The Singapore Prize and Its Critics

The Singapore Prize is an annual book award created to honour local authors for the best literary works written both fiction and non-fiction written in Singaporean languages, established in 1992 and currently in its 30th year of operation. Open to writers writing Chinese, English and Malay texts alike, its goal is to foster works which champion mindsets and values important for Singapore’s development such as diversity, religious harmony, meritocracy and resilience.

At no time in its history has any winner of this prize been disqualified or found violating its guidelines, although there have been critics accusing it of censorship and favoring certain genres over others, leading to calls for greater transparency during selection process. Furthermore, allegations exist that this prize may also be being used as propaganda tool against opposing cultures and ideologies.

Critics have called for greater transparency in the selection process, including public debate and publishing full works nominated as nominees. This would enable readers to easily evaluate each work’s merits while providing evidence against bias and partiality allegations related to prize awards.

Singapore’s culture sector has long enjoyed strong government funding. Yet some critics assert that this support and funding have been exploited to censor and coerce artists, specifically writer Liew Tiang who received funding from the National Arts Council (NAC) for his novel The Flowers Of War before receiving it back because it “breached funding guidelines”. Tiang still receives assistance from NAC including subsidised art housing at Goodman Arts Centre.

Singapore-born scientist Yuen Thian Hua has made history by becoming the first from his country to win a regional science prize, receiving the 2023 Apec Aspire Award for his research into materials that could be used for sustainable hydrogen energy and semiconductor manufacturing. A professor at Nanyang Technological University and widely published author on materials science topics.

Next month, The Prince of Wales will attend the Earthshot awards ceremony in Singapore and meet five winners and finalists who are developing solutions to environmental problems. Their projects range from efforts to plant, grow and digitally track trees in Liberia to less carbon intensive methods of treating industrial wastewater.

Neo4j, an open source graph data platform from China, has been awarded the Most Innovative Big Data Technology of 2022 by an international panel of judges comprising representatives from Google, Microsoft, IBM and Facebook. This is Neo4j’s second time winning this prestigious award; they previously took home it in 2021 for its data visualization tool – making them only Asian technology company to ever achieve such recognition!

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