Ho Kwon Ping is no new figure to the public and surely no stranger to Prestige either, having graced our annual Power List in the last few years.
And this year, the executive chairman of Singapore-based hospitality brand Banyan Tree Holdings has released his first book titled The Ocean in a Drop, Singapore: The Next Fifty Years. Part-autobiography and part-lecture, the book contains the five IPS-Nathan lectures that Ho gave between October 2014 and April 2015, which encourages the public to think about the “elephants in the room”. Addressing five themes — Politics and Governance; Economy and Business; Security and Sustainability, Demography and Family; and Society and Identity — the 134-page publication discusses what is to become of Singapore in the next 50 years, including the likelihood of the People’s Action Party losing in a general election and the question of HDBs becoming a regulator, as well as controversial topics such as canning and whether it should be abolished.
“This book has many whys,” says Ho. “It is not a manifesto nor a coherent policy paper, so it does not provide a comprehensive set of answers. But it doesn’t seek to explore various aspects of Singapore society and speculate how we might think about these issues 50 years from now.”
He elaborates: “Asking why and then following the question to where it leads you to, often actually takes you full circle, back to where you started. If that happens, then all the more will your original belief, now reinforced by independent and critical enquiry, be stronger and rooted in self-searching. Asking why has led me to reinforce several fundamental convictions and discover some innovative insights.”
The 62-year-old businessman was appointed the 2014/15 S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore, an annual award set up by the Institute of Policy Studies that funds further research into public policy and governance issues. Held at the Singapore Management University, the book launch was graced by S R Nathan, the sixth and longest-serving president of Singapore, along with Doreen Liu, group managing director of World Scientific Publishing.
“I hope it will stimulate other people, particularly the young, to think about the society they want to live in — without, of course, getting punished by your teachers or thrown in jail,” he concludes.