Monday 31 October 2011

Lee Kuan Yew dialogue session at Shell Singapore's 120th Anniversary Charity Gala Dinner: Stability 'is key to drawing oil trade'

Singapore provided such security, says Mr Lee
By Teo Wan Gek, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2011

IN THE face of emerging economies like China and Brazil becoming oil producers and oil hubs, Singapore can continue to stay relevant to the energy industry by keeping its economy growing and building up itself as a financial, logistics and trading hub, said Mr Lee Kuan Yew last night.

Speaking at the 120th anniversary celebration of Shell Singapore, the founding prime minister of Singapore also noted how Singapore provided stability and security to the oil companies, which gave them confidence to site their operations here.

Shell was the first to set up a crude oil refinery on Pulau Bukom in 1961, two years after Singapore attained self-government, Mr Lee noted. Over time, more followed in the footsteps of Shell and set up shop here.

Shell has been in Singapore since 1891, when it acquired 8ha on Pulau Bukom and set up an oil storage installation.

Mr Lee was guest of honour at the oil giant's charity gala dinner at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).

Shell's global campaign manager for future energy, Mr Warren Fernandez, was the moderator of the 40-minute dialogue.

It was attended by more than 1,000 guests, comprising customers, suppliers, partners, government officials, regional company executives and local Shell staff.

One of the guests asked if the petrochemical hub in the Iskandar region in Johor would complement or pose a serious threat to Singapore.

Mr Lee said Singapore could not prevent Malaysia from building a petrochemical hub.

'They can see how useful our petrochemical hub has been. They have placed a hub next to us, so that ships will call by on them first, before calling by on us,' he said.

'The question is: Which is the more efficient hub, and where do the ships turn around faster?'

After a brief pause, Mr Lee shot back at the guest: 'Have you got my answer?'

The latter replied to laughter from the ballroom: 'Singapore's.'

The evening opened with welcome remarks by chairman of Shell companies in Singapore, Mr Lee Tzu Yang, and Mr Peter Voser, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell.

Together with their industry partners, Shell raised $1.2 million from the charity drive. All proceeds will be donated to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) and Fei Yue Community Services.

The amount raised is on top of other 120th anniversary charity initiatives during the year in aid of the Lions Befrienders.

A silent auction of books on Mr Lee, The Papers Of Lee Kuan Yew and Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, was also held at the gala dinner. This raised $160,816, which will go to the Education Fund administered by the Ministry of Education. Established in 1970, the Education Fund provides scholarships for outstanding students.

Q & A with Mr Lee

On why the Singapore civil service adopted Shell's human resource methodology:

'I was intrigued by Shell's ability to have its talent pool spread out over more than 100 countries, yet be able to promote the right people. I found out that they had a panel that went around rating its people in all the different countries, assessing them for their Hair qualities - their helicopter ability, their powers of analysis, their sense of imagination and their sense of reality. I found that their criteria made a lot of sense.'

On what he thinks is the meaning of life:

'Life is what you make of it. You're dealt with a deck of cards at birth; your DNA is fixed by your father and mother. So focus on what you can do well, and leave aside what you cannot do well. I can never be an artist as I just can't draw. Don't try to do what you were not favoured by nature to do.'

On what he discussed with United States leaders during his recent visit there:

'They are worried about their deficit, and about what's happening in the euro zone. So are we. Half of our trade is with these two areas.'

On the euro zone crisis:

'The euro zone assumes that 17 countries can march to the beat of one drummer. Perhaps the French and the Germans can. But clearly the Greeks are unable to. For one thing, the Greeks spend more and save less than the Germans.

They are trying to patch the problem now, but it is bound to recur. It is not just Greece that has a problem; there is also Spain, Portugal and Italy. If Greece were not part of the euro zone, it might be able to devalue its currency. But because it is in the euro zone, it has to borrow in euros and repay in euros. It cannot afford to do so.

Among the euro zone countries, there is political will at the moment not to admit defeat, but is there political will to persevere over the long term? We have to wait and see.'

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