Wednesday 29 August 2012

Don't be a 'one-eyed dragon': Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

This is an excerpt from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2012 Mandarin speech on shedding negative mindsets about Singapore
Published The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2012

IT HAS been almost 50 years since Singapore became independent.

In half a century, Singapore has changed dramatically. We are not yet a fully developed nation, even though we enjoy First World incomes.

Our basic needs have been met; we are now pursuing a better quality of life and in search of new development strategies.

The question is: At our level, what else should we do to scale greater heights? Like climbing a mountain, the higher we go, the tougher the climb.

Our situation is similar to that in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. After 30 to 40 years of rapid development, all the "Four Asian Dragons" are at a critical juncture.

The era of rapid growth is over. We are all searching for a stable new path forward. This requires new strategies and new formulas. No country can say: "We have found the formula."

Hence, many East Asian societies are anxious about the future, a phenomenon that has been highlighted in the news media.

A Taiwanese writer recently wrote an article in the Yazhou Zhoukan, analysing the anxiety felt by the Taiwanese. She said Taiwan's declining economy and shrinking job market have caused the Taiwanese to worry that their children's lives will be worse than theirs.

The writer noted that interestingly, foreign visitors praise Taiwan's economic and social accomplishments, but the Taiwanese are like a "one-eyed dragon", seeing only the negative side of Taiwan.

She added that actually, the people in China, Hong Kong and Singapore have the same worries too.

Recently, Lianhe Zaobao columnist Ng Kin Kang expressed similar sentiments in an article. He observed that Singaporeans seem to be grumbling a lot more these days, comparing Singapore selectively with only the good points of other countries.

He said: "Singapore is not perfect. We are worse than some, but better than others."

I agree with Mr Ng. Singapore is indeed not perfect. But I ask Singaporeans to look at Singapore with both eyes.

In reality, we are better off than many other countries. The media, government and people in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan believe there is more to learn from Singapore.

In recent years, they have sent study groups to look at our social and economic policies. They often conclude: Singapore is moving ahead faster and more steadily.

Singapore's development is on track, but we must continue to drive forward. We must maintain a forward-looking mindset. We must constantly improve ourselves, and remain relevant in the new age.

We hope to help Singaporeans fulfil their potential and aspirations. And inspire our young to build a new Singapore.

Therefore, we must strive to develop a vibrant and growing economy. For growth is the foundation for a vibrant Singapore.

We have not focused blindly on economic growth. We have also placed emphasis on social development and quality of life.

In the next phase, we must strive to build a more compassionate and more gracious society. To do this, we need a strong economy.

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