My new office is currently in the centre of a huge security operation/charm offensive, as Singapore prepares to welcome IMF and World Bank delegates to the city for the first time. It’s a big deal: it’s the first major event of this kind hosted by the little red dot, and also the first public appearance of the IMF and World Bank since 1998, when many people thought IMF stood for “I’MFired” during the financial crash. The crash changed a lot of opinions towards the IMF, and many SE Asian financial approaches appear to be geared towards ensuring that they never have to rely on the IMF again. Still, they’re going all out to ensure that everyone has a nice time, with large amounts of cash spent on keeping fresh flower displays along the roads in town (all to be ripped up once the delegates leave), and taxi drivers subjected to a crash course (ho ho) in being friendly. A lot of them don’t seem to have needed it.
Security is a big issue here, of course, with the government determined not to allow any protests. This drew disapproval from the IMF and World Bank, anxious to show their willingness to engage with dissent (to the extent that they’ve arranged meetings with civil society organisations in nearby Indonesia), and despite their insistence that to make an exception and allow protests for this week only would be double standards (“you cannot have one law for Singaporeans and another law for foreigners”, as Deputy Prime Minister Mr Wong said), they’ve relented, and set aside an area of Suntec City for around 500 protestors to make their point.
It’s next to Starbucks. I really like it here.