Singapore: Niche Diplomacy through water expertise

January 31, 2013

Singapore: Niche Diplomacy through water expertise

by Mely Caballero-Anthony and P. K. Hangzo, RSIS

SingaporeThrough strategic planning and investment in research and technology, strong political will, and effective governance, Singapore has emerged from water insecurity to become a global hydrohub.

It has built a robust and diversified range of water sources and has successfully addressed its water challenges in the process. As a result it has earned international recognition as a model city for water management. This has also led to a new direction in its water diplomacy, which is no longer centred on securing Singapore’s water supply from Malaysia.

Singapore has in recent years capitalised on its domain expertise in water management. In the process, its water diplomacy has taken on the character of ‘niche diplomacy’. The term was coined to describe how middle powers, through their ideas and positive international impression, can influence international issues regardless of their size and lack of military power. Singapore, in this context, has been able to turn its niche expertise in the management of an increasingly important resource — water — into an approach to diplomacy that has allowed it to enhance its regional and international standing and influence.

It has done this through sharing water expertise as well as humanitarian activities. Singapore’s growing expertise in water management has also enabled the country to set the agenda on a number of global water issues, including water standards, which remain a challenge worldwide.

In March 2012, the Technology and Water Quality Office of Singapore’s national water agency, the Public Utility Board (PUB), was designated World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for safe drinking water management and integrated urban water management. Under this arrangement, Singapore serves as the WHO’s regional policy research hub on relevant concerns, such as regulatory issues, water industry structure and water pricing. It will also conduct capacity-building activities and training courses for WHO member states, particularly those in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.

Urban water security has become an important policy agenda in most countries. Cities in developing countries are under pressure to meet the burgeoning demand for water brought about by rapid economic and population growth. With the number of people living in urban areas projected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion by 2050, the situation is set to become more critical. However, it presents significant opportunities for Singapore to contribute to tackling global water security challenges.

There are already several Singaporean projects along these lines. For example, the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) signed an agreement in 2011 with the government of Mauritius to assist it to develop a system capable of providing an uninterrupted supply of potable water, to reduce non-revenue water to a minimum, to improve the country’s Total Water Management system and to develop a plan to meet increasing and changing needs.

In June 2012 the SCE also signed an agreement with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) in India to set up waste-water treatment plants to generate water for consumption. The program is co-funded by DJB and the Temasek Foundation, and will establish a water reclamation plant with 40 million gallons per day capacity. It is projected that this plant will benefit 3–4 million consumers.

The SCE and Temasek Foundation established a similar arrangement with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSSB) of the city of Bangalore in southern India. BWSSB officials would be trained to manage, operate and maintain recycle-and-reuse plants and would also help them develop strategies to raise public awareness and acceptance of recycled waste-water.

Singapore is increasingly integrating its water expertise into its response strategy for humanitarian emergencies in Southeast Asia. In the wake of the devastating floods in Thailand in 2011, which caused more than 800 deaths, PUB delivered water quality monitoring equipment to Thailand’s Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA). PUB, together with industry partners, also provided training to MWA staff on risk assessment and water safety plan formulation, as well as laboratory services for the testing of water samples.

Other initiatives have involved tackling more chronic needs. Through the Water for Life project launched by the Singapore International Foundation in 2010, Singapore helped rural communities in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to gain access to clean water, providing some 2000 bio-sand filters to help reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases. This was followed by a similar project in Kampong Speu.

Singapore has made determined efforts to extend its water expertise beyond its shores. Its niche expertise in water has strengthened its ties with other states and increased its influence at the regional and international level.

Mely Caballero-Anthony is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

P. K. Hangzo is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

A version of this article was first published here in NTS Insight, and appeared here as RSIS Commentary No. 221/2012.

19 thoughts on “Singapore: Niche Diplomacy through water expertise

  1. Singapore is a place where things are done right. It has expertise in port and airport management and operates arguably the world’s most successful airline, Singapore Airlines. It has first class infrastructure and a civil service that is among the most efficient in the world. The National University of Singapore is well known to the region and around the world. It is a regional financial center and a preferred tourist destination. It is one of the least corrupt in the same league as Sweden, Denmark and Norway..–Din Merican

  2. Meanwhile, further north across the Singapore Strait (or Johore Strait, depending on which country produces the map), a state water authority with the name Syabas is still grappling with damaged water pumps which they couldn’t be bothered to repair, underground water leaks which they can’t trace and a high non-revenue water lost through leakages…. bunch of nincompoops managing such an important resource. But the head nincompoop gets paid MYR600,000 per month plus a few Bentleys parked at home for weekend sojourn to fine-dining with the powerful friends…. including a sleepy ex-head of government staying along Bellamy and a current one staying right behind some Indian Embassy somewhere…. Malaysia Boleh, Singapore Sukses!

  3. Dato,

    Sg came to this day due largely due to high handedness by LKY.
    Today’s resentment in Sg is also attributed to LKY.
    The litmus test of today’s growing resentment of the PAP is by the same generation X and Y that used to favor it.
    Now Gen Z is coming on stream into voting age and this Gen Z has no pre-LKY history. They see Sg invaded much as X and Y now saw and felt.
    No doubt Sg has risen in many areas, they have forgotten the social progress voiced by its people.

    LKY will expire along with his foe Atir by Law of Nature being cycles (life cycle).
    By the law of natural number, by 2018, Spore will see changes. It is only an island state that has to lease land from Johor for Jurong III.
    35.24% says Sg will rejoin Malaysia if Pakatan wins by 2/3

    In my opinon, given the increased HIGHER educated status of Malays now towards Pakatan’s stand for justice, the probability of re-merging Spore and Peninsula is rising towards 2018…..only 5 years to go….we might live long enough to see that.

  4. Spore maritime economy is superseded by newer economies within (hospitality industry and financial hub) and beyond (growth in regional maritime power).
    Parallel to this economic shift, PRC’s maritime needs had grew and GREW beyond.

    The Kra canal was put down twice largely by Sg’s transhipment prospect. It has been 10 years now and the Kra Canal is now very significant to PRC’s competitive time-cost-to-market. Too much wastage going through the Straits of Malacca. The economics power house of PRC can see fruition in Kra as compare to the 2002 when Thailand tried to revive the Kra project against the maritime politics.

    Funding by PRC for Kra is no problem just as it did to Penang’s 2nd link now completing and funded by PRC and constructed by China Engineering that is going to build the world’s longest link from HK to Macau.
    Rank 2002
    1 Hong Kong 19,144
    2 Singapore 16,941
    4 Shanghai 8,620
    5 Kaohsiung 8,493
    6 Shenzhen 7,614
    11 Klang 4,533

    1 Shanghai 31,740
    2 Singapore 29,940
    3 Hong Kong 24,380
    4 Shenzhen 22,570
    6 Ningbo 14,720
    7 Guangzhou 14,260
    8 Qingdao 13,020
    11 Tianjin 11,590
    12 Kaohsiung 9,640
    13 Port Klang 9,600
    17 Tg Pelepas 7,500
    19 Xiamen 6,470
    20 Dalian 6,400

    Here is the google FUN Chinglish translation…..btw new horse mean new malaysia

    Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore’s “founding fathers”, the father of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) said in an interview by the end of September, Malaysia can treat their own citizens the same treatment as Chinese and Indian people, to provide them with a fair education opportunities reuse , Malaysia and Singapore, comparable to or even more than Singapore, Singapore will be happy to re-join the Federation of Malaysia. His remark, immediately caused a sensation.

    Singapore repeatedly mentioning “remarried”

    Lee Kuan Yew throw this theory by no means the first time. As early as in 1996, Lee said the same thing, but the horse Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on grounds of “not ripe” declined. New horse in 1963, successfully merged; but for various reasons, two years after the separation of Singapore and Malaysia.

    In his memoirs, Lee had not sadly mentioned that day, he was the Malaysian who divorces his camel abandoned Singapore officially announced the separation of Singapore and Malaysia. The new horse “divorce” after decades, Lee several times expressed the hope that “remarry”, what is old friends too hard or not he seek or another Yinzhong,?

    On the surface, Singapore is willing to “remarry” is not difficult to understand. Singapore’s small territory, composed of 60 islands, land area equivalent to only 1/23, the resident population of only 4.48 million. Veritable “tiny place”, all kinds of resources are few and far between, even fresh water to be imported from the other side of Johor, Malaysia. Singaporeans shiny hearts, they are actually full of pressure to survive, such as the Japanese general. Malaysia area of ​​330,000 square km and a population of 26,260,000. Singapore’s merger with Malaysia, you can enjoy the rich resources of Malaysia, to reduce stress; Malaysia, Singapore’s economic advantages realized by means of further development. Economic integration, the concept of regional cooperation in Asia today, things so the best of both worlds, indeed the non impulse talk.

    There had been a brief “marriage”

    However, Singapore is actually willing to take the national sovereignty in exchange for survival, there is in fact, the world is fresh! Moreover, Singapore as ordinary “little red dot”, but in the end is the developed countries of Asia and the world, the rapid economic development, social stability and harmony, the average people in high-quality, clean and beautiful environment. Compared with Singapore, Malaysia, no matter which are not very “good fit”. So a “beauty”, actually several times not particularly superior “to her ex-husband.” Remarry, how confusing?

    To understand this language, “remarried” The Ins and Outs of a long story.

    Singapore became a British colony in 1824, has gradually become a the British entrepot trade in Asian trading port and a major military base. Decades its sphere of influence extended to the Malay states and the implementation of the new horse divide and conquer “, that is directly under the new, the horse is practiced British Governor and horse people were exempted.

    In the late 19th century, the British had already proposed a new horse association scheme, because too much resistance to nothing.

    After 1957, the Federation of Malaya from the British colonial rule, the declaration of independence, the new self-government when he was prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew consider to go it alone unsustainable, we propose new horse in the 1959 merger. In the historical context of the time to prevent the rise of the communist camp, the two sides after repeated run-in, and finally in 1963 became “olden good.” It can be said, is unnecessary fear of complex new horse eventually come together. In fact, the reason why we know it today ASEAN was established in 1967, and also there is a fear of total psychological factors.

    Racial issues into the bane

    In fact, the merger of the Singapore and Malaysia from the outset, planted the seeds of discord. Horse most beginning of awful “marriage” very hesitant. Newly independent Federation of Malaya, is a multi-racial society, Malaysian and non-Malaysian (Chinese and Indians) half and half. Therefore, the race issue has become a key factor in the horse politics. Such a body of citizens for the Chinese and Indians in Singapore if trying horse, inevitably break the Malayan ethnic balance, vulnerable to political instability.

    Singapore and Malaysia since the British rule the day, will be in political philosophy, economic development, cultural mentality respective molding lopsided even development to distrust. The new horse recriminations, the former accusing the latter to engage in national chauvinism, racial discrimination, which is known as the former against the non-interference in the horse’s internal affairs commitment. 1964 Singapore race riots. In 1965, the leader of the horse “UMNO” Tengku final choice of the separation of Singapore and Malaysia.

    Was considered the “irony horse country

    Not reconciliation between Singapore and Malaysia that “divorce” after to today there has been emotional. After experiencing together, the two countries prone to sensitive, narrow-minded mentality analysis and interpretation to each other. Decades, especially horses hardline Prime Minister Mahathir, the two quarrel vindictive become commonplace. Words of Malaysian, Singapore and Malaysia relations “Partly, when Cloudy with occasional showers.”

    In such a big history and reality of the context, Lee proposed a new horse to the merger, it seems outdated. No wonder the horse domestic attendant filled with the voices opposed: Ma administration said, “it is best to maintain the status quo, or even dismissed as” cheap political trick “and” irony horse country. The most interesting is the Malaysia Sin Chew Daily “said Lee This is to evoke the sense of crisis Singaporeans to go beyond Malaysia.

    News Watch

    Lee Kuan Yew’s proposal should be well-intentioned

    Wen WANG Bono

    Boundless, graceful infinity. Riddled with cause and effect, by the heart. This horizon, Buddhist, has a vivid manifestation of the development of relations between Singapore and Malaysia, the two countries do not to Buddhism is the dominant religion.

    The history of entanglement with the contradictions of reality created a new horse to neighboring enemy better than distant relatives. This world a lot of verbal abuse study of their origin, because the “mentality” of the word into the sky. The new horses two ethnic groups for many years is taking two different roads each other has nearly disgust cognitive, too many disputes worse impression on each other. Although relations between the two countries has improved since the Prime Minister Badawi any horse, but the perennial barriers already generate too much apathy. Malaysian famous columnist Raslan believes that there are three major factors: Ma feelings of inferiority and insecurity of the new concept of the new horse differences and cultural divide to increase impact of a new horse relationship. This theory is extremely

    Give up the sovereignty of a country in order to survive need courage and great wisdom. Is it really as Emerson said, great work is to be misunderstood? History has gone through the infinite vicissitudes, the people have suffered a confrontation and suffering caused by the war. If the new horse in the 20th century, the combination of ideological nature, then shared harmony and prosperity the pursuit of the common goal of the international community today.

    Have explored the possibility of new horse “brace” in all walks of life, I want to draw attention to an important fact: in the new bilateral relations in recent years changed again today, calls for peaceful cooperation in Asia today, the 84-year-old Lee Guangyao the proposed “remarry application” to a country with historical grievances neighbors, should be seen as a gesture of goodwill and a brave. Source: Youth Reference

  6. Singapore,dalam keghariahan untok menambah bekalan ayer,telah menggunakan ayer najis yang di bersehkan dan di tapis,untok dijadikan ayer minuman.
    Saya tidak tahu apakah farwa dari MUIS berhubong dengan ayer ini.Ayer najis tetap najis,walau pun sudah dibersehkan.Kechuali jika ianya dicampor dengar ayer sungai atau tasek yang bukan najis,baru boleh di minum.

    Saya hairan,jika Singapora sudah berasa dapat mencipta bekalan ayar yang cukup,kenapa ia maseh memerlukan ayer dari Johore dan sanggup berperang jika kita memotong bekalan ayernya.

  7. Mely Caballero-Anthony and P. K. Hangzo,( RSIS) are blowing up PAP government far too much,talking about water,I must remind readers how the glory of Singapore begins,and the work of dictator Dr Mahathir who is the only Malaysian leader who consistently publicly denounces the PAP’s Mercantilism.I am no supporter of dictator,I call Dr Mahathir the Malaysian Nationalsit who lost his way completely.

    For a start,see how both soon to be replaced dictatorial government manipulate the MSM
    3.3.3 The Singaporean media on water relations:
    Singapore is consistent and reasonable
    3.3.4 The Malaysian media on water relations:
    Malaysia wants a fair price

    Click to access hsjsingmal.pdf

  8. One additionl point,the mercy of Malaysia does not benefit Singaporans,PAP charges one of the most expensive utilities rate in the world,where do the money go to,in their SWF which is the glory of Lee’s family,PM Lee HL’s wife Madam Ho is CEO.Read Singapore social media for stories of old couple unable to pay their bills and being threatened by PUB.The investment record of Temasek Holding,buy high sell low.

  9. Singapore has moved into K-economy,it will not make K-economy depends on productivity which is very low and innovation/value creators which Singapore does not produce.
    A speech by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC)
    Dr. Morris Chang – the founding Chairman of TSMC,in English but Dr Chang prepared the slips in English for a global audience.The interesting points at later point of video.
    The new economic model of Taiwan’s economic development in two parts
    1/2 小英教育基金會「台灣經濟發展新模式」講座-張忠謀

    Dr Morris Chang made the following points:
    (1)21st century moves from Capital industry – knowledge Industry (Innovation & Value creation),there are critical factors will determine economic development during 21st century.-Capital,Labour Force,Productivity & Innovation.
    (2)Call on government to reduce GINI coefficient ,Higher taxation on top earners, Rich people are paying too little tax , even Taiwan government tax high income earners atthe highest tax rate of 40% but the richest tycoons only pay 7 to 8% income tax,
    Government should study the income of Top 2% vs Middle Class 20%,to tighten the current loopholes on legalised tax avoidance.
    (3)”Industry Policy” should focus on creating an enviroment to encourage innovations,openness and fair competition,but not on picking winners or rescuing losers.
    Businesss should put more emphasis on innovations and value creations-more emphasis on innovators and added value creators.and less emphsis on capital.
    (4)Educational policy should focus on
    a.Training people to perform a useful economic rule in society
    b.Innovators and value creators
    c.Leaders of society
    (5)The importance of an “OPEN SOCIETY” for the country to move forward.
    Singapore is staying put or moving backwards,what a pity.

  10. Nora, ayer ada 3 jenis, ayer kotor, ayer bersih dan ayer suci. Ayer kotor dan apabila dibersehkan menjadi ayer bersih dan boleh diminum. Tentu sekali pihak bekalan ayer Singapura membersihkan ayer kotor menggunakan method yang sesuai sehingga ianya menjadi bersih dan boleh diminumkan.

    Ayer berseh sekiranya bercampur najis tetapi berlebeh dari satu kolah dianggap ayer suci dan boleh digunakan untuk wudhu. Sama juga dengan ayer dalam kolah sekiranya mengalir ayer berseh dianggap bersih dan suci. Dizaman sains dan teknoliji ni, susah juga nak tentukan proses yang digunakan untuk membersihkan ayer dan kita sendiri patut yakin. Pertanyaan? Ayer botol yang anda minum itu itu bersih atau bersih dan suci dan boleh digunakan untuk wudhu?

  11. The Kra Canal, if built will not be the death knell for Singapore. Being rational and practical Singaporeans will just buy a significant share in the canal company. Malaysia will sulk and blame the usual suspects: The Jews and Geprge Soro!

  12. It will not be death knell for sure as Sg economies had transited and transcended that maritme economic contribution is lowered. Only one who can tell Sg to support the kra is regional powerhouse PRC. The northern triangle economies will boom on Indian ocean side. Many reasons PRC wanted this.

    India also wanted the Kra to bring in oil from Vietnam which is India’s strategic partner. Terengganu and Songkla petrochem industries will benefit.
    Medan, Penang, Songkla will see boom as well as Kota Bharu and Golok.
    South Thailand, being muslim will benefit tremendously so will sleepy Perlis.

    How the kra can play down the SCSea issue when the heavily plying sea lanes still remain 10 degN. Traffic below that will lighten.

    How the ‘cut’ through will look like have been debated fiercely: land bridge vs water way. Both of scalable size.
    Modern PRC technology will take 5 years to materialize but can be hasten initially with mixed conveyor belt of land bridge, rail, pipelines and canal.
    Kra is 44 km vs Panama’s 48 km. PRC expertise had tunnel thorough mountainous Fujian like no body’s business so Kra’s mountains are no brainer.
    The expertise by China harbour engineering. Their ability to tunnel across the Yangtze defeats that of English Channel crossing.

    In my opinion, this Thai land will be mostly a PRC influence from financing to politics. The Thai had been wanting this for decades but lacked to political and financial motivation. Now it can rely on PRC’s Geo-political and Geo-economic interests.

  13. When there is a will there will be ways. So, why worry for others while we allowed our government to short change us till now. Is the government to be blamed? Ask ourselves, who allowed it to happen elections after elections? It’s people like you and me. Why? We too are selfishly protecting our interests and assets. Is’it not?
    So Jack stop bad mouthing about Singapore. It’s a sign of denial and jealousy. What have you done every election?

  14. @vic
    Thank you for your kind comment.
    Am I bad mouthing Singapore?of course I do not think I am,I speak from TRUTH aka 真理,but I agree wih you that I might be wrong,i greatly appreciate those relevant points which I made were wrong.
    Denial and jealousy?those words are definitely wrong because I know myself truly,But i do have a great diffence with you regarding FACT.
    Appreciate you give the facts and if I am wrong on the fact,I say sorry.Thank you.

  15. @vic,
    “When there is a will there will be ways. So, why worry for others while we allowed our government to short change us till now. Is the government to be blamed? Ask ourselves, who allowed it to happen elections after elections? It’s people like you and me. Why? We too are selfishly protecting our interests and assets. Is’it not?”
    I absolutely agree with you.By the way,i am in Singapore for many,many years,cheers

  16. I was working on a PUB water treatment plant in Kota Tinggi, Johor River Project. They have well managed water treatment and waste water treatment plants in Johor, some of the tenancy of which will end in 20-30 years’ time. So, pre-planning is important to manage water before it became a crisis. Syabas to the Singapore government.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.