Sunday, 5 October 2014

NUSS 60th Anniversary Lecture and Dialogue with PM Lee Hsien Loong







PM calls on Singapore to look outwards and to the future
He outlines three principles to take country to the next stage
By Zakir Hussain, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2014

AGAINST the backdrop of major world events, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night warned Singaporeans against the dangers of being overly absorbed with internal issues to the detriment of preparing for the future.

Urging them not to give in to "navel-gazing", he laid out three principles that have helped the country succeed and which would help it maintain its momentum.

These are: Looking outwards and staying plugged in to the world; staying true to good-hearted policies while not shying away from hard-headed realities; and taking heart from the past to embrace the future with confidence.

"We are now at an inflexion point, changing gears, changing pace," Mr Lee said.

"We need not only to navigate the eddies and currents from moment to moment, but to keep in mind basic principles which will help us maintain our momentum, our direction, our purpose."

Mr Lee was giving the National University of Singapore Society's 60th anniversary lecture, titled "Singapore in Transition - the Next Phase".

His comments come after more than two years in which Singapore has had to grapple with more urgent priorities in housing, public transport and medical care.

Acknowledging that these were understandable concerns, even as the Government is putting in place longer-term shifts for these policies, Mr Lee yesterday sought to refocus attention on the big picture and the world beyond Singapore.

"There are major changes in the Asian landscape which are having a big impact on us, more so because we are a small country," he said, citing changes in Indonesia, India and China.

"Unless we understand what is happening... we can't anticipate or respond properly to events."

Mr Lee also acknowledged that while population and immigration policies had to take the heart into account and consider the social impact - and adjustments had been made - hard facts like low birth rates could not be wished away.

He touched especially on the issue of foreign professionals, managers and executives who compete with qualified Singaporeans for jobs, saying that while he could appreciate their concerns, the bigger picture was that allowing such professionals to come in created more good jobs for locals.

He warned against what he called the "real dangers" of anti-foreign sentiment, citing the latest outburst online against Eurasian Singaporean Asian Games medallist Joseph Schooling.

And in looking to the future, Mr Lee called on Singaporeans to understand the upheavals in their recent past. Citing the challenges from Communists and communalists in the 1950s and 1960s, he said: "The lessons of history need to be reinforced, because if we don't remember them, we may not learn the hard-won lessons and we may fail to value what we have painstakingly built."

Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence next year will also see memorials to victims of Konfrontasi and those who fought the Communists, he added. "But SG50 should also be a time to look ahead, to set new goals for the next half century, to see and be excited by the opportunities opening up," he said.



During the lecture at the University Cultural Centre, Mr Lee also tackled questions from the floor. Professor Tommy Koh, the moderator, said some older Singaporeans in the audience had told him they did not think Singapore could replicate its success of the past 50 years, though he disagreed.

Replied Mr Lee: "We are small. We are successful, we can continue to be successful. But watch the world, have a good heart, but think very hard about what you are going to do, and have confidence in the future.

"You are young, you are living in an age with the amenities, with the knowledge, with the resources, with all the accumulated 50 years of effort which we have put in to build this place. Take it and run with the ball, win the game!"




KEEPING TOMORROW IN MIND

We've got to look out even while we look inwards to ourselves.

If we fall to navel gazing, that's the end of us. Like it or not, the outside world is going to impose change on us and we have to be prepared for it. We've not solved for all time the problem of earning a living for ourselves... So we've got to make ourselves valuable to the world. Some changes will bring opportunities, others new challenges, but we have to do things today with tomorrow in mind.

- PM Lee









Singapore must not shy away from being hard-headed: PM
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 4 Oct 2014

While the Government of late has been lauded by people for “showing more heart rather than head”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that Singapore must not shy away from hard-headed policies when it comes to tackling challenges such as retirement adequacy, healthcare financing, immigration and the inflow of foreign workers.


Delivering a speech at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) 60th Anniversary Lecture yesterday, Mr Lee spoke at length on the hot-button issue of population policy as an example of where both the heart and the head are needed.

The Government is paying attention to the emotional and practical aspects of the issue. “In terms of heart, we are giving weight to how comfortable people are with the pace of immigration, we are encouraging the new arrivals to adapt to Singapore norms, to the way our society functions,” he said.

“In terms of head, we are watching the numbers, keeping the inflows moderate and sustainable.”

The audience of about 1,500 included undergraduates, NUSS members and foreign diplomats. In his speech, Mr Lee also reminded Singaporeans that while they focus on domestic challenges, they should also adopt a broader perspective and pay attention to what is happening beyond the Republic’s shores.

Singaporeans also need to understand the Republic’s past and have confidence in the future, while they immerse themselves in the present.

The speech was followed by a wide-ranging one-hour question and answer session that touched on, among other things, the protests in Hong Kong and the conditions under which the more controversial parts of Singapore’s past could be discussed normally, in the wake of the authorities’ decision to bar a film about the lives of Singapore exiles from being exhibited or distributed here.

During his speech, Mr Lee stressed the need for Singapore to be prepared in a fast-changing world, and to “do things today with tomorrow in mind”.

“And that requires us to be both good-hearted and hard-headed in our approach,” he said.

Recalling the Population White Paper debate in February last year, Mr Lee took aim at the Workers’ Party’s argument for “zero foreign worker growth”. “It was a populist and irresponsible pose, it was not a serious policy because such a freeze would have harmed our economy and in particular would have hurt many of the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) which desperately need workers and would have caused Singaporeans to suffer and lose jobs,” he said.

What the Government chose to do instead was to moderate, but not stop, the foreign worker inflow, he said.

“What we said we would do, and what we are doing is necessary, and is working.”

Noting that population is always a sensitive topic in all countries, he cautioned Singaporeans against developing anti-immigration sentiments found in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Hong Kong and even Sweden, which is known to be a “liberal and big-hearted country”.

Mr Lee cited what happened recently to Asian Games gold medallist Joseph Schooling, who was wrongly described by some on the Internet as a “foreign talent” even though he and his father are Eurasians born here.

“These are real dangers because we see the tendency — I’m sure you do too — especially on the Internet, to blame everything bad that happens in Singapore on foreigners and blame all foreigners (for) anything bad that any one non-Singaporean (did) — all bad things are done by foreigners and all foreigners do bad things,” he said.

Reiterating the need to act with a good heart and with hard-headedness, Mr Lee noted how some countries offer generous welfare schemes to tackle poverty. But instead of eradicating the problem, it has often created a dependency on welfare. “So that’s the first reason we have to be hard-headed — to get the right results,” he said.

He added that Singaporeans must also be hard-headed about themselves when it comes to, for example, the Central Provident Fund and healthcare financing. It would be easy to lay the burden on future generations, as some other countries have done, by paying for generous welfare benefits through state financing, he said.

In the case of the Pioneer Generation Package, Mr Lee noted that instead of leaving to future governments to fund it, the Government chose to set aside the money now. “When this Government makes a promise, we mean it and we keep it,” he said.

In order to be good-hearted, Singapore also needs growth and prosperity. Mr Lee expressed worry about the sentiment that the Republic can afford to go easy on growth and “talk airily about the more important things in life”. “I think there is a strong element of condescension and complacency in that view … Unless you have growth, you can’t make somebody better off without making somebody else worse off,” he added.









'Navel-gazing' poses risks for Singapore, says PM Lee
Singaporeans need to be prepared for changes the outside world imposes
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2014

THAILAND has a new prime minister after military chief Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power.

But many Singaporeans would be hard pressed to name him.

Similarly, the extremist group ISIS has been terrorising the world with its beheadings. But how many can say what ISIS stands for? (The abbreviation stands for "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria".)

In noting this, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it showed people were not reading the news and were too caught up with immediate concerns.

This posed dangers, he added, as we would not know what is happening outside of Singapore and we would not be prepared to respond to the changes taking place.

Mr Lee stressed the importance of looking outwards in his National University of Singapore (NUS) Society lecture last night.

Speaking to an audience made up mainly of NUS graduates, he noted that Singaporeans have been concentrating on what is happening at home, and understandably so, given the urgent issues of housing, public transport and medical care.

The Government, however, is making strategic policy shifts to prepare for longer-term trends, such as changes to the population and the economy, he said.

"But, perhaps, because we are so focused on these issues, I fear Singaporeans are not paying enough attention to what is happening outside of Singapore."

He noted that people have stopped reading newspapers and watching the news on television, and were getting information from their friends and through social media.

Some have also been "absorbed" in daily life, leaving little time and energy to track less immediate concerns, he said.

But paying attention to the world around us is important, he said, for Singaporeans to gain perspective and realise that many countries were facing the same issues as Singapore.

People, then, can make a judgment on whether they should be alarmed about developments in Singapore, or whether they should "congratulate" themselves. Also, it would allow Singapore to learn from the experiences of others, he said.

With major shifts in the Asian landscape, all of which have a big impact on a small country like Singapore, keeping an eye on the world would help Singapore stay abreast of the changes as well.

He noted that changes were afoot in Indonesia, India and China.

Indonesia will have a new government and a new president in Mr Joko Widodo. India, too, has just got a new prime minister in Mr Narendra Modi, who is "determined to get the Indian economy moving, keen to make friends with Singapore", he said.

With China rising, and changing rapidly, there would also be implications on Singapore's competitiveness, he added.

While many still think of China as a low-cost manufacturing base, it now has IT companies, such as Tencent, which have innovative ideas, said Mr Lee.

"Unless we understand... what's happening and grasp how it impacts us, we can't anticipate or respond properly to events," he added.

He said Singapore had always been open and connected and outward-looking, and this had been a pillar of the country's success.

It is why other countries' leaders seek Singapore's views on international matters, why companies set up headquarters here despite Singapore not having natural advantages, and why students here do well compared with their counterparts elsewhere, he noted.

With globalisation and technological advances creating and disrupting businesses swiftly, knowing what will happen next can also help Singapore stay prepared, he added.

Citing climate change, he noted it has led to new sailing routes that will bypass Singapore's ports. Amid these changes, the ports have been consolidated into a single megaport in Tuas to strengthen Singapore's role as a transhipment hub, he said.

It was the same with the taxi industry having to prepare for competition from new car-sharing apps such as Uber and GrabTaxi.

"So, we've got to look out even while we look inwards to ourselves. If we fall to navel-gazing, that's the end of us. Like it or not, the outside world is going to impose change on us and we have to be prepared for it," he said.




BALANCE NEEDED

Take car-sharing apps like Uber or GrabTaxi. It's given commuters increased options and improved services. But it's disrupted the traditional industries and, in particular, the taxi businesses in many cities and is challenging the regulatory frameworks which govern taxi operations... And so, you find the incumbents very anxious, worried, pushing back, resisting. We've got to be able to develop a framework to facilitate innovation, and, at the same time, (ensure) orderly change in the taxi industry and ensure a competitive and a level playing field for both old and new players.

- PM Lee, on the impact technology can have on businesses





Plans to mark key events in formative years
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2014

SINGAPORE plans to commemorate key episodes in its formative years as it moves towards its 50th anniversary next year.

Next Thursday, The Battle For Merger, a book compiling former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's radio talks in 1961 - aimed at exposing the communists and rallying people to support the merger with Malaya - will be republished.

A marker is also being planned to honour those who fought the communists in Singapore's early years.

Meanwhile, a memorial to the victims of Konfrontasi will be erected opposite MacDonald House in Orchard Road. The building was bombed by two Indonesian marines in 1965, killing three people and injuring more than 30.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in making these announcements last night, said: "We ourselves must know our history to understand how Singapore works and why we do the things we do."

Though the 1950s and 1960s are within living memory, events are receding into the past, he said in a National University of Singapore Society lecture, marking its 60th anniversary.

Schools have worked hard to teach students about Singapore's journey towards nationhood, but many Singaporeans "only have the vaguest idea" of what the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation from 1963 to 1966 was about, and struggle to tell the difference between communists and communalists.

"The lessons of history need to be reinforced because if we don't remember them, we may not learn the hard-won lessons and may fail to value what we have painstakingly built," said PM Lee.

With the country poised to celebrate its golden jubilee next year, it is also time to look ahead and recognise that opportunities are opening up.

Young Singaporeans may wring their hands worrying about the future, but Mr Lee is optimistic about what lies ahead.

He brought up how young people in China - where life has been improving faster than nearly anywhere else in the world, at any time in human history - feel pressured and anxious.

Even young graduates with good jobs in thriving cities, such as Chongqing and Shanghai, also "feel this existential angst and worry that the best years have passed and they won't have it as good as their parents", he added.

But Singaporeans should have confidence in the future.

"If we understand the opportunities opening up and realise what we can do to get ready for them, then far from being anxious, we should be eager and ready to go."




LOOKING AHEAD WITH OPTIMISM

Sometimes young people express anxiety about the future. They wonder whether their lives would be better than their parents'. And it's not so surprising because it's a time of rapid change, of flux, of intense competition, and therefore of some self-doubt. Even in China, where life has been improving faster than nearly anywhere else in the world any time in human history, young people feel pressured and anxious. Even successful young people who have university degrees and good jobs in thriving cities like Chongqing and Shanghai also feel this existential angst and worry that the best years have passed and they won't have it as good as their parents. But if we understand the opportunities opening up and realise what we can do to get ready for them, then far from being anxious, we should be eager and ready to go.

- PM Lee, on getting young people to be optimistic about the future




MODERATING FOREIGN INFLOW

When we debated the Population White Paper in Parliament, the Government proposed moderating the foreign worker inflows. The opposition rejected this. They argued for zero foreign worker growth. It was a populist and irresponsible pose. It was not a serious policy, because such a freeze would have harmed our economy and... many of the SMEs, and would have caused Singaporeans to suffer and lose jobs. Instead, we decided to moderate the inflow, not to stop it. Nowadays, you don't hear any more demands from the opposition for zero foreign worker growth. The latest manpower numbers do show the foreign worker growth has slowed down. It's now a more sustainable level and... I don't expect any further measures to tighten foreign worker numbers.

- PM Lee, on how moderating foreign worker numbers is working









Have a heart, but use head too: PM
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2014

HE WAS born in Singapore, as was his father. He did Singapore proud, winning a gold medal at the Asian Games for the country.

And yet, for some netizens, the looks of this Eurasian prodigy were more eye-catching than his achievements.

They derisively dubbed swimmer Joseph Schooling an "ang moh" (a Hokkien term for "Caucasian") and a foreign talent.

Citing this example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night touched on the dangerous anti-immigrant sentiment that appears to have gripped some Singaporeans.

If allowed to go unchallenged, it could end up harming Singapore's economy and reputation, he pointed out. "We see tendencies... to blame everything that happens in Singapore on foreigners and blame all foreigners for anything bad that any one non-Singaporean does," he said.

Singapore must avoid going down this road, Mr Lee added.

For one thing, it needs foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), as they create good jobs for locals, said Mr Lee at the National University of Singapore Society's 60th anniversary event.

His speech centred on how Singapore's policies must involve both the head and the heart, and keep facts in mind.

"While we are good-hearted, we must not shy away from being hard-headed," he said. Stark realities like Singapore's rapidly ageing population and low fertility rate cannot be wished away.

"We need growth and prosperity... and you cannot get growth and prosperity just by good intentions," said Mr Lee. Singapore needs resources to grow the economy and give its people better lives, he said.

Keeping Singapore open to foreign workers is a key part of this economic growth, said Mr Lee, even as he acknowledged the dilemma that this threw up.

On the one hand, Singaporeans know that there are too few workers to build homes and MRT lines and work for companies here. On the other hand, foreign professionals vex Singaporeans because they compete with locals for good jobs.

"(But) if we are too tight on the foreign PMEs, I think many companies will be deterred from coming here and the jobs for Singaporean PMEs may not even exist in the first place," said Mr Lee.

He pointed to the balance that the Government was trying to strike on this tricky issue. While making sure that people were comfortable with the pace of immigration, the Government was keeping the inflows moderate, he said.

As for the comments hurled online at Schooling, Mr Lee said: "I am ashamed and dismayed when I read such virulent and nasty attitudes, and I am sure, so are many other Singaporeans." He added: "We have to stand up and have the courage to say so, and not be cowed into being silent."





Exiles shouldn't get to air 'self-serving accounts'
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2014

THE political exiles featured in a documentary that cannot be shown in public or distributed here should not be allowed to air their "self-serving accounts" of the fight against communism, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Local film-maker Tan Pin Pin's To Singapore, With Love had to be seen in the historical context of the communist insurgency, an armed struggle for power that raged for 40 years and killed thousands, he pointed out.


Ms Tan has submitted the film - unchanged - to the independent Films Appeal Committee and said on Thursday she hoped the classification could be reviewed.



It came up at last night's National University of Singapore Society forum when Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Gillian Koh cited it as she asked Mr Lee how the more "controversial" points of history could be discussed more normally.

He said there was no hindrance to discussing the past in a normal way, noting that some historians propound revisionist views of history and others rebut them.

But Ms Tan's film involved people who figured in the communist insurgency. "It was a violent struggle; it lasted for 40 years from 1949. On one side, you had the non-communists, democratic groups; on the other side, you had the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and their sympathisers in the Communist United Front... It was an armed struggle for power," he said, adding that these were matters of historical record, not seriously disputed.

The six self-declared CPM members in Ms Tan's film do not deny having been guerillas, and one even shows himself in jungle green carrying weapons.

After the insurgency, many communists returned to Singapore with their families after owning up to their actions.

They included former communist leaders Eu Chooi Yip and P.V. Sarma who returned from China in 1991. "They were superiors of some of the people who are in the movie - cleared their accounts, made their peace, lived and died here," Mr Lee said.

There is nothing to stop the exiles in Ms Tan's film from doing the same, he added.

"Well, they've chosen not to do so. It's their prerogative. But if they have chosen not to do so, why should we allow them, through a movie, to present an account of themselves, not of documentary history objectively presented, but a self-serving personal account conveniently inaccurate in places, glossing over inconvenient facts in others?"

This, he said, would sully the honour and the reputation of security forces, and the people who fought the communists to build the Singapore of today.

A film, he added, is a different medium from a book.

"You write a book, I can write a counter book. The book, you can read together with the counter book," he explained. "You watch the movie, you think it's a documentary. It may be like Fahrenheit 9/11, very convincing, but it's not a documentary. And I think that we have to understand this in order to understand how to deal with these issues."

Professor Tommy Koh, who chaired the forum, noted that the influence of communism had waned, and would no longer pose a security threat to Singapore.

But Mr Lee replied: "Communism is over, but I don't think the people who used to support communism... have given up the fight for a place on the winner's podium."









Outside interference not helpful: PM Lee
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2014

THE responsibility falls on Hong Kong and Beijing to make "one country, two systems" work, and the involvement of other parties would complicate matters, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

Replying to a question at a dialogue after his National University of Singapore Society lecture, Mr Lee said Hong Kong is in a very unique and delicate position.

"It's not a sovereign country, it's one country, two systems. It's never had elections all the years when the British had it as a colony," he said, responding to a member of the audience, who had asked about the stand-off between pro-democracy demonstrators and the Hong Kong government.



Tens of thousands have taken to the streets to push for universal suffrage in demonstrations that started on Sunday night. They are against election rules that will see Beijing vet candidates for Hong Kong's elections.

Mr Lee said that when the British handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, an agreement was made that Hong Kong would be governed under one country, two systems, with some limited form of democracy that would be gradually extended to universal suffrage.

However, with this principle of one country, two systems, there would always be grey areas for interpretation, he said. "It's a delicate business because where exactly does one country end and two systems begin?" he said.

But he added that on these matters, the people of Hong Kong, as well as the central government in Beijing, would have to work jointly to make things work.

He warned that if other groups got involved, and used the occasion to "pressure or change" China, the situation could get complicated. Citing an example, Mr Lee said he had read in the news that former activists who were part of the Tiananmen protests in Beijing in 1989 had gone to Hong Kong to give advice to student protesters there.

Those involved in Taiwan's Sunflower Movement, a protest movement led by students to oppose trade deals between Taiwan and Beijing, had also gone to Hong Kong to "compare notes" with student protesters there, he noted.

"I don't think such help is helpful in any way," said Mr Lee.

He said the "geopolitical reality is that Hong Kong is now part of China", and that China is prepared to go very far to help Hong Kong succeed.

But it would not want Hong Kong to "become a problem on the other side of the Shenzhen River", referring to the natural border between mainland China and Hong Kong.

Mr Lee added that if the election rules for the Special Administrative Region were not "moved forward", then the status quo would remain.

"It's workable, but you have to ask yourself whether that's the best outcome for Hong Kong," he said, adding that he wished the city well.







Must leaders be well-educated?
PM: What's important is that they must be able to guide S'pore out of a sticky situation
By Charissa Yong and Tham Yuen-C, The Sunday Times, 5 Oct 2014

There are individuals who may not have aced an examination, or moved a crowd with speeches. But if they can guide Singapore out of a sticky situation, then they are the kind of leaders that Singapore needs, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday night.

He was responding at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Lecture to a question from a student who asked if Singapore's leaders needed to be the most well-educated.

Citing these qualities, Mr Lee said: "I think we need to find leaders like that for Singapore."

The student said that many of Singapore's ministers and community leaders were scholarship holders, and asked if the ongoing push to help non-degree holders gain better career prospects - as outlined in last month's Applied Study in Polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education Review (Aspire) report - could help groom future leaders too.

To this, Mr Lee said that a leader does not have to be the most well-educated person, but should be capable.

"They must know the world and they must know Singapore. So whether you have the formal education or not, you must have that knowledge and you must have that leadership," he said.

Citing the example of former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had little formal education, he said that it is possible for someone to start at the bottom, and become an outstanding leader of a nation.

Singapore too, in its early days, had many unionists, grassroots leaders and Members of Parliament from "very humble backgrounds", he said.

"Now, as we go ahead, as more people make it into polytechnics and to universities... the chances are that the successful people would have more education."

Mr Lee pledged that the Government would help those who have started working, but want to complete their education, upgrade.

But he also said: "You may never ace an exam or be able to make a speech and move a crowd, but if you are stuck in a sticky spot, that's the person you want to be with you to see you through."

Another member of the NUSS, the alumni for university graduates, asked about the qualities that a Singapore leader should have.

"Everything," Mr Lee replied.

To laughter from the audience, he said there was an impossible combination of attributes: "You have to be nice, you must be firm, you must be able to hug babies, you must be able to go to war..."

The moderator of the question and answer session which followed Mr Lee's speech, Ambassador-at- large Tommy Koh, then chimed in: "Superman."

But no one leader can be like that, said Mr Lee. Which is why it is necessary to have a good team.

He said that Singapore has had good teams of ministers so far and so would the next team.

"I know the next team will have good ministers and I hope among them they'll be able to produce a leader whom they will support and whom Singaporeans would also similarly support and in time develop a bond with," he said.





In PM's own words
The Sunday Times, 5 Oct 2014






PM Lee, when asked for his advice about how parents can inculcate sound values in their children:

"Singaporean parents, because children are fewer now, have gone for the strategy of investing heavily in a few children, and they want to give the best - quality time, quality tuition, quality enrichment and quality travel. The PSLE was last week and people came home from overseas to take the PSLE with their children.

Some of it is necessary. I'm not suggesting you should ignore your kids and just let them run wild. But you have to have some detachment.

I have a very vivid memory of one Australian friend (who) came here with his two-year-old. His wife was pregnant again. So his wife and us sat down for dinner and the two-year-old ran all over the premises. He was completely unfazed, didn't worry about the chap falling down, bruising himself, neither did the little boy come back bawling to mummy. So they grow up in a different way, (and) they win a lot of Olympic gold medals!"



 



On whether there can be education programmes to teach newcomers how they should behave:

"We do some of it, (but not) enough. But you can't do the same for everybody because there are different sorts of people. Construction workers come here - we have 330,000. They stay a few years, they move on. They are not intended to become Singaporeans. They just need to know how to behave in Singapore - don't get drunk in the streets, don't riot.

Those who are becoming PRs (and) Singapore citizens, you have to adapt, learn what the norms are, and we need to make the effort to teach them. I would also say that the education effort has to be on both sides.

For a foreigner to come to a foreign land, to work or to live, is daunting. Imagine yourselves or your children going overseas: the anxiety with which people treat it, the number of parents who (take) their children overseas when they're studying, help them to settle in, find a neighbourhood coffee shop. It takes courage to do that. It's not easy to fit in.

And we need to know how to be able to interface with them and to adapt to them. There will be frictions. When you have the frictions, how do you manage them so that on both sides, there's gradually greater understanding? I think that is necessary."







On how the spirit of honour can be cultivated to help Singapore stay successful:

"Honour is important. Respect is important. But it's very difficult to reduce the formula for a good society and a good life into one word. Life is just too complicated for that. You must have a good set of values, in the way (you) interact with one another and the unspoken norms of society.

We want to have respect shown to people with authority, ability, (and) who can make a difference and guide us to where we want to go. But at the same time, we do not want to be a society where we bow and we scrape, and somebody is high up on top and the rest of us sit right at the bottom.

As the Chinese say, ping qi ping zuo - you rise together, you sit kneecap to kneecap.

But you have to have a balance. To be able to sit kneecap to kneecap, you must also have an innate respect for the other person so that you will listen to him, know whose views carry more weight. And the person whose views carry weight knows he's not supposed to push that weight around.

I think that is a difficult balance to strike in real life. All the more difficult to strike in cyberspace. It's very easy to morph, in cyberspace, from sitting side (by) side to what the Chinese say: boh tua boh suay - no big, no small.

It's true, and it's a big problem everywhere. I just saw (a study) recently which explained how when comments are anonymous, the rubbish content of the post increases by 50 per cent. When you make people accountable and put their Facebook names down, the rubbish content goes down.

So, human beings are like that. Some of it is inculcating the right rules. Some of it is setting the right rules. And there must be right consequences. If you behave badly, there has to be social disapproval, people prepared to stand up and say: this is not the way to behave. I think that's a balance which will take some time to strike."




Respect and balance

As the Chinese say, ping qi ping zuo - you rise together, you sit kneecap to kneecap... To be able to sit kneecap to kneecap, you must also have an innate respect for the other person so that you will listen to him, know whose views carry more weight. And the person whose views carry weight knows he's not supposed to push that weight around.

PM LEE, on cultivating the spirit of honour









Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined three principles to take Singapore forward: Look outwards, be hard-headed but with a heart, and know the past as we embrace the future
The Sunday Times, 5 Oct 2014


ONE - Look outwards

"We have been concentrating in recent years on what is happening within Singapore and understandably so, because we have had urgent issues to deal with - housing, public transport, medical care and so on.

And also, as a society, we are making some strategic policy shifts to prepare for longer-term trends, trends like changing demographics, ageing population and maturing economy.

These are major changes, with very long-term consequences, so we have got to proceed very cautiously and make sure we get them right because once you make the move, it is irrevocable...

But perhaps because we are so focused on these issues, I fear that Singaporeans are not paying enough attention to what is happening outside Singapore.

There are three reasons why it is important for us to have a broader view.

First, it sets our own issues in perspective. We are preoccupied with health- care financing, ageing population, immigration, income inequality, and so many other domestic items. But these are not items unique to Singapore.

Many other countries in the world face similar issues, dealing with the challenges in our different ways. So we have to know how others are tackling their problems, and learn from their experiences.

Then, I think we can see our issues in perspective and we can make a judgment: Is this something that we should be alarmed about or we should congratulate ourselves about or which we can do something about?

Second, there are major changes in the Asian landscape which are having a big impact on us, more so because we are a small country.

Take Indonesia. It is soon going to have a new president and government. How will Indonesia change? How will our relations with them develop?

India - new prime minister - strong mandate, determined to get India's economy moving and keen to work with Singapore. How can we take advantage of this?

China is continuing to develop rapidly. What does its rise mean for Singapore's competitive position, given our limited resources? How do we stay abreast of these changes and not fall behind?

Unless we understand what is happening and grasp how it impacts us, we cannot anticipate or respond properly to events. We have always been open, connected and outward-looking in the past. This has always been a pillar of our success.

Third, we have to know what is going to happen in the world. Major trends, unexpected developments such as globalisation and technological progress can create and disrupt businesses swiftly.

Take ports for example. We are the second biggest port in the world. PSA has got multiple terminals and we are consolidating them all into a single megaport in Tuas so that we have one centralised efficient outfit.

But the climate is changing and the Arctic Ocean is melting. New sailing routes are opening up - the North-east Passage via the Arctic Ocean from Europe to the Far East. Not all the ships will go there but some will and bypass Singapore and PSA. What does it mean for us?

Most of you may not have noticed but Singapore has become an observer in the Arctic Council. We decided we better become an observer in the Arctic Council as it can affect us. We want to know and we want to be part of this change. We have no choice.

So we have got to look out even as we look inwards. If we fall to navel-gazing, that is the end of us. Like it or not, the outside world is going to impose change on us, and we have to be prepared for it."




TWO - Hard-headed, never hard-hearted

"I described our New Way Forward just now. People have commended this New Way Forward for showing more Heart rather than Head. And indeed it is important to win hearts and I am glad people appreciate what we do.

I am glad that the New Way Forward resonates with Singaporeans. But please do not forget that we cannot be all Heart, and no Head.

We must never be hard-hearted, but we must never shy away from being hard-headed.

First of all, because we have to do the good-hearted things right. There are many examples from all sorts of countries, of the best of intentions producing zero results or worse, sometimes even negative results, especially in social policy.

Too often, the policies end up hurting the very same people they were intended to help. Take poverty. Many countries have generous welfare schemes, or minimum wage laws but none of them have succeeded in eradicating poverty. Instead they have often created welfare states, bureaucracy, dependency, disincentives to work, and even higher unemployment. Because what you want from a policy is not necessarily what you get from it.

The second reason is because we have to be good-hearted not just to ourselves, but also to our children and to our grandchildren. That means that we need to be hard-headed about ourselves.

Take CPF and health-care financing. It would be easy for us to lay the burden on our children, as some other countries have done - by paying for generous welfare benefits through debt financing or hopefully one day, future taxation. That is not what we have done.

We have the Pioneer Generation Package. We could have promised this to pioneers and left it to future governments to find the money to pay for our generosity. But instead we set aside the money now so that the package is guaranteed.

The pioneers can be sure that they will get it and our children are not burdened by the cost of what we do.

When this Government makes a promise, we mean it and we keep it.

So while what we do speaks to the heart, we must be hard-headed about how to make it happen and how to live within our means, because that is the only way we can deliver on our promises.

Thirdly, we need growth and prosperity in order to be good-hearted. You cannot get growth and prosperity just from good intentions. Without resources, good intentions mean nothing. We have to grow the economy as it is the only way our people can have better lives.

We must not go pell-mell for growth regardless of social, human or environmental costs, nor are we doing so.

But I do worry when people say we should take it easy on growth because we are okay, and they talk airily about the more important things in life.

They do not understand what our well-being depends on and I think there is a strong element of condescension and complacency in that view because essentially they are telling others: 'Well I am well-off enough, you should be satisfied with whatever you have even if you are poor.'

That is not the way forward ...

The issue which vexes Singaporeans, is that we also need foreign professionals, managers and executives, because they compete with Singaporean PMEs for jobs.

I can appreciate that from a micro point of view. If I have a foreigner working beside me and in a similar job, he is competing with me. But from a macro point of view, allowing foreign professionals to work in Singapore in fact creates more good jobs for Singaporeans. If we are too tight on foreign PMEs, I think many companies would be deterred from coming here, and the jobs for Singaporean PMEs may not even exist in the first place.

We are determined to get a fair deal for Singaporean employees. At the same time, I think I should remind Singaporeans that they have to compete on our merits and contributions. It applies to all our workers. That is ultimately the only way to secure jobs and careers."




THREE - Past and future

"To have an eye on what lies ahead has always been the Singapore way. Even as we focus on the present, we must look forward and have confidence in our future. Perhaps less obviously, we must also know and understand the past.

Unless we understand our past, we will fail to appreciate what Singapore's success depends upon - why Singapore works the way it does. We will become unjustifiably pessimistic about our future prospects.

Foreign visitors often ask me: 'What is your secret of success? Can we transplant that secret and that success elsewhere?' I reply to them that it is very hard to do.

What we have achieved here is not just because of who we happen to be. It is also a function of our history and our South-east Asian context.

It depends on how we became independent, and how the pioneer generation responded to the critical challenge of building a nation from nothing and created the challenge and the response and a virtuous cycle of conditions and results - to bring us to today. We are stable and peaceful now, but our society experienced upheavals and riots - communal riots, the ferocious fight with the communists.

We are friends with our neighbours now, but we had difficult relations before - irreconcilable differences with Malaysia when we were in Malaysia; Konfrontasi with Indonesia which was a low intensity war, although it was not called war.

How did we get here from there, in the span of half a century? We ourselves must know this history, to understand how Singapore works, why we do the things we do.

For example, why did we invent Newater? Because water was critical to our survival and we know we cannot wholly rely on imported water. Why do we have the SAF and NS? Because we know we cannot depend on anyone else to defend us.

It goes back to Independence and before, within living memory. But the events are receding into the past and many of us here today are too young to have personally experienced these formative moments.

Our schools have worked hard to teach our students the essential facts of our nationhood. But many Singaporeans only have the vaguest ideas of what Konfrontasi was about, who are the communists and why are they different from the communalists.

So the lessons of history need to be reinforced, because if we do not, we may not learn the hard-won lessons and may fail to value what we have painstakingly built.

Our 50th anniversary next year is an important occasion to remember this history. Konfrontasi was a violent conflict - so we are going to erect a memorial to the victims opposite MacDonald House. The fight against the communists, if it had gone the other way, Singapore would have been very different.

So we are planning a marker to remember and honour those who fought against the communists for a democratic, non-communist future for Singapore.

We are re-publishing... The Battle for Merger, a collection of radio talks by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1961 which exposed the real aims of the communists, explained what was at stake and why it was important for Singaporeans to support merger with Malaysia.

But SG50 also should be a time to look ahead, to set new goals for the next 50 years.

Sometimes young people express anxiety about the future - they wonder whether their lives would be better than their parents'. It is not surprising at a time of rapid change and intense competition.

But if we understand the opportunities which are opening up for us, and realise what we can do to get ourselves ready for them, then far from being anxious, we should be eager and ready to go.

We have the resources, the talent, the base to go further; to make this a truly exceptional cosmopolitan city with an open and vibrant economy, where we work hard but enjoy a high quality of life, where we live in an endearing home, with our families and friends.

And we can compare where we are and where our parents are, and say we have made this a better place. So anxiety is understandable, even constructive, up to a point.

But it should not lead to paralysis or despondency. We need to be both paranoid and, at the same time, paradoxically confident. Then we can make this a special nation for Singaporeans."


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