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19 January 2004
People in strait-laced Singapore were urged Monday to act like monkeys – the Chinese zodiac sign for the coming Lunar year – for the sake of their country.
Singaporeans could foster an economic recovery this year by behaving more like monkeys, Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan said in a Lunar New Year message reported in The Straits Times newspaper.
Chinese communities around the world will herald the start of the Year of the Monkey on Thursday. Chinese believe the monkey is clever, flexible, innovative and confident, but can also be selfish, jealous and vain.
“Be like a monkey. When things happen, you have to be nimble. Take advantage of opportunities, don’t be cast down, but rise to the challenge if it does occur,” Tan was quoted as saying.
Tan urged Singaporeans not to be daunted by the challenges of helping the city-state recover from its worst economic downturn. The SARS outbreak, the Iraq war and slumps in global manufacturing and air travel hit Singapore hard in 2003.
Singapore’s economy grew 0.8 percent last year, but unemployment sits at a 17-year high of 5.9 percent.
Last year, in the Year of the Sheep – known in Singapore as the Year of the Goat – Prime Minister Goh Chok Tung issued a similar animal-themed call to arms when faced with “an imminent war in Iraq.”
“In the year of the Goat, we must try to be like the mountain goat, sure-footed and hardy and able to move safely in a rocky environment,” Goh said.