Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Singapore’s Story: What comes next

A man floats in the infinity pool on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, overlooking Singapore’s financial district

The Southeast Asian city-state’s model worked for 50 years. What comes now?

Clouds bruised the Singapore sky on Aug. 9, 1965, as Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew confirmed that the tiny island at the tip of peninsular Southeast Asia was becoming independent. There were few notes of celebration. Singapore had been cast off, expelled from Malaysia, itself a new nation.

Lee, who would continue to dominate Singaporean politics for decades, wept in what he called his “moment of anguish” at the creation of a nation that never aspired to nationhood.

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Exclusive: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Speaks Candidly with TIME
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the nation about the passing of his father, Singapore's founder Lee Kuan Yew, during a live broadcast on Monday, March 23, 2015, in Singapore

On Aug. 9, 1965, Singapore became an independent state. A half-century of unparalleled prosperity later, this Asian trading hub faces very different challenges.

As Singapore gears up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence, the city-state once dismissed as a “little red dot” at the midpoint of regional maps now serves as the epicenter of Asian-style development. By combining Confucian values with state-sponsored capitalism, Singapore in little more than a generation moved “from third world to first,” as a memoir of founding father Lee Kuan Yew puts it.

In truth, Singapore — a mix of majority Chinese and smaller Malay and Indian communities — wasn’t quite as backward upon independence as its boosters claim. The city-state’s economic development was unmatched by individual political liberties. The nanny state admirably

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Better chance of non-Chinese PM with younger generation: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked by TIME magazine whether a non-Chinese could be the country's PM, and whether Singapore's development experience could be emulated by others.

Here are edited extracts of the exchange
  • TIME: You talked about the diversity of Singapore; of course, as you have said, it is a majority ethnic Chinese society. Can you see a future in which a non-Chinese could be Prime Minister?
  • PM Lee: It could be, it depends on the person. You must have the right person - you must have the politics worked out, you must be able to connect both with the Chinese as well as the non-Chinese population. With the new generation, I think chances are better. Even today, if you go to the constituencies, most of the time, you would be speaking some Chinese. In your markets, certainly, with the old folks, certainly. Even with the younger ones, a significant proportion of them would be more comfortable speaking in Mandarin because that's their home conversational language.
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PM Lee sees Singapore moving forward confidently after 50
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a forum earlier this week. Singapore needs to get its economy to the next level as other Asian countries snap at its heels. "If we don't, then we will have malaise and the angst, and even disillusionment, which you see in many developed countries," he said in an interview with Time magazine.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Although founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's influence on Singapore runs deep, he made sure he prepared the country to move on and not "be stuck in the Lee Kuan Yew mode" of governance, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

There was a tremendous outpouring of grief when Mr Lee died in March this year, but confidence in Singapore was not shaken.

On the contrary, it was strengthened, PM Lee noted in an interview with Time magazine, a transcript of which was released to Singapore media yesterday.

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Three biggest challenges Singapore will face up to SG100: Lee Hsien Loong

Enhancing the economy, the ageing population and maintaining a national identity are the three biggest challenges that Singapore faces over the next half-century, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

The immediate challenge over the next decade is getting the economy to the next level, he said in an interview published by Time magazine on Thursday (Jul 23).

"We are looking for a path which no country has yet found and we are not even an economy like the Japanese or Germans, or never mind the big power economy. So to get to the next level is a big challenge, if we don't get to the next level then we will have malaise and the angst, and even disillusionment which you see in many developed countries," he said.

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Singapore must balance immigration policies and birthrate: PM Lee

Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned that Singapore, with over 1.3 million foreign workers, may end up in a "tight spot" like Japan if it fails to strike the right balance between birthrate and immigration policies.

As of now Singapore's demographics may not have become a major issue -- but it will be in a generation's time, on a 25-year timeframe.

The immediate challenge over the next decade is getting the economy to the next level, Lee said in an interview published today by Time magazine.
  • "We are looking for a path which no country has yet found and we are not even an economy like the Japanese or Germans, or never mind the big power economy.
  • "So to get to the next level is a big challenge, if we don't get to the next level then we will have malaise and the angst, and even disillusion- ment which you see in many developed countries," he said.
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S’pore has only 25-year window to get demographic balance right, PM warns

The Republic has a 25-year window to raise birth rates and maintain a balance between the proportion of foreigners and Singaporeans. Otherwise, it could be in a “very tight spot” like Japan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned in a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine, which was conducted on July 10 and published today (July 23).

Reiterating the size of the demographic and existential challenges for Singapore in the medium and long term, Mr Lee also flagged the dangers of a brain drain and schisms within the population.

“In 25 years, if we can’t get our demography balance between our births and immigration of foreign workers, we will be in a very tight spot like the Japanese are,” he said. 

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PM LEE NOW SAYS THAT SINGAPORE NEEDS A "STRONG SINGAPOREAN CORE" 

In an interview with Time Magazine released on Thursday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his views on a variety of topics, including the need to balance the population of more than 1.3 million foreign workers, which make up a quarter of Singapore’s population, while forging a national identity with a Singaporean "core".

According to Lee: “If you don’t have that Singapore core, you can top up the numbers, but you are no longer Singapore. It doesn’t feel Singapore, it isn’t Singapore and we can issue everybody red passports, but where is the continuity?”

He says the Government has taken steps to slow the intake of foreigners in recent years, but faced with a rapidly ageing population, “the solution we have to be able to work, is to have enough of our own children for the next generation.”

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If more S’poreans leave, country will be ‘depleted’, ‘shrunken': PM Lee
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has once again raised a perennial problem faced by Singapore – those who have chosen to leave the country for good.

In an interview with TIME magazine which was published on Thursday, Mr Lee said:
In 2008, Mr Lee’s father, then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, had raised the same concerns.
The late elder Lee revealed in an interview with United Press International then that Singapore was facing a ‘pretty serious’ brain drain problem.

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The (re)birth of a nation?

I remember Sunday, 29 March, 2015 very well. That’s because I stood in the rain for almost three hours at Commonwealth MRT station, waiting to catch some footage of the late Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral cortege.

As the hours passed and the showers turned into a deluge, the crowd around me, both young and old, steadily built up. Packed against the barricades, dozens of pairs of eyes were glued to smartphones to monitor the progress of the cortege. Some offered the shelter of their umbrellas to strangers.

And though many of us got drenched, and Singaporeans are champion grumblers, I didn’t hear a single word of complaint. Everyone simply wanted to catch one last glimpse of the man.

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Lee Hsien Loong: I am very sad the Workers’ Party only know how to criticise snidely
Photo of Lee Hsien Loong from Yahoo Singapore

In today’s (July 23) release of the transcript of his interview with US-based TIME Magazine, PM Lee Hsien Loong said that he “welcome” criticisms especially when they are raised in Parliament. However, he is very sad that the Opposition Workers’ Party’s criticism “comes snidely and round the corner”:


…the problem is criticism comes snidely and round the corner…"


When we face the critics across the aisle in (Parliament) with the television cameras on, their criticism withers. It’s very sad.”

related: Singaporeans leaving Singapore is a problem

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Full Coverage

AsiaOne: PM Lee sees Singapore moving forward confidently after 50
TIME: Exclusive: Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong Speaks Candidly with TIME
TIME: Singapore's Next Story
AsiaOne: Better chance of non-Chinese PM with younger generation: PM Lee
AsiaOne: S'pore needs to get economy to next level
Yahoo Singapore: COMMENT: The (re)birth of a nation?
Online Citizen: If more S'poreans leave, country will be 'depleted', 'shrunken': PM Lee
TODAYonline: S'pore has only 25-year window to get demographic balance right, PM
Channel News Asia: 3 biggest challenges Spore will face up to SG100: PM Lee
Foreign Policy: Why Cuba Needs to Follow the Singapore Model
Straits Times: PM Lee: China wants good relations with its neighbours
Channel News Asia: PM Lee: I was influenced 'a great deal' by Lee Kuan Yew
Channel News Asia: Solid Singaporean core needed: Prime Minister Lee
Channel News Asia: We welcome criticism within constraints, says Singapore PM Lee
Straits Times: PM Lee sees Singapore moving forward confidently beyond 50
Channel News Asia: China wants good ties with neighbours: PM Lee
Zee News: Singapore must balance immigration policies and birthrate: PM Lee

The Singapore Story

The call by a former prime minister for ending one of Lee Kuan Yew’s cornerstone tenets for governing Singapore when he is still alive has got some questions flying.

Goh Chok Tong, who succeeded Lee in 1990, said Singapore needs to forge a new social compact between people and government to replace the old one to avoid a “mid-life crisis”.

In a constituency speech marking the island republic’s 48th National Day, Goh, long believed to be part of the ruling party’s softer faction, spoke of the need to write a new chapter of the Singapore Story. The reason, he said, is that both the external environment and Singaporeans at home have changed.


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