Friday, 7 March 2014

Tommy and Kishore: What a contrast

Kishore Mahbubani, writing in The Straits Times on Jan 11, says emphatically:

“Name me one other society which has developed as comprehensively and as rapidly as Singapore has in its first 50 years after independence.”
He adds that “so far, no one has been able to give me an answer to this question” – although it comes across as more a challenge than a question.

Unlike Kishore, Tommy has not been known to dwell on economic success and GDP. He has frequently spoken out against Singapore’s widening income gap between rich and poor, describing it as “socially unconscionable” and calling for the urgent need to “fundamentally alter the wages of the bottom 30 per cent of our people.” He has also argued in favour of minimum wage and inclusive growth to bridge the rich-poor divide.

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Kishore Mahbubani's Big Ideas

This year, our regular columnist Kishore Mahbubani has devoted his monthly columns in The Straits Times to new Big Ideas which will help Singapore succeed in the next 50 years.

His first Big Idea is for the country to have fewer cars. The second Big Idea is to make our public transportation No.1 in the world. The third one is to strengthen the Singapore spirit and the fourth idea is to prepare for a political crisis. Read The Straits Times this Saturday to find out his fifth Big Idea.

Professor Mahbubani, who heads the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, has been hailed by British current affairs magazine Prospect as one of this year's top 50 world thinkers

Kishore Mahbubani in British magazine's list of top 50 world thinkers
Prof Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Diplomat Kishore Mahbubani has been named by a leading British current affairs magazine as one of this year's top 50 world thinkers. - ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND LUI

Diplomat Kishore Mahbubani has been named by a leading British current affairs magazine as one of this year's top 50 world thinkers.

The dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy is the only Singaporean on a list that includes Pope Francis, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde and economist- philosopher Amartya Sen.

Mr Jonathan Derbyshire, managing editor of Prospect magazine, said that it gave credit to the currency of the candidates' thinking in drawing up its list.

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Pope Francis, Amartya Sen, Lawrence Summers, Christine Lagarde, Janet Yellen and … Kishore Mahbubani

These are among this year’s Top 50 thinkers in the world, as picked by the British magazine Prospect, but the last name has raised some eyebrows in Singapore, with many asking how the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy made it into such an illustrious list of cerebral celebrities.

Not that Mahbubani doesn’t have a distinguished career. His 33 years in Singapore’s diplomatic service have been more than impressive, having had an impact in the United Nations as the president of the Security Council and as Singapore’s ambassador to the world body for two terms.

He was among a group of diplomat activists who combined quiet diplomacy and fire-brand speeches to make sure that South Vietnam’s defeat bythe communists in 1975 did not follow the pundits’ storyline of other Southeast Asian states being washed over by the Red tide, like one domino after another.

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Three stories to strengthen the Singapore spirit

My Big Idea No. 3 for Singapore is a simple one: strengthen the Singapore spirit.

Why? If our young men ever go to war to defend Singapore, they will not lay down their lives to defend the physical infrastructure of Singapore. They will do so to save the lives of people who are the strangers they meet in MRT trains or buses. Clearly they feel some kind of spiritual bond with these strangers only because they believe that they are fellow Singaporeans. This is what the Singapore spirit is all about.

Since Independence in 1965, Singapore has spent a lot of time and effort in “nation-building”. And, by any standards, we have been very successful in building a strong, peaceful and prosperous nation. We have done an exceptional job in “building” our physical infrastructure. This is why we can boast of having the world’s best airport, port, public housing, water supply, just to name a few areas in which other nations envy our success in nation-building.

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Kishore Mahbubani telling three tall stories in his story telling

Kishore Mahbubani’s academic viewpoint of reality in ST’s “Three stories to strengthen the Singapore spirit” is really humourous.

Kishore says if there is a war, Singaporeans will “save the lives of people who are the strangers they meet in MRT trains and buses”. It really makes one wonder how he came to such a conclusion. A couple of years ago, I asked my teenage son to find out if any of his friends are willing to die for the country. Guess what? Nobody ‘keechiu’.

An increasing number of citizens have lost faith in a system where citizens are enslaved by our leaders to the greatest GDP machine. Kishore should know economic digits do not have any spirit so my question is “strengthen what?”.

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Kishore: Law’s loss, philosophy’s gain 

If not for a fortuitous early awakening to the beauty of philosophy on his part, the Kishore Mahbubani that we know would have been a different one. Whether or not he would gone to have made a name for himself in foreign affairs and even be cited a top thinker is anyone’s guess. Prospect, a British foreign affairs magazine, has  just named him in its list of Top 50 World Thinkers for 2014.

Kishore could have been another Prof S. Jayakumar or Prof Tommy Koh, both of whom were Deans of the Law Faulty at the then University of Singapore who went on to serve as Singapore’s Permanent Representatives  at the height of the Vietnam War.

Indeed, Kishore read law in his first year at the then University of Singapore but later switched to his real passion, philosophy. Law’s loss, philosophy’s gain.

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Big Idea No. 1: A 'less-car' Singapore

Singaporeans should follow current trends in the West and give up the dream of car ownership

In my January 2014 column, I said that Singaporeans should use 2014 to think of new Big Ideas to guide us for the next 50 years. Here is Big Idea No.1 for debate and discussion.

Singapore will never be car-less, but it can and should have fewer cars. On reading this, the reader could be forgiven for thinking: ''Here goes Kishore again on his campaign to improve public transport in Singapore.''

However, this big idea is not about improving transportation. It is about improving the happiness of the Singapore population.

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Kishore Mahbubani

A student of philosophy and history, Kishore Mahbubani has had the good fortune of enjoying a career in government and, at the same time, in writing on public issues. With the Singapore Foreign Service from 1971 to 2004, he had postings in Cambodia (where he served during the war in 1973-74), Malaysia, Washington DC and New York, where he served two stints as Singapore’s Ambassador to the UN and as President of the UN Security Council in January 2001 and May 2002. He was Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Ministry from 1993 to 1998. Currently, he is the Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) of the National University of Singapore. Concurrently, Prof Mahbubani continues to serve in Boards and Councils of several institutions in Singapore, Europe and North America, including the Yale President's Council on International Activities (PCIA), Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council, University of Bocconi International Advisory Committee and he is the Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize Nominating Committee.

In the world of ideas, Prof Mahbubani has spoken and published globally. His articles have appeared in a wide range of journals and newspapers, including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Washington Quarterly, Survival, American Interest, the National Interest, Time, Newsweek, the Financial Times and New York Times. He has also been profiled in the Economist and in Time Magazine. He is the author of Can Asians Think? (published and translated in Singapore, Canada, US, Mexico, India, China Myanmar, Turkey and Malaysia), Beyond The Age Of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust between America and the World (published and translated in the US and China), and The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East (published and translated in the US, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Egypt, China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Italy, Taiwan and Vietnam). His latest book, The Great Convergence: Asia, The West and the Logic of One World (published and translated in the US, the Netherlands and China), was selected by the Financial Times as one of the best books of 2013.

Prof Mahbubani was awarded the President’s Scholarship in 1967. He graduated with a First Class honours degree in Philosophy from the University of Singapore in 1971. From Dalhousie University, Canada, he received a Masters degree in Philosophy in 1976 and an honorary doctorate in 1995. He spent a year as a fellow at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University from 1991 to 1992.

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2014: The year of Big Ideas

The formulas behind Singapore’s success in the first 50 years of its post-independence history will not necessarily be appropriate for the next 50

THIS year will be a transitional year in the history of Singapore. It will be a year of major preparations for the massive celebrations we will have in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence.

Several major events have already been pencilled into the calendar for next year. We will host the SEA Games, with many events taking place in the spectacular new stadium in Kallang.

The National Art Gallery is also set to open in 2015 and a team of Singaporeans will begin scaling Mount Everest to commemorate Singapore’s 50th anniversary. The year will also see the first Singaporean fly into outer space, symbolising the fact that the sky is the limit in the future aspirations for Singapore.

The Big Idea: Multi-Lateralism
Singapore's biggest blessing: Safety
Seven pillars of Singapore's soft power
I have a dream for Singapore
So, what is a Singaporean?
Trust in public institutions: Can Singapore afford cracks?

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Big Idea No. 1: A ‘less-car’ Singapore

Singaporeans should follow current trends in the West and give up the dream of car ownership
It is a well-known fact that the Singaporean population is not the happiest in the world.

Singaporeans gripe, naturally and effortlessly. One good example of this was provided by a Straits Times article written after the Prime Minister had spoken to a group of students at the Nanyang Technological University on Jan 30. The article began with the following line: “Nine out of 15 interviewed were concerned they won’t be able to buy a flat and a car.

The aspiration of the young for a flat is perfectly reasonable. But the aspiration of nine out of 15 for a car is not reasonable. Why not? The simple, direct and blunt answer is that if Singapore tries to squeeze the American dream – designed for a huge, almost boundless continent – into one of the tiniest countries in the world, it will effectively condemn its population to perpetual unhappiness.

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Kishore asks S’poreans to give up dream to own car

Mr Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of LKY School of Public Policy, published an article through ST last month (“Big Idea No. 1: A ‘less-car’ Singapore”, 8 Feb). In the article, he told Singaporeans to follow current trends in the West and give up the dream of car ownership.

He admitted that “Singapore will never be car-less, but it can and should have fewer cars.”

Kishore wrote, “It is a well-known fact that the Singaporean population is not the happiest in the world. Singaporeans gripe, naturally and effortlessly.”

Singapore: Butterfly or Frog?

By Kishore Mahbubani, For The Straits Times

SINGAPORE is undergoing a metamorphosis. Indeed, it is likely to be a mighty metamorphosis. Having lived in Singapore for 64 years, I find it hard to recall a period of greater transformation.

Unlike previous transformations, this one is not taking place in the material or mental spheres. Nor is it taking place in the economic or political spheres.

Instead, it is taking place in the spiritual sphere. The soul of Singapore is being redefined.
No one can predict the final outcome of this metamorphosis. There is a range of possibilities. Let me suggest two extreme possibilities using analogies from natural results of metamorphoses.

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Singapore: Butterfly or Frog?

The concomitant irony is that while talking long term we have been acting short term for quite a few years now. The excuse is that our long range radar is no longer reliable. How do we know which direction to sail if we do not know where we should be heading?

If this question cannot be answered we will still put up the sails and go. We shall go in circles and we will only know after we had done so. We will make no progress even if we feel progress during the journey.

The last twenty years were probably rich but wasted years. For two decades we sold our intangibles for too little money, and we do not know because we didn't know how to value our assets. The two IRs is perhaps iconic of that morally bankrupt value system.

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Nation in mid-life crisis

I THINK the reason for the angst and discontentment we feel as a society and as a country is no different from that which an individual feels as he hits mid-life.

When he was younger, the future looked bright and nothing seemed unattainable. Now, doubts are beginning to set in, both for the individual and for Singapore as a whole. All that hard work and promise of success seems illusory. Although he works hard to get ahead in life, he finds he is actually running on the spot. Or worse, sliding backwards as smarter, wealthier and more mobile foreigners take the jobs, the seats in the nice restaurants and the condo unit he aspires to own.

You are right that the Singapore soul is being redefined.

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When I first read this article by Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, I thought it was a rather badly written article. I still do.

What is (un)surprising is that the Straits Times finds such bad writing worthy of publication

Incidentally, The Economist recently panned Mahbubani’s latest book, the grand-sounding “The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World”. Unfortunately, The Economist had this to say about the book [emphasis mine]

related: Kishore the self-appointed American cheerleader
Kishore: I’m worried about SG blogosphere’s cynicism towards our public institutions
Kishore Mahbubani: Our public transportation sucks but....

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Kishore Mahbubani is the most intelligent man in the Milky Way

I refer to the above article by Kishore Mahbubani, published in The Straits Times on April 13, 2013.

Kudos to Singapore Police Force - In the article, which I have read about 15 times to appreciate its essence, Kishore said that Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world because credit goes to the Singapore Police Force for keeping the peace.

I have no choice but to agree that this is absolutely true. Because without the SPF, Singaporeans will instinctively rape and pillage everything. But with SPF’s presence, Singaporeans will rein in all their baser desires. 

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Our ‘biggest’ blessing is not a miracle

I refer to the 13th Apr 2013 Straits Times article “Singapore’s biggest blessing: Safety” by Mr Kishore Mahbubani [1].

Mr Mahbubani asserts that Singapore’s safety is a miracle because unlike Switzerland, we are not surrounded by places with the same level of safety. But such so-called ‘miracles’ are quite common place around the world:

• Suriname’s homicide rate of 4.6 per 100,000 people is much lower than that of its neighbours Guyana (15.5 per 100,000) and French Guiana (13.3 per 100,000) and Brazil (21.7 per 100,000) [2].

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‘I’d have failed Kishore Mahbubani’s essay’

I read Kishore Mahbubani’s essay in The Straits Times on April 13, 2013.

After which I suffered from a splitting headache. As a secondary school English teacher, it is horrifying to read such writing outside my line of work. I thought bad writing only occurs when I mark students’ scripts. Which are usually written by adolescents whose sole primary purpose in life at their age is to engage in heavy petting with their respective boyfriends and girlfriends.

Kishore Mahbubani’s writing, to say the least, is difficult to read as it seems like he has other more important things to do than put his thoughts down in writing. Because it is embarrassing to know that it was actually written by a grown man, who is rich and supposedly literate, and part of the potentate.

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Why Kishore’s article is crap - 

Here are the reasons why Kishore’s article is crap. 

1. He cites examples without backing his points up.
2. He puts up irrelevant points that do not link to the main article.
3. He unwittingly contradicts himself.

Kishore Mahbubani. Like Old Man Lee, Kishore’s ability to rationalize issues suddenly deserts him the moment he retired.

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Singapore's biggest blessing: Safety

One of the biggest blessings Singapore has is that it is one of the safest cities in the world.

The level of safety we enjoy is a true miracle. Switzerland enjoys the same level of public safety. But it is surrounded by Europe. When you cross the border out of Switzerland, you continue to experience the same level of safety. But when you cross out of the border of Singapore, you may not. In short, we have to work extremely hard to preserve this cocoon of extraordinary public safety.

Some of it is clearly due to the very successful Singapore Police Force (SPF) we have. But the SPF is only one unit within an ecosystem of excellent public institutions delivering this high level of safety. The social trust that Singaporeans and Singapore residents have in this ecosystem is one key reason why our city is safe.

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Opening minds to better governance

I refer to the 6 Apr 2013 Straits Times article “Opening eyes to good governance” by Mr Kishore Mahbubani [1].

Mr Mahbubani espouses that democracy is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for good governance. That is a statement that misses the forest for the trees. In a truly First World nation, citizens should enjoy both good governance and democracy. They should not have to choose one over the other. To be denied democracy is to be denied our rightful status as masters of our country. Good governance without democracy can be likened to a well fed servant while good governance with democracy can be likened to a well fed master. Saying it is possible to have good governance without democracy is like saying it is possible to be well fed without being the master. But who is more well fed, the servant or his master?

Good governance without democracy can also be likened to a kingdom ruled by a good king. A good king rules well so there is good governance. Yet there is no democracy because the king alone decides and the people have no say. But the good times depends on the continued goodness of the king. The people are at the mercy of the king. If the king ever turns bad, the people have no choice but to put up with the king’s bad behaviour. Herein lies the importance of democracy. It allows for bad governance to be bloodlessly removed and gives renewed hope that the replacement governance can be better. It may not guarantee good governance but it guarantees our right to reject poor governance.

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Following Singapore's lead on the road of development

When Singapore gained independence in 1965, its leaders cried rather than cheered.  The idea that a small island city-state of two million people with no hinterland could survive in what was then a difficult and troubled region seemed manifestly absurd.  The odds were always against Singapore succeeding.

The remarkable thing is not only that it has succeeded against the odds; rather, it is that the country has actually become one of the most successful developing nations in the world.  Beating the odds is now a challenge not just for small, vulnerable states like Singapore but also for our planet.  As we begin the 21st Century, a growing concern in many minds around the globe is that we live on an overpopulated and ecologically threatened planet.  In 100 years, the Earth's population has more than trebled from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000, creating a global average of about 91 persons per square mile (35 per square kilometer).  Bangladesh, a modern metaphor for overpopulation, has more than 2200 persons per square smile (855 per square kilometer).

However, the most crowded country in the world is Singapore, with more than 15,200 persons per square mile (5900 per square kilometer).  Singapore's success story is now relatively well known, despite the regular knocks it receives from some liberal Western media.  But because some of these knocks have been globally transmitted, few have come to understand that behind the success story is an even more interesting story of innovative social and economic solutions that have led to the success story.  These innovative solutions may be worth a study for those striving to bridge the growing divide in an increasingly troubled planet.

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The New Global Ethic

The nation-state is in many ways becoming an antique, because the conditions of humanity have changed. Before, when you had 7 billion people living in 193 separate countries, it was like living on 193 separate boats. Hence, you only needed captains and crews to manage each boat as well as rules to make sure that the boats didn't collide with each other.
But now the 7 billion people no longer live in 193 separate boats. Instead they live in 193 separate cabins on the same boat. The problem with this global boat is that you have captains and crews managing each cabin. But you have no captain or crew managing the global boat as a whole. That's obviously a problem. In addition, if you live on the same boat, you clearly want to create a code of conduct among everyone to ensure that no one cabin's occupants are allowed to sink the boat, because if they do so, everybody else is going to sink too.
In this new situation, you cannot allow countries to say, "I'm doing it only for my national interest." Excuse me. You may be doing it for your national interest, you may be taking care of your cabin, but if you are going to damage the boat, the rest of the world has a right to protest. Hence, today we've got to balance national interests against global interests. I think that's the direction in which global ethics are going to go.
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kishore mahbubani

A few weeks ago, on Aug 28, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the famous speech given by Martin Luther King Jr entitled "I have a dream". He said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."

The goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement for his fellow black citizens. I too have a dream for my fellow Singaporeans. However, while the goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement, my goal is to close the roads to advancement for my fellow citizens. The only difference between him and me is that while he was speaking metaphorically, I am speaking literally. We do not need many more physical roads or much more physical road space in Singapore.

One undeniable hard truth of Singapore is that we live in one of the smallest countries in the world. This is also why we have one of the most expensive land costs in the entire world. Apart from Monaco, no other United Nations member state has land as expensive as Singapore has per square foot. Hence, we should value every square foot. Every square foot we give up to road space is a square foot taken away from other valuable uses: pedestrian walkways, bike paths, green parks and so on.

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Kishore Mahbubani: Freedom of the Press in Singapore

Professor Tommy Koh

Tommy Koh, also known as Koh Thong Bee (b. 12 November, 1937, Singapore - ), is an Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a position he has held since 1990. Tommy Koh is a top-notch negotiator and one of Singapore's senior diplomat who is well known at home and abroad. He was Singapore's chief negotiator in the legal skirmish with Kuala Lumpur over reclamation works at Tuas and Tekong. After two years of dispute, both countries successfully agreed on a resolution in January 2005. Tommy Koh is also a think-tank on international relations. Tommy Koh is currently the Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies and chairs the Steering Committee for the NUS Faculty of Law to advise the Dean and the NUS Vice-Chancellor. The Committee also acts a liaison between NUS and the legal profession.

Tommy Koh is a keen patron of the arts, heritage and the environment. He is the Chairman of the National Heritage Board and of the Chinese Heritage Centre.  He is also a Board Member of the Esplanade. As a renowned diplomat, Tommy Koh tries to raise the international profile of Singapore's arts.

Tommy Koh's dedication to the cause of the environment has recently brought him the honour of being named as one of seven Champions of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  At home, he is the patron of The Nature Society, Co-Chairman of the NUS Faculty of Laws Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, and Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Masters degree on Environmental Management at the NUS School of Design & Environment.

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Tommy Koh receives Harvard award
Prof Tommy Koh (R) with former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.( File photo: URA)

Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has congratulated Ambassador-At-Large Professor Tommy Koh on receiving the 2014 Great Negotiator Award at Harvard Law School.

Mr Shanmugam said Ambassador Koh has served Singapore with great distinction -- including being Singapore's Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador to the US, Ambassador to Mexico, and High Commissioner to Canada.

Mr Shanmugam added that Ambassador Koh is well-known internationally for having guided the historic 3rd UN Conference on the Law of the Sea and the Rio Earth Summit to successful conclusion.

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Tommy Koh’s ST Article Hits the Nail on the Head

Tommy Koh wrote a very interesting article “Is there an ideological cleavage in Singapore?” in the Newspapers today. He muses what he describes as the belief system and shared values that Singaporeans uphold and if these have changed. In simple words the Rules of Singapore Society.

He listed the five as:
Free trade and investment
Market economy
Foreign Talent
For each of the values listed, I analyzed my perception of the general Singaporean’s ideals and contrast what our Government leaders are actually practicing.

Prof Koh: Important we feel this is our country

Professor Tommy Koh wrote an article which was published in the Straits Times today (‘Is there an ideological cleavage in S’pore?’, 29 Mar). Prof Koh said that for a long time, Singaporeans appear to share and believe in 5 values and principles - Free trade and investment, Market economy, Globalisation, Foreign talent, & Meritocracy.

However, the good professor wondered if events in Singapore have prompted thoughtful Singaporeans to wonder whether that consensus is breaking down.

He asked, “Are the stresses and strains associated with the drive to be a global city producing a potentially destabilising ideological cleavage?”

In defence of Lim Chong Yah

PROFESSOR Lim Chong Yah is one of Singapore's most distinguished economists. He was the professor of economics at the National University of Singapore (NUS), before moving on to the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to become the first Albert Winsemius Professor of Economics.

He is currently Emeritus Professor of Economics of both NUS and NTU.

Prof Lim is both a scholar and practitioner. He was the founding chairman of the National Wages Council (NWC), a post which he held for more than 30 years. No one has contributed more to the success of this unique Singapore institution than he. In view of his credentials and track record, we should study carefully his three proposals for a more inclusive Singapore wage policy.

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'We are kind, but we could be kinder'

Most Singaporeans are kind, but people can still aspire to be kinder to all who share the places where they work, live and play, Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh said yesterday.

There are certain areas that the public can work on to create a gracious society, he added. For example, Singaporeans could be nicer to the elderly, the disabled, foreign workers and one another. Bosses could also be kinder to their employees by respecting work-life balance and practising profit-sharing. Professor Koh, the rector of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore, also called on the public to "stand up against the minority of selfish people who oppose dormitories for foreign workers, hospices, facilities for the elderly in their neighbourhood".

"Let the voices of the majority of Singaporeans who are kind rise above those of the unkind minority," he said.

7 habits of a Singaporean

The last frontier on Earth
How to be happy
What Singapore can learn from Europe
A small - but extraordinary - fish in the ocean
In defence of Lim Chong Yah

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Prof Koh continues to voice his support for minimum wage

Speaking to reporters at his book launch at the end of last month (30 Oct), Singapore’s ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh continued to voice his support for a minimum wage or other strengthened measures to help Singapore’s poorest

Poverty in Singapore should not be ignored, Prof Koh felt.

“We all feel that it is not good for Singapore to have such a huge gap between the rich and the poor,” he said, referring to public intellectuals who speak on the topic collectively.

“It will eventually threaten our unity and cohesion, and it is certainly a source of concern to our moral conscience because we all aspire to Singapore being a good nation – and a good nation is one that doesn’t tolerate such a high degree of disparity.”

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Yale College faculty resolution disappointing, says Tommy Koh

Tommy Koh made floppy hair mainstream before Chen Show Mao did

Two weeks ago, the faculty at Yale College in New Haven sat around for a few hours, put together three paragraphs and sent it out letting everybody within earshot know that they are very, very displeased about Yale-NUS coming to pass.

This very important decision-making process is known as passing a resolution, very similar to tribal meetings on Survivor, but with more haggling.

Now, Tommy Koh, a Singapore diplomat who made floppy hair mainstream before Chen Show Mao did, claims the resolution completely ignores the potential benefits of the joint venture.

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Dr Tommy Koh reflects on immigration and integration after PM’s speech at NDR 2012

Dr Tommy Koh: "We are one of the least xenophobic people in the world"

ONE of the major themes of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech on Sunday is immigration.

PM Lee explained the imperative for Singapore to welcome immigrants, in order to make up for the deficit resulting from our low fertility and in order to benefit from the brain power and cultural diversity which the highly educated and talented migrants bring with them. The PM called upon Singaporeans to be bighearted in welcoming them. He also called upon the migrants to make greater efforts to integrate into Singapore.

I have three reflections on the subject of immigration and integration.

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What Singapore can learn from Europe By Tommy Koh

IT IS a sad reflection on human nature that when a region is faced with a crisis, it is often treated with disdain instead of sympathy. I recall that during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, some of our European and American friends were extremely unkind and predicted that Asia would suffer a lost decade.

We must not do the same to Europe which has been faced with a serious financial and economic crisis since 2008. I have, therefore, decided to swim against the tide of anti-Europe sentiments.

I wish to highlight the fact that not all the countries of Europe are in crisis. Last year, of the 27 European Union countries, only three had a negative growth rate. In the 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, six EU countries were ranked among the 10 most competitive countries.

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Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh still wants an ombudsman for Singapore
Singapore's ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh poses with copies of his new book entitled "the Tommy Koh reader: Favourite Essays and Lectures", ahead of its launch on Wednesday 30 October 2013. (Yahoo photo)
Yahoo Newsroom - Singapore's ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh poses with copies of his new book entitled "the Tommy Koh reader: Favourite Essays and Lectures", ahead of its launch on Wednesday 30 October 2013. (Yahoo photo

Singapore's ambassador-at-large, Tommy Koh, says he still hopes that Singapore will have a process that allows it to review government decisions, counting it as one of his "unfulfilled dreams" for the country.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the launch of a new book of his on Wednesday afternoon, Koh, who turns 76 in November, said a review process was something he has advocated since his undergraduate days.

"It'll be great to have an ombudsman," he said. "I think we have a great public service, very little corruption, but even a great public service sometimes makes mistakes, you know, and at the moment such mistakes are beyond judicial review."

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Professor Tommy Koh engages audience on range of issues at dialogue session
(From left) Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs; Mr Gopinath Pillai, Ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA); Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at -large at MFA (standing); moderator and director of the Office of Alumni Relations at NUS Associate Professor Victor Savage; Ms Chong Siak Ching, chief executive of the National Art Gallery and President of Nature Society (Singapore) Dr Shawn Lum at a dialogue session called Conversation with Tommy Koh organised by the National University of Singapore (Society) on Wednesday evening. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE SOCIETY
(From left) Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs; Mr Gopinath Pillai, Ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA); Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at -large at MFA (standing); moderator and director of the Office of Alumni Relations at NUS Associate Professor Victor Savage; Ms Chong Siak Ching, chief executive of the National Art Gallery and President of Nature Society (Singapore) Dr Shawn Lum at a dialogue session called Conversation with Tommy Koh organised by the National University of Singapore (Society) on Wednesday evening. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE SOCIETY

Law, diplomacy, environment, arts and culture - these were the buzzwords at a dialogue session that members of the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) had with Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-large at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), on Wednesday evening.

More than 200 participants who attended the event sought Prof Koh's opinion on a range of topics from China's newly declared Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) to suggestions for improvements on Singapore's perennial haze problem during the two-hour session.

While Prof Koh coyly said his work in the foreign ministry did not qualify him to field questions on local politics, he maintained his position on Singapore's need for an ombudsman, which is an independent person who represents public interests by investigating complaints of unfairness.

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Insurance should cover everyone: Ambassador Tommy Koh

Insurance should cover every person who seeks coverage, whether or not they suffer from pre-existing medical conditions, chronic diseases or congenital health conditions, said Singapore’s ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh.

Speaking on Thursday at an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) roundtable on Singapore’s population trends, Koh, who is also special adviser to the IPS, said the government should step in to ensure that insurance coverage is fair and accessible for all.

He identified insurance as one area where Singapore “didn’t get it right”, touching also on the nation-state’s failure to achieve inclusive growth — more specifically in terms of plugging the income gap.

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S’pore could be ‘extremely aged’ by 2050: IPS study

Special adviser to the IPS Tommy Koh pointed out that the dependency ratio is based on the assumption that after the age of 65, people go from being contributing members of society to liabilities, but contended that this should be revisited as people may be living longer, but want to continue to work.

Prof Koh, who is also Singapore's ambassador-at-large, added that many elderly people also have enough savings and don’t depend financially on their children.

Yeoh Lam Keong, adjunct senior fellow at IPS and former chief economist at the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, questioned the economic benefits of having the country’s workforce grow strongly.

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Tommy Koh wants China to go ICJ to settle territorial disputes

Tommy wants China to place itself under the jurisdiction of modern day international laws when China’s claim to the South China Sea Islands was based on historical precedents during a time when it was finder’s keepers. China is claiming these islands that were uninhabited and they were the first to arrive on the islands to claim it.

Compares this to the Americans’ claim to North America and the Australian’s claims to Australia, the British’s claims to New Zealand, and other colonised countries, would the Americans, Australians, British New Zealanders be willing to go under the jurisdiction of the international courts if the native Red Indians, the aborigines and the Maoris make a claim to their land? Would the Americans go to courts with the Pacific Islanders wanting to reclaim their islands in the Pacific Ocean?

In the case of China and the South China Sea islands, once China agrees to go to the ICJ, it will open the Pandora box to every littoral states of the South China Seas to make their claims. And if the ICJ once decided that the new international laws supercede historical claims, China would stand to lose practically every island it claimed and under its sovereignty.

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