Why S’pore can’t produce a Fortune 500 company

Dear MM Lee,

I refer to the 22 Jan 2011 Straits Times report of your views on why Singapore can’t produce a Fortune 500 company.

You said Singapore is too small to produce a world class manufacturing giant of Fortune 500 class. Why restrict ourselves to manufacturing? Is it a lesser achievement if we produced a Fortune 500 company that isn’t a manufacturer? The following countries with similarly small populations like us have produced Fortune 500 companies:

Population Fortune 500 companies
Hong Kong 7 million Hutchison Whampoa, Jardine Matheson
Switzerland 7 million Nestle, Zurich Financial Services, Credit Suisse, UBS, ABB, Roche Group, Novartis …
Scotland 5 million Royal Bank of Scotland
Finland 5 million Nokia
Austria 8 million OMV Group, Erste Group Bank, Strabag
Denmark 5.5 million A.P. Møller-Mærsk Group, Danske Bank Group
Ireland 4.5 million CRH

Thus, being small doesn’t mean we can’t produce Fortune 500 companies. Being small doesn’t mean we must resign ourselves to relying on foreign multinationals to drive growth.

For all its falling on hard times, Taiwan continues to be represented in the Fortune 500 by such companies as Acer and Asustek.

Creative recruiting people from Silicon Valley doesn’t change the fact that Creative was started by a Singaporean. While a Fortune 500 company would most likely be a global company that recruits from all over the world, it would more likely than not provide greater opportunities to people from its country of origin than from elsewhere.


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