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Opinion

Singapore: New land of smiles

Move over Thailand. Singapore’s government has decided that, at least for the duration of September’s IMF/World Bank meetings, it will usurp its regional neighbour’s soubriquet, “the land of smiles”. In a speech in June, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong exhorted Singapore’s citizens to greet its estimated 16,000 visitors with “4 million smiles”, a rough approximation to the city-state’s population, stressing the importance of showing the “human face and touch of Singaporeans”.

Quite what that will mean for the average busy delegate is unclear. However, one constituency of the annual IMF/World Bank circus is less likely to be on the receiving end of a Singaporean smile, but might well get to feel a certain Singaporean touch – literally.

As part of the country’s preparations for the meetings, in August, the Singapore police announced that it would not permit outdoor demonstrations and processions during the conference, renowned for attracting violent street protests by anti-globalization campaigners.

Acknowledging the importance of the participation in the event of what it deems civil society organizations (CSOs), the police said it would set up an area within the conference venue for “accredited CSOs to conduct their activities”. Non-accredited CSOs must apply for a permit to conduct “indoor public talks”.

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