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No Celebration without Hope for a Better Future
Young, modern, prosperous Singapore. (Ray in Manilla/Wikimedia Commons)

No Celebration without Hope for a Better Future

Al-Mada, Iraq, September 2

Fifty-five years ago, the Republic of Singapore declared its independence. It turned from a land of mosquito-infested bogs into a land of innovation, boasting one of the most important and influential economies in the world. What’s even more impressive than this tremendous achievement is the fact that every year, on the occasion of Singapore’s Independence Day, the country’s prime minister delivers a speech in which he promises the public to accelerate the growth rate of the economy even more in the year to come. One can’t help but think about the stark contrast between Singapore and Iraq. We in Iraq gained independence 33 years before Singapore and yet we’re far from an industrialized country. We are plagued by corruption and the creeping menace of bureaucracy. We turned down offers of foreign investment for the fear of “jeopardizing” our values. Unlike Singapore, our country is plagued by armed militias, separatist movements and foreign mercenaries. We can’t even afford to distribute facemasks to the public without taking donations from Turkey and the United Nations. More than half a century ago, the late Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, stood in parliament and apologetically announced that his government could no longer afford to pay salaries to state employees. He expressed his deep remorse but then proceeded to articulate his vision for the future, promising to build a society that would not only be just, but also prosperous. Although Lee passed away five years ago, recent figures published by the Economist show that Singapore ranks first in Asia, and fifth in the world, in citizen prosperity. Lee’s vision was fulfilled. Here in Iraq, we continue to hope for visionaries of his kind. And in the meantime, we can’t really celebrate our National Day. To do so, you must be free from poverty and fear. There is no real national celebration without a belief in a better future for one’s country. – Ali Hussein (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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