Kirk Wagar - Pipeline Brickell

Miami: The Singapore of the West?

What global city is home to the second largest port in the world, 3700 American businesses, but spans only 255 square miles? Singapore. A city, country and region that former United States Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar says Americans should be thinking more about.

View from the East

Ambassador Wagar, who served under President Barack Obama, spoke at Pipeline Brickell last week. He sparked a conversation on society, education systems and the steps needed to make Miami a truly global city. The former ambassador reflected on his experience in Asia and what he learned about the US from his experience abroad: “What really makes the United States stand out from the rest of the world is its capacity for creativity, innovation, diversity and fun,” Wagar reflected. But on a local level, Miami still has room to grow if it wants to be a recognized global city like Singapore. “The Lion City” is known for its innovation in business and tech, refined education system and prosperous population (Singapore has the highest percentage of millionaires in Asia!).

The Secret to Singaporeans’ Success

Singapore operates like a well-oiled machine. The secret to its success is very simple: the country finds the smartest people they can and recruits them into public office. This is why Ambassador Wagar says, “South and Southeast Asia are not on people’s minds enough.” Most people only think of China when they think of Asia, but the Singapore post is the second most requested in the world for diplomats.
 
Singapore Miami
The Singapore skyline at night, featuring the “Singapore Flyer” ferris wheel.

How did Singapore reach this level of prominence? Singapore is paranoid about not reaching its potential. The country commits from the start. It has an education system that consistently tops international rankings. Singapore has championed technology to increase efficiency—self-driving cars were first tested in Singapore; the country has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any country in the world; and with 3700 American businesses, Singapore has become a beacon for American companies looking to expand and develop in Asia.

Miami’s Potential

By the same token, Miami—full of international investors and businesses, beautiful beaches and a hub for arts, entertainment and pop culture—is budding, yet raw. In a way, it’s the Singapore of our region. Yet, Ambassador Wagar argues, “Miami needs to consider that 95% of its marketplace is outside its borders.”
 

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