Plain text version:
The causeway linking Singapore to the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula is normally clogged with cars and trucks making the short international journey, but things got particularly bad on Feb. 1, when traffic came to a grinding halt. Thirty-seven trucks were abandoned where they stood on the Malaysian side, just yards away from a customs checkpoint, their drivers having simply walked away. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that they were carrying an illegal substance — but not drugs, illegal migrants, or precious jewels. They were carrying sand.
Singapore’s economy quite literally rests upon maintaining a huge and continuous supply of sand — and smuggling has become a multibillion-dollar trade, driving a huge web of corruption and theft in a country renowned for honest business practices and corporal punishment.
The tiny island nation, one of the 20 smallest states in the world, has enjoyed a phenomenal economic boom since the 1980s. In the space of only 30 years its population has doubled and its GDP has exploded by more than 1,000 percent (making it now the wealthiest country in Asia). Singapore’s economic success is largely based upon the phenomenal growth in its services industry. The country has taken advantage of two factors: its ability to process silicon for use in microchips and electronics, and its positioning as a regional business hub within Asia, connecting industrial leaders and business executives from across the continent.
But the boom times have come at a cost. The country has, quite literally, run out of space. Since Singapore’s independence in the 1960s, its land area has grown from 581.5 to 710 square kilometers. By 2030, the country plans to expand by another 70 square kilometers. That would see Singapore’s land area grow 30 percent from its original size, giving it the same area as New York City. (more…)