World will feel Singapore’s disappearance

MM said that Singapore is a lot more valuable to the world than it was 40 years ago because we are now a financial, telecommunications and pharmaceutical hub compared to 40 years ago when we were only a trader’s port. But the world wasn’t as connected as it is today. The internet, which the infocomm revolution and financial industry depended on would not have been invented for another 25 years. What Singapore was to the world then, given the technology available then, was never far from what it is to the world today.

Our advantage as a manufacturing base for pharmaceuticals rests solely on China’s current lack of intellectual property protection. As China’s economy strengthens and matures, it’s framework for doing business, including respect for intellectual property would improve. What happens then?

If we were to always rely on manufacuring, we would always be at the mercy of MNCs who have no vested interest to stay here other than dollars and cents. We have been told that we wouldn’t know the outcome of our drive towards pharmaceutical research until 15, 20 years later. What happens 15, 20 years down the road if our pharmaceutical research doesn’t bear fruit and China’s intellectual property protection has reached those of our levels?

The world has become a lot more complicated than it was 40 years ago. No one knows what the future holds. Can we afford to let our elites gamble our future on one or two throws of the dice? How many times can we afford to throw the dice?

Nokia, Microsoft, Google … all recent corporate meteorites arose out of individual passion and corporate ingenuity. None of them arose out of government leadership. Amidst the chaos of today’s rapid technological change, perhaps the talents and passions of multitudes of individuals would triumph over the elitism shining out from ivory towers.

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