It is a little hard to take the Mediacorp news stories ‘Surprise Singapore’ (in ChannelNewsAsia and TODAYonline) without the proverbial grain of salt.

The article reports the findings of a Media Development Authority (MDA)-commissioned international panel, which suggests that creativity in Singapore is alive and well.

Yet does its statement that creativity will ‘continue to flourish in spite of the political climate’ come from the panel being asked directly whether ‘restrictions on political expression would impede the development of a creative culture and Singapore’s aspirations to become a global media hub’?

The answer given skilfully yet obviously avoids answering that sensitive question: “Singapore will continue to be hard on itself and keep asking searching questions like: ‘Are we creative?’ Of course, you are.”

The answer, given by Stanford University professor Paul Saffo is right. Naturally there is significant evidence of creativity in Singapore, and a growing entrepreneurial innovativeness that is relying less on tried and tested business models, and less on would-be entrepreneurs wanting to ‘bring in’ or sell under license a product in Singapore they have seen overseas.

But to the answer of will restrictions on political expression impede the development of a creative culture, the answer may well equally be ‘of course it will.’

This is not to say it will stop creative or cultural development, but it will certainly impede it.

One key question is how much of the “renaissance” that has been taking place in the arts scene over the last five years according to MDA chairman Dr Tan, has been driven by government direction and public funds? Many nations around the world have (heavily?) subsidised arts sectors, but the combination of significant public funding and restrictions on political expression do not bode well for creative development. Perhaps if there was more private sector investment (or even philanthropy) then any lack of political freedom may not be such an issue?

Some of the insightful findings reported include:

Among the recommendations yesterday of the 10-member Media Development Authority (MDA) International Advisory Panel, was one which called for Singapore to “foster an ecosystem that breeds talent for the media industry”.

The panel suggested that Singapore leverage on its strength in education, medicine and technology by developing media content in these sectors. These products could tap on interactive digital media technologies, tools and applications to produce materials such as professional publications or training materials.