Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lee Kuan Yew interview

DER SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH SINGAPORE'S LEE KUAN YEW

"It's Stupid to be Afraid"

Singapore's first-ever prime minister, long-time government head and current political mentor Lee Kuan Yew talks about Asia's rise to economic power, China's ambitions and the West's chances of staying competitive.

SPIEGEL: The political and economic center of gravity is moving from the West towards the East. Is Asia becoming the dominant political and economic force in this century?

Mr. Lee: I wouldn't say it's the dominant force. What is gradually happening is the restoration of the world balance to what it was in the early 19th century or late 18th century when China and India together were responsible for more than 40 percent of world GDP. With those two countries becoming part of the globalized trading world, they are going to go back to approximately the level of world GDP that they previously occupied. But that doesn't make them the superpowers of the world.

SPIEGEL: Their leading politicians have publicly discussed the so-called "Asian Century".

Mr. Lee: Yes, economically, there will be a shift to the Pacific from the Atlantic Ocean and you can already see that in the shipping volumes of Chinese ports. Every shipping line is trying to get into association with a Chinese container port. India is slower because their infrastructure is still to be completed. But I think they will join in the race, build roads, bridges, airports, container ports and they'll become a manufacturing hub. Raw materials go in, finished goods go out.

SPIEGEL: You've been the leader of a very successful state for a long time. Returning from your time in China, are you afraid for Singapore's future?

Mr. Lee: I saw it coming from the late 1980s. Deng Xiaoping started this in 1978. He visited Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in November 1978. I think that visit shocked him because he expected three backward cities. Instead he saw three modern cities and he knew that communism -- the politics of the iron rice bowl -- did not work. So, at the end of December, he announced his open door policy. He started free trade zones and from there, they extended it and extended it. Now they have joined the WTO and the whole country is a free trade zone.

SPIEGEL: But has China's success not become dangerous for Singapore?

Mr. Lee: We have watched this transformation and the speed at which it is happening. As many of my people tell me, it's scary. They learn so fast. Our people set up businesses in Shanghai or Suzhou and they employ Chinese at lower wages than Singapore Chinese. After three years, they say: "Look, I can do that work, I want the same pay." So it is a very serious challenge for us to move aside and not collide with them. We have to move to areas where they cannot move.

SPIEGEL: Such as?

Mr. Lee: Such as where the rule of law, intellectual property and security of production systems are required, because for them to establish that, it will take 20 to 30 years. We are concentrating on bio medicine, pharmaceuticals and all products requiring protection of intellectual property rights. No pharmaceutical company is going to go have its precious patents disclosed. So that is why they are here in Singapore and not in China.

SPIEGEL: But the Chinese are moving too. They bought parts of IBM and are trying to take over the American oil company Unocal.

Mr. Lee: They are learning. They have learnt takeovers and mergers from the Americans. They know that if they try to sell their computers with a Chinese brand it will take them decades in America, but if they buy IBM, they can inject their technology and low cost into IBM's brand name, and they will gain access to the market much faster.

SPIEGEL: But how afraid should the West be?

Mr. Lee: It's stupid to be afraid. It's going to happen. I console myself this way. Suppose, China had never gone communist in 1949, suppose the Nationalist government had worked with the Americans -- China would be the great power in Asia -- not Japan, not Korea, not Hong Kong, not Singapore. Because China isolated itself, development took place on the periphery of Asia first.

SPIEGEL: Such a consolation won't be enough for the future.

Mr. Lee: Right. In 50 years I see China, Korea and Japan at the high-tech end of the value chain. Look at the numbers and quality of the engineers and scientists they produce and you know that this is where the R&D will be done. The Chinese have a space programme, they're going to put a man on the Moon and nobody sold them that technology. We have to face that. But you should not be afraid of that. You are leading in many fields which they cannot catch up with for many years, many decades. In pharmaceuticals, I don't see them catching up with the Germans for a long time.

SPIEGEL: That wouldn't feed anybody who works for Opel, would it?

Mr. Lee: A motor car is a commodity -- four wheels, a chassis, a motor. You can have modifications up and down, but it remains a commodity, and the Chinese can do commodities.

SPIEGEL: When you look to Western Europe, do you see a possible collapse of the society because of the overwhelming forces of globalization?

Mr. Lee: No. I see ten bitter years. In the end, the workers, whether they like it or not, will realize, that the cosy European world which they created after the war has come to an end.

SPIEGEL: How so?

Mr. Lee: The social contract that led to workers sitting on the boards of companies and everybody being happy rested on this condition: I work hard, I restore Germany's prosperity, and you, the state, you have to look after me. I'm entitled to go to Baden Baden for spa recuperation one month every year. This old system was gone in the blink of an eye when two to three billion people joined the race -- one billion in China, one billion in India and over half-a-billion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

SPIEGEL: The question is: How do you answer that challenge?

Mr. Lee: Chancellor Kohl tried to do it. He did it halfway then he had to pause. Schroeder tried to do it, now he's in a jam and has called an election. Merkel will go in and push, then she will get hammered before she can finish the job, but each time, they will push the restructuring a bit forward.

SPIEGEL: You think it's too slow?

Mr. Lee: It is painful because it is so slow. If your workers were rational they would say, yes, this is going to happen anyway, let's do the necessary things in one go. Instead of one month at the spa, take one week at the spa, work harder and longer for the same pay, compete with the East Europeans, invent in new technology, put more money into your R&D, keep ahead of the Chinese and the Indians.

SPIEGEL: You have seen yourself how hard it is to implement such strategies.

Mr. Lee: I faced this problem myself. Every year, our unions and the Labour Department subsidize trips to China and India. We tell the participants: Don't just look at the Great Wall but go to the factories and ask, "What are you paid?" What hours do you work?" And they come back shell-shocked. The Chinese had perestroika first, then glasnost. That's where the Russians made their mistake.

SPIEGEL: The Chinese Government is promoting the peaceful rise of China. Do you believe them?

Mr. Lee: Yes, I do, with one reservation. I think they have calculated that they need 30 to 40 -- maybe 50 years of peace and quiet to catch up, to build up their system, change it from the communist system to the market system. They must avoid the mistakes made by Germany and Japan. Their competition for power, influence and resources led in the last century to two terrible wars.

SPIEGEL: What should the Chinese do differently?

Mr. Lee: They will trade, they will not demand, "This is my sphere of influence, you keep out". America goes to South America and they also go to South America. Brazil has now put aside an area as big as the state of Massachusetts to grow soya beans for China. They are going to Sudan and Venezuela for oil because the Venezuelan President doesn't like America. They are going to Iran for oil and gas. So, they are not asking for a military contest for power, but for an economic competition.

SPIEGEL: But would anybody take them really seriously without military power?

Mr. Lee: About eight years ago, I met Liu Huaqing, the man who built the Chinese Navy. Mao personally sent him to Leningrad to learn to build ships. I said to him, "The Russians made very rough, crude weapons". He replied, "You are wrong. They made first-class weapons, equal to the Americans." The Russian mistake was that they put so much into military expenditure and so little into civilian technology. So their economy collapsed. I believe the Chinese leadership have learnt: If you compete with America in armaments, you will lose. You will bankrupt yourself. So, avoid it, keep your head down, and smile, for 40 or 50 years.

SPIEGEL: What are your reservations?

Mr. Lee: I don't know whether the next generation will stay on this course. After 15 or 20 years they may feel their muscles are very powerful. We know the mind of the leaders but the mood of the people on the ground is another matter. Because there's no more communist ideology to hold the people together, the ground is now galvanised by Chinese patriotism and nationalism. Look at the anti-Japanese demonstrations.

SPIEGEL: How do you explain that China is spending billions on military modernisation right now?

Mr. Lee: Their modernisation is just a drop in the ocean. Their objective is to raise the level of damage they can deliver to the Americans if they intervene in Taiwan. Their objective is not to defeat the Americans, which they cannot do. They know they will be defeated. They want to weaken the American resolve to intervene. That is their objective, but they do not want to attack Taiwan.

SPIEGEL: Really? They have just passed the aggressive anti-secession law and a general has threatened to use the nuclear bomb.

Mr. Lee: I think they have put themselves into a position internationally that if Taiwan declares independence, they must react and if Beijing's leadership doesn't, they would be finished, they would be a paper tiger and they know that. So, they passed the anti-secession law to tell the Taiwanese and the Americans and the Japanese, "I do not want to fight, but if you allow Taiwan to go for independence, I will have to fight." I think the anti-secession law is a law to preserve the status quo.

SPIEGEL: Another critical point in Asia is the growing rivalry between China and Japan.

Mr. Lee: It's been dormant all this while, right? But I think several things happened that upped the ante. They possibly coincide with the policy of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. There is this return to "we want to be a normal country." They are sending ships to Afghanistan to support the Americans, they sent a battalion to Iraq, they reclaimed the Senkaku islands, and most recently, they joined the Americans in declaring that Taiwan is a strategic interest of Japan and America. That raises all the historical memories of the Japanese taking away Taiwan in 1895. Then they're applying to be a permanent member of the Security Council. So, I think the Chinese decided that this is too much. So, they have openly said they will object to Japan becoming a member of the Security Council.

SPIEGEL: Well, the United States said the same to Germany.

Mr. Lee: Exactly. So, the whole process is trying to define the position for the next round, maybe in 10 to 15 years, by which time the world will be a different place.

SPIEGEL: Can the Chinese convince their North Korean ally Kim Jong-Il to get rid of his nuclear program?

Mr. Lee: North Korea is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. The leaders in North Korea believe that their survival depends upon having a bomb -- at least one nuclear bomb. Otherwise, sooner or later, they will collapse and the leaders will be put on trial like Milosevic for all the crimes that they have committed. And they have no intention of letting that happen.

SPIEGEL: Who can stop them? The Americans?

Mr. Lee: Yes, but at a price, a heavy price.

SPIEGEL: Could the Chinese do it?

Mr. Lee: Possibly. By denying food, denying fuel, so they would implode. But will the Chinese benefit from an imploded North Korea? That brings the South into the North. That brings the Americans to the Yalu River. So, the North Koreans have also done their calculations and know that there are limits.

SPIEGEL: So Kim is in a strong position?

Mr. Lee: If I were Kim I would freeze the programme, tell the Americans you can inspect, but if you attack me, I will use it. That leaves the Americans with the problem of checking and verifying and intercepting ships, aircraft, endless problems.

SPIEGEL: Would that save Kim's regime?

Mr. Lee: In the long run I think they will implode sooner or later because their system cannot survive. They can see China, they can see Russia and Vietnam, all opening up. If they open up, their system of control of the people will break down. So they must go.

SPIEGEL: If the six party talks fail, do you foresee an arms race in Eastern Asia?

Mr. Lee: If the nuclear program is frozen, there won't be an arms race. Eventually, it is not in China's interests to have an erratic Korea nuclear-armed and a Japan nuclear-armed. That reduces China's position.

SPIEGEL: Many Americans fear that China and the US are bound to become strategic rivals. Will this become the great rivalry of the 21st century?

Mr. Lee: Rivals, yes, but not necessarily enemies. The Chinese have spent a lot of energy and time to make sure that their periphery is friendly to them. So, they settled with Russia, they have settled with India. They're going to have a free trade agreement with India -- they're learning from each other. Instead of quarrelling with the Philippines and the Vietnamese over oil in the South China Sea, they have agreed on joint exploration and sharing. They've agreed on a strategic agreement with Indonesia for bilateral trade and technology.

SPIEGEL: But the Americans are trying to encircle China. They have won new bases in Central Asia.

Mr. Lee: The Chinese are very conscious of being encircled by allies of America. But they are very good in countering those moves. South Korea today has the largest number of foreign students in China. They see their future in China. So, the only country that's openly on America's side is Japan. All the others are either neutral or friendly to China.

SPIEGEL: During your career, you have kept your distance from Western style democracy. Are you still convinced that an authoritarian system is the future for Asia?

Mr. Lee: Why should I be against democracy? The British came here, never gave me democracy, except when they were about to leave. But I cannot run my system based on their rules. I have to amend it to fit my people's position. In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion. Supposing I'd run their system here, Malays would vote for Muslims, Indians would vote for Indians, Chinese would vote for Chinese. I would have a constant clash in my Parliament which cannot be resolved because the Chinese majority would always overrule them. So I found a formula that changes that...

SPIEGEL: ... and that turned Singapore de facto into a one party state. Critics say that Singapore resembles a Lee Family Enterprise. Your son is the Prime Minister, your daughter-in-law heads the powerful Development Agency...

Mr. Lee: ... and my other son is CEO of Singapore Telecoms, my daughter is head of the National Institute for Neurology. This is a very small community of 4 million people. We run a meritocracy. If the Lee Family set an example of nepotism, that system would collapse. If I were not the prime minister, my son could have become Prime Minister several years earlier. It is against my interest to allow any family member who's incompetent to hold an important job because that would be a disaster for Singapore and my legacy. That cannot be allowed.

The interview was conducted by editors Hans Hoyng and Andreas Lorenz.

Translated from the German by Christoper Sultan

24 comments:

Carson Chow said...

Pretty smart guy - explains how he can stay in power so long.

Anonymous said...

Since most Americans do not (yet :) ) read your blog, it would be nice if our politicians and union leaders here in the US better prepared us for the future. Unfortunately, there seems to be no such leadership in sight. What happened to the "if you can't join 'em, beat 'em" attitude here??

Yes, Lee Kuan Yew is very smart and wise. He was criticized a lot for not emphasizing democracy. As he points out (among many other things), meritocracy is more important.

Even in democracies, a handful of the elite dominate anyway. The important thing is that the govt. be responsive. As long as there is no personality cult (as it was in China during Mao's time) an authoritarian, but meritocratic system (and rulers not tied to a few families) will be more efficient than a multi-party democracy. Thus, China is doing better than India...

On the other hand, it is vitally important that the meritocratic component be there in an authoritarian system. Else, it will definitely do worse than even a corrupt multi-party democracy.

MFA

PS said...

I think you put in bold the wrong part of the below quote. I corrected it :)

"Mr. Lee: We have watched this transformation and the speed at which it is happening. As many of my people tell me, it's scary. They learn so fast. Our people set up businesses in Shanghai or Suzhou and they employ Chinese at lower wages than Singapore Chinese. After three years, they say: "Look, I can do that work, I want the same pay." So it is a very serious challenge for us to move aside and not collide with them. We have to move to areas where they cannot move."

I am again more convinced that salaries will catch up quicker, than technologies will do it.

Also, you are very fond of Chinese Educational system. I think it is part in culture, part in the closed society regime. IMHO, capitalism, consumerism, MTV destroys it -- partly because students get dumber (more options to procrastinate -- e.g. surfing the Yellow sea :), partly the all-accessible educational system gets disintegrated due to teachers demanding higher wages: you want better education, pls pay!
I saw it happening in Eastern Europe. I do not think China/India are exceptions...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
steve said...

MFA,

Singapore is an exceptional case - it is relatively small and has had the good luck of excellent leadership. China's current top leadership is also very good (not at lower levels, though). However, authoritarian systems have the problem that it is hard to get rid of bad leadership once in place. It seems to me that, time-averaging, you get better (although uneven) results from democracy!

PS: Wages will equilibrate, but it will take a long time given the large quantity of surplus labor. Lee's statement that after three years workers in China are demanding equal wages with counterparts in more developed nations is an exaggeration - I have studied this issue, and in many categories there has been very little wage growth over longer periods. Even in the case of skilled engineers with several years experience, there is a huge wage differential. The brilliant researchers at Microsoft Research Beijing are not paid nearly as much as the ones in Redmond...

Finally, I am not at all a fan of East Asian educational systems, except for the fact that they (a) place a very high value on education and (b) emphasize science and engineering. I feel our system encourages more creativity and individual thinking.

A Korean colleague of mine (he did his PhD here but is a professor in Korea) recently commented that he really liked the "US style" of physics, and felt that it was the best in the world. I asked if he felt the US style was merely a transplanted European style (since US physics benefitted from pre- and post-WWII migration of talented Europeans), and he said no, he could detect differences between our style and the current European one. We are casual, have few hierarchies, are open to new ideas, etc.

PS said...

Steve:

I agree that equilibrium will be reached sooner or later.
What is interesting that they (people who live in the region) are talking about only few years before wage pressure in a mainland China shows up, whereas typically economists estimate 30 yrs till that equilibrium is reached.
Also, you do not need salaries on both sides of the Pacific to match exactly -- risk premium adjustment will be in play.

About educational system: I attribute emphasis on science and engineering to the legacy of authoritarian society more guns than butter :).
Society's value of education is also easily eroded in a consumption society. China's not there yet, but if the leap in modernization is so quick, why should a leap in consumption be different?

I do not think that current US system encourages thinking, creativity any better way etc.

IMO, the current state of US science draws on US students who are interested mainly in pursuing science as their life not as their status in the society. Only "fittest" (mostly better talented) survive under pressure from kids from China or Russia who can understand the proof of Fermat's theorem at the age of 10. Talent in turn brings in distinguished creativity and individual thinking. But they are the tail of the (normal?) distribution. Statistics is skewed :)

Anonymous said...

Lee kuan Yew is damn smart, but ultimately pragmatic in a way that would never be accepted by western (US and European) society. When he realized that too many dumb people were having babies (IE non-college grads were having 3+ kids), he offered non-college educated people tax breaks (~10K) if they underwent voluntary sterilization before they had their third kid! try that in America. . . .

Anonymous said...

Lee Kwan Yew also believes in social Darwinism. Social Darwinism.
Is that what you want for America?

He also sued The Economist when they printed an article detailing his son's rise to power. Free press, eh?

Singapore's clean and pretty, but in the end, static.
See this.

Anonymous said...

I've spoken to many Physics grad students from my university who have been taught in both Europe and America, and the consensus is that American science curricula at the university level are indeed much less formal and hierarchical than their European counterparts. However, they also tend to be better at applied physics and engineering. If you want to learn theoretical physics, Europe is (generally) the place to go.

"Instead of one month at the spa, take one week at the spa, work harder and longer for the same pay..."

See, I want one month at the spa. But I also do like to work hard and achieve great things. The "European social contract" that he is describing really appeals to me. It just seems more... relaxed. Work, innovate, etc, but don't let it take over your life.

I sincerely hope that the Europeans find a way to keep the contract and remain competitive.

Anonymous said...

Man if only we could institute that sterilization program in the U.S. When I was in grade school we had this one family that had 10, count em, 10 kids. That was fine and dandy 400-500 years ago when we had a 70% infant mortality rate. But nowadays, please be responsible and use contraceptives.

goggly said...

I was reading an article in New York Times, about comparing US and Singapore in terms of state responsibility and alertness in coping with disaster mangement. If singapore were to get Katrina, the whole nation could gets wiped out.This study led me to your page.

And I am glad i did so. Your blog is beyound Lee Kwan Yew. and I am sure would add it in my list

Regards

milind

O2 said...

Lee kuan Yew is damn smart, but ultimately pragmatic in a way that would never be accepted by western (US and European) society.

kelvin 23 said...

I myself is a sporean.low educated.I respect him as a leader of spore for so long and must thanks him for wat he had done for spore in the last decade.if not for him,spore will not rise up so fast in the world of fast moving technology.a GENIUS indeed.all youngster now follow one policy and tats is to study primary,secondary,ite/poly or jc.upon tat,they have a chance to study further or choose a career tats suitable for them.the government is ensuring all this to make sure the next generation is well prepared to challenge the unforseen circumstances tat lies ahead.congrats to spore for having a well led government started by him to bring us forward.a lot of people will not agree with me especially the low income sporeans whom always said the government is not doing enough to help them.my view is stop blaming the government because we ourself are not keeping up with the society.to keep up with the fast moving world of technology,the next generation should learn,learn and learn...and dissolve it fast.if not,we will not be able to get good paying jobs to maintain our lifestyle.tats explain y there are so many low income sporean now.STOP blaming the government,instead we should correct our thinking now.me myself too have to blame for my plight now bcos i just corrected my thinking not long ago......

Anonymous said...

Amazing guy ! I have the utmost respect for Lee I mean get real, He basically have Singapore on his knee, he can make Goh Cok Tong be replaced by his son and have his daughter in law be the head of Temasek. Hmm.. whatever will happen to Singapore when he dies ??? Yep intresting question...Obviously the guy won't live forever... O come on the whole nation knows Singapore belongs to Lee

Anonymous said...

intresting you know my dad just recently told me a taxi driver in singapore very emotionally shared to him that lee said that whoever that tries to dethroned his child (the current pm), even after he dies he will rise up from the grave and kill the guy ...hahaha

Anonymous said...

you know this guy have singapore on his feet . for those of you who does not know what temasek is let me shed some light : they own singapore airlines (recently just bought airbus planes worth around 3 billion us dollars), malaysian telkom, singapore telkom,indonesian leading banks, asian major companies, 45% standard chartered bank worth around 5 billion usd, long story short if temasek dies singapore dies and asian economy paralies.

Anonymous said...

whoever said that singapore system of education is good has obviously not seen the big picture!
singapore education are only good in standerdised test such as sat toefl stanford iowa ielts you name it.. up until now none of them had ever won a nobel prize for science or math , etc

ching said...

Hi all,

I am truly intrigued by the flow of discussions here. I am a young Singaporean. 16 this year, in fact. I was searching for MM Lee in yahoo and landed myself here. Decided to give you guys my 2cents(or subsequently more!)worth. Sadly, I notice that there are some spurious arguments that are neither positive for healthy, constructive intellectual discussion nor directed at an objective conclusion.

Many authoured with anonymous status and have pretty strange claims. FYI, Temasek Holdings' collapse, if ever so, will not paralyse the Asian economy because the shedding of their image and responsibilites as largely a Spore Govt's economic/trading arm is only in recent years. The race to acquire more global assets (including HK's national port) and Thai PM's family business only started this year. Moreover, with USD 64 billion as their overall net worth, though a amazingly huge amount to us reading, will in no way collapse the Asian economy. Please, the magnitude of the latter is beyond USG 64 billion, and you know it jolly well.

Also, yet another anonymous writer noted that MM Lee said he'll come up from his grave and kill the person who casts severe doubts abt PM Lee's term in political office. I will like to clear the cloud here. MM Lee said along the lines of that if someone was to come into power after he passed away, and that someone turns Spore topsy turvy, with lawlessness and chaos being the new social order, will he then rise up from his grave to fix that matter. Rather contrasting from what the anonynomous authour has claimed.

I am an ardent supporter of MM Lee and his policies, though not being perfect. I mean, I am not expecting perfect policies, social conditions, and I think no one should be expecting so. I am merely concluding that here in Spore, between two choices (tt is if our weak opposition does fight), we will have to choose the better one, not necessarily the best. And how assuredly I say to you, in the case of Spore, for the past nearly 41 years of Asian civilisation and our independence as a city-state, the better government which foundations were laid by Lee Kuan Yew, has never failed to bring Spore to great, greater heights. Greatest heights? Untill we have a perfect government yeah?

Rudy said...

I am an American Citizen, who has traveled to Singapore several times. I admire Lee Kuan Yew, I feel he is one of the smartest men in Global Economy. He has done wonders for his Singapore Country. I don't think most Americans realize the size of his country, or the wealth of his country. We as Americans, must read as much material as possible to try to grasp the real power of Greater China. Additionally we must, vital that we also understand the Crisis of the US Dollar. Yes, I love America, we are the Greatest people in the World, our Country is the greatest, we have produced the most imagination of any Country. We cannot as a country ignore the fact that Education wise we "america" only produced 60,000. Engineers from our Colleges & universities, whereas China turned out 442,000!!! China has about $1Trillion in personal savings and a rate of close to 50%!!!, the U.S.A. has a about $158Billion in personal savings and a savings rate of about 1-2%(stated by the Wall Street Journal, Nov 19 2005). We must learn from leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, because one of the stats that I read will boggle every American.."Goldman Sachs predicts that China will surpass the US economy by 2041." I will only be 79 years of age, if that happens. Rudy Rivas, American Citizen, contact me for any direct comments or thoughts at rudylehderrivas@aol.com

Thai radio said...

"singapore education are only good in standerdised test such as sat toefl stanford iowa ielts you name it.. up until now none of them had ever won a nobel prize for science or math , etc"

I agree with this comment.

ljr said...

How about cleaning the spam out of this comment thread?

I guess the inarticulate maunderings of some of the posters can stay but the last entries are clearly spam.

ZQ said...

I have visited Singapore a few times.
The amazing thing about S'pore is that you can wander around at midnight and feel unafraid, which you cannot do in North American cities.
Obviously Mentor Minister Lee has done a good job in making Singapore a strong economy with affordable government housing for working people, clean streets and low crime rates, a great deal of the credit belongs to his original minister in charge of the economy too. Good job.

In recent years taking regular Minister's pay up to nearly $2 million - soon (as of Jan. 2008) I think is a mistake. The US President only gets a fraction of that. This is starting to create ill-will amoungst many Singaporeans, that combined with rigging elections is tainting the country. Gambling is now coming in too, which goes against MM Lee's supposed Confucious values but he's going along with it anyways.

I fear that Singapore's glory days are slowly coming to an end, greed, corruption, political oppression and gambling seem to be in an uptrend. With China taking over essentially they know they are screwed now, so lets raid the treasury and live it up while we can. A Master/Slave psychology is taking hold. Go have a look at some of the negative videos about Lee Kuan Yew on www.Utube.com

It is somewhat amazing to see press reports declaring MM Lee the founder of Singapore. Whatever happened to Sir Stamford Raffles who founded the place and turned it into a booming free port? That is why the Chinese coolies came to begin with, whom the British stopped from slaughtering each others gangs in the early days.
And that is why the Japanese(who he worked for in those days) invaded, it was already a valuable asset long before MM Lee, not too belittle his effort in taking it further though. Lee will likely never step down until carried out in a box, he has too many enemies for him to take his hand off of the legal gun.

For a different perspective which you won't see in the popular press go to one of MM Lee's persecuted opponents web site... http://singaporedissident.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Hi QZ or should I address you as(Gopalan Nair),

I read your blog. I am sorry I can't totally believe what you write because you are too emotionally charge. More like a revenge to me.

No enemy would say the good things about thier opponent.

As of what you commented that our minister is too highly paid, I do not agreed. If according to thier capabilities, they worth much more than that in the private sector.

Let me ask you a question?
Who would you choose?

(1)A leader 'A' who ask you to pay him 10million in order to make you 330 Billion in a decade.

(2)A leader 'B' who ask you to pay him 1 million in order to make you 100 million in a decade.

The answer is obvious.

It about result after all.
Or should I said track record.

We are selecting a country leader not a company leader,

If we choose a wrong leader for a company, the worst is we close shop.

But if we choose a wrong leader for a country, I dare not imagine the consequence????

Just take a look at the world leader and you will know the difference.

KG Art said...

Very insightful interview from the man. From a non-academic point of view, i have this to say. When i was a young boy in a big department store, looking to buy a bionic man toy (6 million dollar man series on TV), my father couldn't afford the big size one with pop-up eyes version, i had to settle for the cheaper smaller plaster size one. While next to me, was a caucasian boy with his father, who without a blink of an eye, bought his son the expensive one that i wanted. That was my father's generation. Now i brought my son to Toy's R Us, i can afford to buy him whatever he wants, price is no object. This is the Singapore I never expected that MM Lee can bring out, whereas if you look at any country with a much longer history, how many in the mainstream population has that much progress in life? Objectively, i can't find a better place to be now. Singapore still has a lot to offer, Singapore is not acclaim because its people have an easy life given by the government, its a whole organic growth that makes it happen. So those pathetic attacks are really just another bunch of losers, hope this population dont increase anymore, we can't afford these. Too many losers tip the balance yeah!

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