‘Singapore brand’ can be its strength

Dear MM Lee,

I refer to the 29th July 2010 Straits Times report of your speech at a Singapore National Employers Federation summit. You said Singapore has yet to emulate Japan’s productivity culture. But the USA and many European countries have higher productivity than Japan. Why are we emulating less productive Japan and not more productive USA or the Europeans?

You said we don’t have the culture to be as productive as the Japanese. But we are culturally similar to the Hong Kong people and Hong Kong’s productivity is nearly equal to Japan’s. In fact, our productivity levels used to be similar to Hong Kong’s but we have since stagnated and declined.

You said we can support productivity growth by being open to foreign talent. But it is precisely because we have opened our doors too wide that our productivity has plummeted.

You said we should develop a local culture that foreigners could adapt to easily. We are probably the only country in the world that adapts to foreigners rather than the other way round.

Finally you said Japan doesn’t have an English speaking population and so cannot become a financial centre even if it wants to since it doesn’t embrace foreign workers. Both Singapore and Hong Kong have strong English roots and are financial centres. The credit goes ultimately to our British colonial past which cannot be easily replicated by the Japanese simply through immigration.

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