The World: Insider's View - Singapore

A commercial powerhouse, Singapore is a spotless, virtually drug-free, creative hotspot that can teach the rest of the world a few things, Chris Thomas says.

Singapore's brand reputation has been shaped by the "no jaywalking, no chewing gum, hair off the collar, flog 'em, hang 'em" storytelling. Similar to all great brands, there is underlying truth. But this vibrant place, which is about the size of the Isle of Wight, can teach the rest of the world a few things.

The city is spotless. The deterrent effect of a $1,000 fine for littering is a factor, and also the fact that the bin men come daily (yes, daily) helps, but the pride of Singapore's citizens proves a far greater incentive.

Traffic moves. The number of cars on the road are restricted by a limited number of licences granted per month. Available licences are auctioned, and once your car is ten years old, you have to buy a new licence.

To compensate for the cost of car travel, public transport is superb. Taxis are cheap and move at an average speed of 30mph and the tubes and buses are clean and efficient.

It is safe. No more Saturday nights spent ferrying my kids around, they can get a cab home at midnight without a moment's hesitation.

In Singapore, the government governs. Technically, it is a democracy (the ruling party is dominated by the Lee family, which gets 80 per cent of the vote), and the government operates like a well-run corporation. Decisions are made quickly.

It is also racially harmonious. The housing blocks in Singapore, by law, have to represent the ethnic split of the island's population.

It is also (virtually) drug free. The school of our four children has the right to randomly test for drugs anytime. Failure, at best, will result in dismissal from the school and the expulsion of the whole family from the country. The "drugs conversation" with teenage kids has teeth.

The country is a commercial powerhouse. A combination of tax incentives, a strong legal framework, a stable government and a secure environment have led many multinationals to hub out of here.

The ad industry is vibrant. The regional role makes the industry disproportionately large for the size of the market. The talent base is sophisticated across all integrated disciplines. Mandarin- and English-speaking Singaporean talent is in hot demand in the people-hungry Chinese market; and creative industries and the arts are being actively encouraged in Singapore.

In creative terms, Singapore agencies have done well in awards shows, but the word "scam" has been applied to some of the work - the one thing that the Singapore ad industry must wean itself off.

There are efforts by the industry to show it is the best work that works the best. The Effies are growing in importance, and in 2008, there will be a festival of creative effectiveness in the city. Showing work that works. In a city that works.

- Chris Thomas is the Singapore-based chief executive of BBDO Asia.