SINGAPORE, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Whether creativity and so-called "creative industries" such as arts and culture, media and design can be a growth engine for Singapore is the question a government-appointed panel has been mulling for nine months as the small city-state embarks on an in-depth introspection about its economic future.
Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong promised last December that "no stones would be left unturned," and over the last couple of weeks several reports have been issued, recommending various course of actions to help revitalize the economy over the long-term away from its traditional manufacturing base.
The latest report, released Wednesday, assert that with the right mixture of policies and investments, creative industries' contribution to gross domestic product could double to 6 percent by 2012, as Singapore transforms itself into a San Francisco of the east. For comparison, these industries in the United States and the United Kingdom account for 5-8 percent of gross domestic product, with large exportable component, and are growing at a faster pace than the overall economy.
"Our developmental strategy aims to propel Singapore closer to the league of creative cities such as San Francisco, London and New York, which are abuzz with ideas, experimentation and entrepreneurial energy," said committee member Tan Chin Nam, permanent secretary of the ministry of information, communication and the arts. "In today's increasingly globalized and competitive world, it is no longer viable for us to compete based on price and technology alone."
Speaking at a news conference, State Minister's Khaw Boon Wan, the chairman of the committee, said, "We see the creative industries as important enablers for the rest of the economy. This is like IT. IT is both an industry, as well as an enabler for the rest of the economy."
"Going forward, the rest of our economy must also embed creativity in it, if we are to compete successfully against global competition," Khaw added.
The panel is well aware that the road to a more "creative" Singapore will be a difficult one. "It won't be easy and we are not sure of success, but we have to try," Khaw noted.
Many other cities have embarked on new cultural and sports projects to further enhance their economic achievements. For example, Hong Kong is converting 40 hectares of reclaimed land in West Kowloon into and arts and entertainment district.
Among its numerous recommendations, the panel suggested encouraging creativity from an early age by promoting arts and sports education in primary and secondary schools. Such disciplines are seen as the poor sisters in the national curriculum, as parents prefer to encourage their children in disciplines were good grades are more easily achievable, like mathematics. Local schools are also not keen to offer literature and arts subjects due to the perception that these subjects will pull down their overall ranking.
The committee therefore recommended that the schools' ranking system be reviewed with a view of "fostering holistic education," as well as the weighting system in entry requirements.
It also suggested that the government should send "clear signals of its commitment for a more accommodating and diverse society," adding the government should "critically examines ways and means of making Singapore an even more open society."
There was no direct reference in the report to the issue of censure, which is being reviewed by another committee.
The media sector is expected to lead the growth, Tan said, with digital media, in particular, offering plenty of opportunities to leverage on Singapore's strength in IT. The panel said it expects total exports for the media sector to jump from $516 million in 2000 to $2.5 billion and for at least three local media firms to be groomed to have offshore revenues topping $142 million.
Tan envisaged the creation of a "Mediapolis" to promote higher end activities by adopting a total value chain perspective, which would be home for not only media production companies, but also for media financing firms, post-production facilities and research and development labs.
This Mediapolis is likely to compete with Seoul Digital Media City, which is slated for completion in 2010 and will aim to be a world-class complex for digital media industries focusing on broadcasting, film/animation, computer gaming, music and e-learning.
In the Arts sector, the committee is recommending the development of a new museum of modern and contemporary arts, which would help strengthen the country's standing as a city for arts and culture. It argues that there are potential to replicate the success of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in generating economic spinoffs and tourism dollars.
Singapore is just about to open a $340 million arts complex, the Esplanade, which it hopes will attract the staging of world-class international productions.
All figures in U.S. dollars.