The Next Singapore

A list of cities in Southeast Asia that aspire to be "The Second Singapore"

The Next Singapore

Singapore is the most economically prosperous country in Southeast Asia, and one that others look to emulate. With its modern infrastructure and its GDP per capita among the highest in the world, other cities use Singapore as a benchmark for future growth.

It wasn’t that long ago when Singapore was a poor country that was struggling to survive. Other countries see that if Singapore can do it, then so can they. Of course, it’s easier to modernise an island city-state compared to a country with multiple provinces and thousands of islands.

Kampong life in Singapore

The phrase “The Next Singapore” or “The Second Singapore” is used by other cities around the world to describe their growth and modernisation aspirations.

As a Southeast Asia news curator, I have seen this phrase used by several cities. Here is an archive of cities in Southeast Asia that have been referred to as the next or second Singapore.


If there is anywhere that could emulate Singapore, Brunei would be a good candidate. While Brunei is 8 times larger than Singapore, it is mostly covered in forest. Brunei has the second-highest GDP per capita in Southeast Asia, but the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan doesn’t reflect this.

The Brunei Dollar is pegged to the Singapore Dollar as part of the Brunei-Singapore Currency Interchangeability Agreement, so you can use SGD and BND in either country.

There is a national vision called Wawasan Brunei 2035, which outlines its modernisation plans. There is no mention of it being the next Singapore, but one site referred to the plan of making Brunei the “Dubai of the East”.


Phnom Penh

I haven’t found a reference for Phnom Penh aspiring to be the next Singapore, but this article mentions how Lee Kuan Yew aspired for Singapore to be like Phnom Penh in 1967. At that point, Phnom Penh was regarded as the “jewel of Asia”, while Singapore was a new nation that was struggling to survive.


Phay Siphan: Preah Sihanouk will become a second Singapore – [12/03/19]“Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Monday that Preah Sihanouk province will become a second Singapore, as authorities were warned that its development, fuelled largely by Chinese investment, was coming at a cost to locals.”



As I posted in a previous newsletter, is the next Singapore next to Singapore?. Batam is so close to Singapore that you can see the Singapore skyline from Batam. It is billed as a cheaper alternative to Singapore, though it has a long way to go before it could rival Singapore. Here is my Batam trip report from 2022.


Can Jakarta become as liveable as Singapore? – [09/05/20]“Todd Lauchlan, Managing Director of JLL Indonesia says: “The net effect will transform Jakarta into a liveable city on par with Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. From an underperformer, the city can lift itself well and truly into the 21st century.””


CitraLand Gama City

CitraLand Gama City is a new urban area in Medan. The tagline for this development is “The Singapore of Medan“. They don’t just mean this in a figurative sense of having living standards like Singapore. There are replicas of famous Singapore landmarks such as the Merlion statue, a replica of the “fat bird” statue, a version of Suntec City’s Fountain of Wealth, and an ERP gantry.

Replica of Suntec City's Fountain of Wealth


Singapore became an independent nation when it was kicked out of Makaysia in 1965, so a Malaysian city saying they will be the “next Singapore” is not something you will hear. Even politicians who make a reasonable suggestion of copying some successful policies of Singapore can end up being denounced.


Labuan is an island off the coast of Borneo Malaysia, and it has set itself up as an offshore tax haven. They had aspirations of being the Hong Kong of Southeast Asia (a much more palatable thing for a Malaysian politician to aspire to).

Labuan can become the next Singapore – Labuan Corp CEO – [15/01/23]“Labuan can potentially become the next Singapore with its booming international business and financial sector, oil and gas and maritime industries.”



Kyaukphyu is an island in the Bay of Bengal, and it is planned to be the port for the Muse-Mandalay-Kyaukphyu Railway that would connect China to the Bay of Bengal.

Myanmar plans its own ‘mini Singapore’ – [08/02/13]“…this former colonial outpost could yet be transformed, and with it, the surrounding region. It is at the heart not just of China’s voracious drive for natural resources and new trade routes but also of Myanmar’s plan to create a “mini Singapore” – replicating the city state’s economic success – on the under-developed west coast.”



Building the next Singapore(s) in the region: The case of Butuan – [02/02/23]“The webinar on 02 February will discuss the case of Butuan in building the next Singapore(s) in the region.”

Building the next Singapore(s) in the region: The case of Butuan


Rama envisions a Singapore-like Cebu City – [30/06/22]“The mayor is asking the public to support his administration’s endeavor to build a Singapore-like Cebu City.”


The next Singapore? Davao City as boom town – [05/02/20]“…residents are still optimistic that Davao will soon become a globally competitive destination like Singapore in the near future.”


The city of Manila acting like Singapore – [11/08/21]“The Mayor aspires to eliminate squatters in Manila in less time than it took Singapore to do so.”



Is Bangkok the next Singapore or Tokyo? Thailand’s military government certainly hopes so – [03/04/18]“…we would like to benchmark with Singapore”.

Do we really want to be just like Singapore? – [12/07/15]“Thousands of vendors are being removed from the streets, and even those who follow the rules are being squeezed out of their spots.”

Thai Canal

Out of all of the possible second Singapores, none would pose a threat to Singapore’s maritime economy as much as the Thai Canal. This proposed canal across the Isthmus of Kra in Southern Thailand would reduce the need for ships to go via Singapore. There was even a proposal of a $200 billion smart city development along the canal.

The good news for Singapore is that even if Thailand finally decided to build this, the new Tuas Port will be world’s largest fully automated port when completed.


Vietnam wants to be next Singapore – [26/12/19]“Vietnam thinks of Singapore as a reachable example of an open and attractive economy, yet one that has been largely controlled by the same political party for decades.”

Da Nang

Da Nang Looks set to be the Singapore of Vietnam – [30/04/15]“With its burgeoning technology and IT industries and its increasingly attractive business environment, Vietnam’s port of city of Da Nang is well on its way to accomplishing its goal of becoming the Singapore of Vietnam.”


Hanoi seeks $115.5 billion to become the second Singapore – [06/06/16]“Ha Noi is calling on colossal investment of about VND2.6 quadrillion over the next five years as the first step in transforming itself into the second Singapore, announced top officials.”

If you want to be the second Singapore, it would help to redenominate the dong so that you aren’t measuring currency by the quadrillion.

Ho Chi Minh City

‘Learn from Singapore,’ HCMC chairman tells District 1 – [13/04/23]“Ho Chi Minh City Chairman Phan Van Mai has told the downtown District 1 authorities they should follow urban development and management examples set by Singapore.”

Phu Quoc

Proposals for Phu Quoc dream of a second Singapore – [07/04/21]Nguyen Manh Ha, vice chairman of the Vietnam Real Estate Association, mentions the property prices in Phu Quoc as “the island attempts to become the second Singapore in Asia”.

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