How many ‘preneurs’ do we need?

By Tang Li

Image Credit: MediaCock


One of the things that the Singapore government is very good at is coming up with quirky terms and coining phrases. When the late Indonesian President B. J. Habibie called us “a Little Red Dot,” we proceeded to turn it into a catch phrases of sorts. Then there’s the word “hub,” which when used by Singapore’s elite often refers to the fact that we are a “hub” for everything and anything conceivable.


Singapore's most inventive contribution to the English language is in re-imagining the word “entrepreneur.” In the early 1990s, when the government tried to get Singaporeans to become more “entrepreneurial” in the technology sector, we devised the term “technopreneur,” which was essentially an entrepreneur who had set up a business that entailed some semblance of technological investment. By Singapore's definition, Silicon Valley is thus populated with “technopreneurs.”


The latest group of “preneurs” that the Singapore government is trying to breed are known as “Hawkerpreneurs.” Thanks to UNESCO, the Singapore government has suddenly realized that Singapore’s food vendors or hawkers form an invaluable part of Singapore’s cultural landscape. Hawkers have fed generations of Singaporeans and are the very reason why Singapore is described as a “food paradise.” More importantly (particularly from a government calculation of revenue from elsewhere perspective), whenever friends from abroad come and visit us, we always feel the need to bring them to a “hawker centre.”


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