 Durex asked people in 27 countries how often they had sex. Responses ranged from 132 times per year in America to only 37 in Japan. But as the BBC website commented, “this probably says as much about bragging as actual sexual behaviour”. And the average Jamaican man would no doubt answer “Every day, and twice on Sundays!”

Written by Kevin O’Brien Chang

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Dave Clarke
5 years ago

Give me Jamaica “,,,every day and twice and Sundays!”

Dave Clarke
5 years ago

Give me Jamaica “,,,every day and twice and Sundays!”

Nigel Campbell
5 years ago

As a Trinidadian, I salute our caribbean neighbour. Money isn’t everything but that said I still think that Jamaicans could use some more cash especially the poor.

Garth Delapenha
5 years ago

I now realize and my wife will agree, in fact has long said, that my priorities are seriously out of whack.

Alex LeeMagic Green
5 years ago

sweet sweet jamaica mi nah lef yah

Cislyn Blackwood
5 years ago

Singapore made education a priority for all children. Jamaica fall short, people need to be educated not only academically but encourage to save and invest. I love my country but hope we wake up to the priorities of setting example for our children so they will have a better future, .

Craig Young
5 years ago

We have a pressing need to ‘put our nose to the grindstone’: POVERTY.

The other way to look at it is how much happier Jamaicans might be in better circumstances. We aren’t Singaporeans and will never be, if we were as prosperous as they, we’d make it look cooler and a hell of a lot more fun.

Thanks for encouragement. Really. But we can AND WILL do better. No excuses necessary.

Jeremy McGhie
5 years ago

how many of you people saying gimme jamaica any day have migrated or planning to migrate you guys are all a bunch of hypocrites who deserve the state of high crime and political morass

Jeremy McGhie
5 years ago

how many of you people saying gimme jamaica any day have migrated or planning to migrate you guys are all a bunch of hypocrites who deserve the state of high crime and political morass

Andrew Salmon
5 years ago

I agree with you 100% the people of Singapore have endure poverty and difficulty but were not enslaved for nearly 500 years. Do not endure racism the degree black people endure. Their history wasnt eraced and replaced with lies. Their education system was not designed to ensure their people grow feeling less than humans not having the belief they can excel at science and technology and not just music, sports, food, skills etc. Yes Jamaica and Singapore both started from poverty but unlike Singapore our people, history and self worth was ravaged by slavery. Alot of the ills in Jamaica… Read more »

Fabian Black
5 years ago

I Would say that Jamaica can learn somethings from Singapore hard work is already a part of being a Jamaican however we should learn to use our hard work to build a better society. Yes i am an immigrant, would love to see Jamaica take a big step forward financially, it would be so good to see the government allow immigrants like myself build commerce without the shake down allowing us as Jamaicans living abroad to invest in sweet Jamaica.

Fabian Black
5 years ago

I Would say that Jamaica can learn somethings from Singapore hard work is already a part of being a Jamaican however we should learn to use our hard work to build a better society. Yes i am an immigrant, would love to see Jamaica take a big step forward financially, it would be so good to see the government allow immigrants like myself build commerce without the shake down allowing us as Jamaicans living abroad to invest in sweet Jamaica.

JohannAndrine NJayden Cover

love how most persons focused on the sex part of this article and not the economic commentary!!! lol

Andrew Evelyn
5 years ago

So we should be happy with an indiscipline and borderline poverty society with a high crime rate, because to reach the level of a Singapore will require draconian laws and social changes that will reduce our happiness index? I do not buy it Sir. Every successful country has a high level of discipline which is engrained in the culture of the society. We desperately need that discipline to transform this country because what we have been doing for the last 50 years has gotten us nowhere!

Ato Carrington
5 years ago

I guess sex is more important to a country than economic progress…

Masia Lim
5 years ago

I am a Singaporean girl born in Singapore but lived, taught and created music for many years in Jamaica. I think the best way to look at it is not that one is better than the other, but how can we take the best characteristics of each culture and share it with one another. I am sharing the culture, vibes and positive outlook that I have learned from Yard here in Singapore. The world is a village. (ps. I’d take Jamaica over Singapore anyday LOL) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL4XqhRCnzQ

Nicole Clarke
5 years ago

I totally agree with Andrew Solman….. I couldn’t have said it better!

Rolando Rolly Fumes Forbes

Singapore I never want to be there no way every other day for Jamaica

Vivene Lue-tenn
5 years ago

Great perspective! I lived at R.A.F Changi ( British military brat, ages 6 to 13 ) from 1960 to 63′ and 1964 to 67′ and loved the “Old” Singapore and truly admire the success it has become. What’s good for some is not my idea of a life well and truly lived. Give me Jamaica, warts and all, any and every time!

Winston Holgate
5 years ago

The issue is there are those Jamaicans who loves lawlessness and corruption. So they will have faults with certain rules and regulations. I am not sure if the writer of this article lives in Singapore or even Jamaica. You think good weather is better than a strong economy. Have you seen the roads, the garbage, the filth water running for weeks? Homicides. Like some who would agree with the writer of this article I would not because I do not live in Singapore. I would have to experience it myself. I remember someone telling me about how Canada is not… Read more »

Chris Lue
5 years ago

Kevin, Did you talk, meet any citizens of Singapore in your brief visit ? To assume that you know if they are happy or not by the contents of some articles and non smiling faces when walking on the streets, is to believe as a visitor that you know Jamaica after going to an all inclusive and a visit to Dub Club.

Kipling Equality Powell

Best part of this filth is when he explained that he is well off unlike many of us , its OK in hell if you can afford A.C.

Andrew Salmon
5 years ago

The fact that some of our people refuse to work for the systems and some none at all cannot be seen as a true representation of our people. We have always rejected the collonial system which was as a result of slavery. Guess the same would be said about Haiti and us as far i history is concerned both islands have been brutally oppressed by the powers that be. Enslaved Africans resisted the British brutally of slavery and the trait has been passed on throughout generation. Thats a historical fact that enslaved Africans in Jamaica refused to work for the… Read more »

Andrew Salmon
5 years ago

refuse to work for the systems and some none at all cannot be seen as a true representation of our people. We have always rejected the collonial system which was as a result of slavery. Guess the same would be said about Haiti and us as far i history is concerned both islands have been brutally oppressed by the powers that be. Enslaved Africans resisted the British brutally of slavery and the trait has been passed on throughout generation. Thats a historical fact that enslaved Africans in Jamaica refused to work for the british when emancipated. Thats how endentured indians… Read more »

Cislyn Blackwood
5 years ago

Singapore made education a priority for all children. Jamaica fall short, people need to be educated not only academically but encourage to save and invest. I love my country but hope we wake up to the priorities of setting example for our children so they will have a better future, .

Dave Clarke
5 years ago

Give me Jamaica “,,,every day and twice and Sundays!”

Andrew Evelyn
5 years ago

So we should be happy with an indiscipline and borderline poverty society with a high crime rate, because to reach the level of a Singapore will require draconian laws and social changes that will reduce our happiness index? I do not buy it Sir. Every successful country has a high level of discipline which is engrained in the culture of the society. We desperately need that discipline to transform this country because what we have been doing for the last 50 years has gotten us nowhere!

Andrew Salmon
5 years ago

I agree with you 100% the people of Singapore have endure poverty and difficulty but were not enslaved for nearly 500 years. Do not endure racism the degree black people endure. Their history wasnt eraced and replaced with lies. Their education system was not designed to ensure their people grow feeling less than humans not having the belief they can excel at science and technology and not just music, sports, food, skills etc. Yes Jamaica and Singapore both started from poverty but unlike Singapore our people, history and self worth was ravaged by slavery. Alot of the ills in Jamaica… Read more »

Nigel Campbell
5 years ago

As a Trinidadian, I salute our caribbean neighbour. Money isn’t everything but that said I still think that Jamaicans could use some more cash especially the poor.

Alex LeeMagic Green
5 years ago

sweet sweet jamaica mi nah lef yah

Craig Young
5 years ago

We have a pressing need to ‘put our nose to the grindstone’: POVERTY.

The other way to look at it is how much happier Jamaicans might be in better circumstances. We aren’t Singaporeans and will never be, if we were as prosperous as they, we’d make it look cooler and a hell of a lot more fun.

Thanks for encouragement. Really. But we can AND WILL do better. No excuses necessary.

JohannAndrine NJayden Cover

love how most persons focused on the sex part of this article and not the economic commentary!!! lol

Fabian Black
5 years ago

I Would say that Jamaica can learn somethings from Singapore hard work is already a part of being a Jamaican however we should learn to use our hard work to build a better society. Yes i am an immigrant, would love to see Jamaica take a big step forward financially, it would be so good to see the government allow immigrants like myself build commerce without the shake down allowing us as Jamaicans living abroad to invest in sweet Jamaica.

Garth Delapenha
5 years ago

I now realize and my wife will agree, in fact has long said, that my priorities are seriously out of whack.

Ato Carrington
5 years ago

I guess sex is more important to a country than economic progress…

Jeremy McGhie
5 years ago

how many of you people saying gimme jamaica any day have migrated or planning to migrate you guys are all a bunch of hypocrites who deserve the state of high crime and political morass

Cory Mills
5 years ago

Jamaican may have nice personality sometimes but a lot are really unhappy and sad.there must be away to incorporate some of Singapore ideals into the Jamaican lifestyle but something will be lost but it will create a better life overall

Alwin Hales
5 years ago

I guess prosperity comes from what’s between your ears and not between your legs

Richard Clarke
5 years ago

I would live in Singapore where the systems works for the benefit of the ppl ,rather than a Jamaica where the systems work against the ppl, where the Justice & Legal system does not work, where our Leaders do not have the slightest idea about honesty & accountability …

Dave Clarke
4 years ago

Give me Jamaica “,,,every day and twice on Sundays!”