Category Archives: Singapore

Lattice80 – Largest Fintech Space

The world’s largest fintech hub opened in Singapore on 10 November and I was honoured to be at the launch.

Singapore’s deputy prime minister and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, was the guest of honour at the opening ceremony. His speech was full of insights regarding the stance of the Singaporean government and the regulator towards fintechs.

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The Singapore government fully supports the fintech industry and sees fintech as complementary to the banks in the financial industry, rather than a direct competitor.

Besides that, the Singapore government fully acknowledges that there will be a lot of fintech startups going bust, but it is vital to create the right ecosystem to create a fintech unicorn from Singapore.

Lattice80 is located at the centre of the central business district of Singapore and occupies two floors at the moment and plans to host 350 people in the coming week/months.

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Compared with its peers The Floor in Israel and Level 39 in the UK, it is now officially the largest fintech startup space.

Singapore Fintech Association and Finlab are already in the space, which shows the strong commitment to create the right ecosystem.

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It was established by the Marvelstone group founded by a Korean entrepreneur and hedge fund manager, Joe Cho.

It is a great step for Singapore to fully leverage its well established common law system with its highly skilled labour force. There is no doubt that Singapore will be playing a key role in fintech space.

Personally, I am thrilled to enrol on the MIT Fintech Course, which will take place during the next 12 weeks. It will kick off on 21 November.  It is not only a regular academic education, but importantly the course will need students to participate in business planning of a fintech idea to pitch to venture capitalists.

I look forward to sharing my experience about the course within the next weeks.

All the best from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan

Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Can Singapore model be applied in Turkey?

Following from my last article, I would like to find some answers as to whether Turkey could replicate the success of Suzhou Industrial Park in Diyarbakir.

Actually, some work has already been carried out in this field.

A reputable businessman and philanthropist, Erdal Aksoy, aims to replicate the project in Diyarbakir in order to create an eco-system for 1 million people in the region, including Syrian migrants.

Turkey has a strategic role in natural gas transit because of its position between the world’s second largest natural gas market, continental Europe, and the substantial natural gas reserves of the Caspian Basin and the Middle East.

Since Turkey is well placed to serve as a transit hub for oil and natural gas supplies as they move from Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East to Europe and other Atlantic markets, the project is to develop an energy industrial park as the main platform to:

  • Create employment to improve lives in order to stabilise the region, particularly at the borders.
  • Leverage the energy resources and infrastructure in the region and target markets in Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
  • End the refugee crisis in Turkey and Europe.
  • Eradicate terrorism and maintain stability in the region.

The project will involve social housing (HDB equivalent in Singapore or council housing in the UK), education centres such as nurseries, primary schools, and universities, as well as hospitals for the health services.

To ensure that it is built on strong foundations, the project is intended to be a public private partnership involving the Turkish government and possibly other governments.

Surbana Jurong, a Singapore company that also provided the expertise for Suzhou Industrial Park, has already drafted the project and the Turkish government has already been briefed and promised support for the project.

The next step is to find other sustainable and strong partners, especially from Asian countries such as China and Singapore, to support the project.

Mr Aksoy is quite open to sharing the project with anyone that would like to enhance and take ownership of this huge socio-economic innovation.

The realisation of a project of this scale could bring stability and prosperity to the region, and could potentially be replicated in other parts of the Middle East.

Personally, I believe that this is an exciting project and that everyone who wishes to contribute to peace of Middle East shall be involved in it.

All the best from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

 

 

 

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Suzhou Industrial Park in China

I had an opportunity to go Shanghai last weekend and I took the opportunity to visit Suzhou Industrial Park which is about 1.5 hours away from the city centre of Shanghai.

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Suzhou Industrial Park is a landmark project between Chinese and Singaporean governments to create an ecosystem to enhance people’s lives through creating jobs, providing healthcare and education services.

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In the late 1980s, when China modernisation gained momentum, Chinese delegations visited Singapore and they were eager to learn modern management methods from Singapore. In 1992, the idea of developing a modern industrial city with Singapore flourished when China’s leader Deng Xiaoping told the public that they must tap into Singapore’s experience and learn how to manage better from Singapore’s good social order.

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After several rounds of discussion, both governments decided to develop a modern industrial park in the east of Suzhou, which was founded on February 1994 when Chinese Vice Premier Li Lanqing and Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew signed an agreement on the joint development of Suzhou Industrial Park in Suzhou. Suzhou Industrial Park has a total jurisdiction of 288 km2 where China-Singapore cooperation area covers 80 km2 with a residential population of 1.2 million.

Of course, this huge project has gone through many different phases and there were a lot of disagreements with both governments during the journey. Because of these disagreements, Singapore has decreased its share in the park from 65% to 35%. Also, between 1994 and 2000, the park made huge losses. The profit between 2000 and 2003 has erased all the losses made during the period between 1994 and 2000.

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The numbers speak for themselves today. Today, the park generates one of the highest incomes per capita in China. The regional GDP per capita is 257,900 yuan in Suzhou Industrial Park where Suzhou is 136,700 yuan and Jiangsu is 88,000 yuan. The per capita disposable income of urban residents in SIP is 56,696 yuan, in Suzhou 50,390 and 37,173 yuan in Jiangsu.

Another interesting statistic is that patents per ten thousand people are 86 in SIP, 25.46 in Suzhou and 14.22 in Jiangsu. A lot of international companies have presence in the park such as Bosch, Samsung, Hitachi, Nokia, Loreal and Panasonic.

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Can Turkey copy this model in southeast of Turkey to generate economic growth, to educate Syrian migrants with the Southeastern Turkish population and most importantly to eradicate terrorism in the region?

I will write this in my next article in the coming days. Please keep following!

Best from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan

Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Weekend Get Away – Bintan Island, Indonesia

Since I was expecting my baby, we had been unable to travel around much over the last month, and it is not easy to travel with a newborn.

The desire and intention to travel has been always there for our family so we decided to go for a quick weekend getaway to Bintan Island in Indonesia.

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A lot of my visitors in Singapore ask me where they can go from Singapore easily. This is the easiest option to travel from Singapore, since it only takes 45 minutes by boat to reach the island.

I booked the ferry tickets through Bintan Resort Ferries (www.brf.com.sg). The booking process was a bit complicated, as the website requests all passengers’ passport numbers, passport expiry dates, etc.

I had been to Bintan in September 2013 where we stayed at Bintan Lagoon Resort and we were not happy with our experience. The property was old, the breakfast was awful and it was overpriced.

Bearing in mind the previous experience, I booked the Angsana Hotel for this visit.

The ferry leaves from Tanah Merah ferry terminal, which is very close to Changi Airport. The immigration process is fast and smooth at the ferry terminal. We took the ferry out at 08:10 am and luckily we found a good spot on the ferry as we needed mobility because of the baby.

After almost an hour, we arrived at Bintan. Among the changes since our previous trip, Indonesia has initiated visa free travel to many nationalities, including those with Turkish and British passports. Before, there was a visa check on arrival and you would need to buy a visa for USD 15. Getting the visa was easy, but the queue and securing the exact USD 15 was a bit of a hassle.

Once we were through immigration, the hotel had arranged a complimentary transfer from the terminal. Angsana is only ten minutes away from the terminal, which was great.

The hotel is in an old complex and has a friendly staff. It has a long private beach and is situated just next to the Banyan Tree. We were able to access our room before the standard check-in time and headed to the beach, where there is a nice restaurant.

The menu is quite simple there but the food is good. Unfortunately, like anything in Bintan, it is very overpriced, though.

The hotel provides beach chairs along the beach, with towels. Even though the sea in Southeast Asia is not my favourite, given that it is hot and not crystal clear, it is nice to lie in front of it and relax.

We visited the Saffron restaurant—which is inside the Banyan Tree—for dinner. I should say the highlight of this trip for me was this restaurant. Perfect food, nice ambience and great service.

Even though we had some small communication problems at Angsana Hotel, I would say they are fairly friendly and do try their best to make sure you feel comfortable. On the way back, they arranged a private transfer for us to the ferry: since we had our newborn with us, it was a great gesture.

In Bintan, everything is overpriced. Proximity to Singapore and an easy tropical escape make the place popular so the prices are high! Once every two years, though, it is a good place to visit.

If you are visiting Singapore, I would recommend that you spend two or three days in Bintan.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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A Birth Story, Henry Alp Haskan

 

What a week for my family and me!

My first kid, Henry Alp, arrived this week on 14 December at 17:08. We were quite worried since the baby was over 4 kg and he wasn’t engaged so there was no way to deliver him naturally and we were heading to the hospital like we going on a regular family holiday with the luggage and passports.

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I would call the period from arriving at the hospital to the surgery starting the most stressful time of the whole process.

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You just wait in your room like you are waiting for some kind of funeral (even though it is a birth!) and when the time arrives, you feel like it may be a good idea to delay the birth! Maybe the baby would engage soon! 🙂

And then, while my wife was in the operating theatre, the waiting exercise was not completed for me. I had been given a chair and a corner to wait and I had been told that they would call me.

At this point, I remember my primary school period where the teachers are the real masters and you have to obey whatever they say! I was really desperate!

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The minutes passed very slowly and I was called into the operating theatre. I am not a good person to be in an operating theatre since I feel like I might faint whenever I see somebody else’s blood but I was there!

I stayed in the surgery room for 15 minutes, but I can tell you that it felt like an hour. I tried my best not to look anywhere except my wife’s face. Even when Henry Alp born, the doctor was showing us the kid and I was hesitant about looking at him since I was not sure if I would see anything wrong!

Our paediatrician checked if the baby was healthy and then I carefully followed a bunch of nurses with my kid.

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I was out with the kid, but my wife was inside and the stress had not really gone anywhere! After an hour, she arrived and I was so relieved that I went straight to a nice bar next to the hospital to have some pints of beer to relax.

The first night was really sleepless! I really enjoyed it as my favourite football team, Besiktas, was playing against a rival club, Galatasaray. Defeating Galatasaray was a good coincidence since we haven’t been able to defeat them since 2011.

The second day was good fun since the stress replaces itself with joy. Being a dad is like being on a big learning S curve since I learned how to change my baby’s nappy and wip him clean.

Getting his birth certificate was another memorable experience on that day!

A glass of beer was still needed, but this time to celebrate that night.

On the third day I learned how to bathe him and that was an experience as well. Henry Alp managed to pee on myself. (Congratulations, my boy!)

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And, finally, we were discharged from the hospital day 4.

I have huge respect for women, and I respect all the mothers even more. It is not easy what a mother goes through and they all need to be congratulated for this.

I would like to thank all the North Bridge Road Raffles Hospital staff who helped us during this journey. Taking this opportunity, I especially would like to thank Dr. Lee I Wuen.

We have been seeing her for last 9 months and she has been fantastic from the start.

Finally, I should say this has been another great Singapore experience. From A to Z, everything was very well planned and executed. I am not sure if it would be the case in many other countries.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Social Mobility

 

If you are born in the Western world rather than Africa today, it is likely that you will not suffer famine in your lifetime. If you are born in England, your life expectancy will be higher than someone born in Mali. If you are born into a family where both your parents have university degrees, it is very likely that you will have access to higher education as well.

Small differences in life such as your place of birth, nationality, your name and your family make huge differences to how your life is lived.

It is very clear that not everybody is born with the same kind of opportunities and prospects. It is the balance of nature—and it is not very fair.

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Social mobility is a big challenge for every country today. A book written by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett concludes that more equal societies almost always do better than others. Their study discovers that there is an inverse relationship between income inequality and intergenerational mobility. Countries with less income inequality, such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland, have some of the greatest mobility, whereas countries with high income inequality, such as Chile and Brazil, have some of the lowest social mobility.

So much talent is wasted because they haven’t been given enough opportunity to show what they can achieve.

For example, George Soros would have been one of the wasted talents, but he was lucky enough to receive an education at LSE.

He subsequently tried his luck in securing employment in England, but was offered only simple jobs rather than his dream investment banking job. Because he did not come from a certain family or circle, he could not establish his dream in England, and so flew to the US to accomplish his dreams.

Today he is one of the greatest philanthropists.

Given that we cannot completely eliminate these inequalities, how can we help the underprivileged to move up the ladder?

No matter what, we have to subsidise education. Children who come from poor families have to make it to good schools if they have the right attitude and skills. Without allowing underprivileged kids access to education, it is almost impossible to speak about social mobility.

I think Singapore is a very good example. Everyone can go to a public school and the monthly fee varies from free to six Singapore dollars if you are a Singaporean citizen. More importantly, Singapore is one of the best countries for your child to be educated, according to the latest PISA results.

There is no guarantee that all kids can make it—but the probability of climbing the ladder significantly increases with a good education.

The legendary investor, Jim Rogers, lives in Singapore with his family and he chose for his daughter to study at a public school rather than a private school.

Social mobility is not only something that helps people climb the ladder, but it is also an insurance against rises in crime and is a bodyguard for a peaceful world.

It is not easy to subsidise a good level of education for everyone and it is very costly, but it is not more costly than the cost of rising crime, of unhappy communities and of pessimistic futures.

Finally, no matter how smart you are, if you are financially well off, it is very likely that you will take it easy. Social mobility is also good for innovation, competition and the promotion of growth.

Hamdi Ulukaya, owner of Chobani yoghurts, is a recent good example of social mobility. A Turkish citizen of Kurdish descent, he was lucky enough to study at Ankara University and lucky enough to go to the US for his English studies. He took a major risk in acquiring a large, defunct yoghurt factory in New York.

Ulukaya’s net worth is USD 1.4 billion as of 2014 and he has pledged USD 700 million to refugees of the Syrian civil war.

It is hard to prove, but I believe people whom you help to move up social ladder tend to help other people as well—just like George Soros and Hamdi Ulukaya.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Handy Guide for Singapore

Singapore is the food capital of Asia and it has many good restaurants.

I have been asked many times by travellers to Singapore which restaurants/bars I recommend, so I thought it would be nice to post this week’s article on this subject.

There are, of course, many good restaurants in Singapore and these are only my TOP restaurants.

I hope this article will be your small handy guide for restaurants/bars in Singapore.

1- Akashi

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Akashi is a Japanese restaurant located under Orchard Parade Hotel.

If you are a sushi lover, I think they are one of the world’s best.

In contrast to the restaurant’s simple design, the food is sophisticated and delicious.

I would order ikura sushi, tako sushi, spider maki, reserve California roll, sliced beef and gyoza.

Akashi’s wine menu is rich. Wine lovers will like the variety of the choice.

Your bill will show value for money, unless you order a bottle of Dom Perignon or Petrus.

2- Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson is a Thai restaurant located near Dempsey Hill.

Dempsey Hill used to be military barracks: after soldiers left the area, they were converted into a restaurant neighbourhood.

Jim Thompson restaurant is located in an exotic traditional building.

Jim Thompson also has an interesting story. He was an American businessman who help to revitalise the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. He disappeared during a trip to the Cameroon Highlands in Malaysia, and has been never found.

Initially, Thompson was in Thailand due to his duty as a CIA agent in the region. I would highly recommend that you visit his house in Bangkok, Thailand.

Coming back to food, I would order pattaya set for starter, pomelo or green mango salad, beef green curry, Thai style rib-eye steak and stir-fried morning glory.

I am not a big dessert fan, but you should try Thai coconut ice cream here.

Singha beer or one of their nice cocktails can complement your delicious food at Jim Thompson.

3- Blu Kouzina

This is a great, real Greek restaurant on Bukit Timah Road.

It is run by Greeks and the food is authentically very Greek, and delicious.

You can order anything that you would order in a Greek restaurant and enjoy it.

It is a bit pricey, but given that you do not have much choice in Greek food in Singapore, it is fortunate to have such a great restaurant.

4- Pasta Brava

Past Brava is an Italian restaurant established by an Italian gentleman in 1993.

It may sound absurd to go to an Italian restaurant when you travel all the way down to Singapore, but you won’t be disappointed.

The great variety of pastas, along with the rich wine menu, make it one of my top five restaurants in Singapore.

5- Chang Korean BBQ

Chang Korean BBQ is located at the heart of Dempsey Hill.

If you like meat and if you like to cook your own meal, it is a great place.

Every table has its own BBQ and you can sizzle your chosen dish your own way.

Indoor BBQs are fuelled by coal, while outdoors they run on gas. It is up to you which you choose.

Wagyu rib-eye and Wagyu galbi are a must to try!

Drinks:

The Lantern Bar, a rooftop bar at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, is a good choice if you like posh places. It has a perfect view of the Singapore marina and a great range of drinks.

Club Street is a street dedicated to bars and restaurants in Singapore. While there are a great many bars and restaurants on it, I would recommend La Terrazza Rooftop bar. It is a cosy, small, local rooftop bar.

It is important to mention that Singapore is all about Hawker Centres and you should try one of the Hawker Centres, according to its proximity to where you stay.

This week, I am travelling and I am sharing this post from my beloved London!

All the best from London.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

 

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A Decade Away from Istanbul

The date of 15 September 2015 marks the completion of a decade away from Istanbul in my native land, Turkey.

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It is always good to look back and analyse your challenges, mistakes and successes to improve yourself.

I am still young but a completely different person from who I used to be.

What has been my experience in the last 10 years?

I would definitely rate my experience as 10 out of 10.

Here are the reasons why.

Once I was out of my comfort zone, I realized what a spoiled upbringing I had had.

Your parents want to give you everything and that’s not really good.

I was living in central London and I had some of my old friends from Turkey and new friends from my courses.

Initially, it was too much fun!

But then I realized that I had to wash my clothes, change my bed linen and even sometimes cook!

I truly wasn’t aware of all these tasks being done by somebody else all those years!

Lesson #1: The first few weeks in London taught me that I had good intellectual capacity, but I was not at all prepared for everyday life.

Even paying the bills on time and keeping track of what I spent was a totally new concept for me.

Once I started to get going with the basics, I was fine but I was not aware that life was about to get tough.

Without being immodest, I can say that my graduate course on international business economics was going very well. I was very confident that I would be one of the very few students who would get a distinction at the year’s end and I did!

In the meantime, I started liking the challenges and most importantly London! And I made the decision to stay there.

So I needed to find a proper job.

Istanbul was my playground and I could reach anybody through my network but London was something new. I did not know anybody except a few friends who were also students.

Lesson #2: I learned that I had to rely on myself to get things done. Nobody would give me a job here as I have no contacts in London.

So I started networking and applying !

This was a great challenge.

And I did it!

Now I had a job and I stayed in London.

New challenges lay ahead.

I enrolled on a graduate programme for new employees from all over the world: Brazil, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the UK, Germany, Iran…

While I was a student, I chose whom to spend time with.  A new episode in my life was about to start…

Lesson #3: I understood how important it is to interact with everybody, not only with loved ones!

More importantly, I learned that I have to build relationships with those I don’t like as well!

Having been in London for some years, I had friends now from all over the globe.

Time was ticking by and I was exposed to many different cultures, which fostered my curiosity and confused me as well, sometimes.

Lesson #4: This encouraged me to travel to different countries to understand my friends’ cultures and I also read a lot about them.

I should know the history of people with whom I am dealing and more importantly I should understand their background and what influences their decisions.

And then I discovered that I don’t even know my own background properly. Unfortunately, history lessons in Turkish high schools are not wide-ranging.

I am still learning…

Lesson #5: As Richard Branson famously says, “The more you travel, the more you read and the more you read, the more you travel”. I am in a learning circle right now which I doubt I will ever want to leave.

A Danish gentleman, Peter Klein, was my first CEO and I remember what he told me during my first days of employment.

“University does not teach you much but it does teach one main thing and that is the ability to update yourself continuously”.

Maybe university did not do that but living abroad in the last decade definitely did !

To sum up, I had a really fantastic decade living outside my comfort zone. It became so addictive that I am not sure I want to step into my comfort zone again.

I encourage you all, especially new graduates, to get out of your comfort zone and work abroad.

Unfortunately, the world is not so rosy and the best way to learn is to get out of your comfort zone and mix with different types of people.

All the best from Singapore

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Happy 50th Birthday Singapore!

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Singapore became independent on 9 August 1965 and this year marks its 50th birthday. There are many events happening all along this tiny cute island to celebrate its well deserved 50th birthday this week.

I have been living in Singapore slightly over 2 years now and I should say that I feel really privileged to live in this country. Having lived in Turkey, United Kingdom and Switzerland (for a short period of time), Singapore is really unique in many ways.

Imagine a country which was established only 50 years ago and it ranks at the top of the tables for many important aspects of the life such as education, health system, ease of doing business, etc.

To be honest with you – I was not aware of many of these positive attributes of Singapore before coming and living here. (I should say it was a nice surprise to find out!)

Singapore is a small country with 5.3 million habitants. The population is quite diverse with primarily Chinese, Malay and Indian ethnicities and its first official language is English.

Singapore is only 714.3 square km but it attracted almost USD 850 billion foreign direct investment whilst USD 500 billion of Singapore’s investments is invested abroad. Its sovereign wealth funds, Temasek and GIC, are the vehicles to invest abroad. It should not be a big surprise why Singapore tops the list of ease of doing business!

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According to OECD global education report, Singapore is number 1 in education. Same report puts Sweden number 35, United Kingdom number 20 and United States number 28! You may be wondering who is the 2nd and 3rd; they are Hong Kong and South Korea respectively! No wonder why this millennium is Asia’s time!

Singapore healthcare system is ranked 1st in the world by Bloomberg in 2014. Of course, it comes at a cost! If you are brave enough not to have a private insurance in Singapore, you are definitely pushing your luck.

Singapore is one of the least corrupt countries on earth. According to Transparency International, it ranks 7th out of 175 countries in 2014. Same report ranks Turkey 64th, UK 14th and Switzerland 5th.

Singapore is running constant current account surplus (21.3% of the GDP 2015) and it has a very low level of unemployment. World Happiness Report ranks Singapore 24th in 2015.

Statistics are important but nothing can be more important than the people. Singapore is full of hard-working, intellectual and warm people.

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, will be remembered for generations to come not only by Singaporeans but also by the world. He proved the humanity a leader with the right skills, can build a country from scratch up to a very high level.

I strongly suggest you to come and visit this beautiful country!

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It is a very nice coincidence that my first blog post happened to be an article on Singapore. Through this blog, I am planning to be writing on economics, politics, finance, life style, history and travel.

I will be updating my blog regularly every Saturday and you can follow me on twitter (@sukru_haskan).

Best from beautiful Singapore!
Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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