PM Lee: Not many can do Budget, S’pore style

Dear PM Lee,

I refer to the 21 Feb 2011 Straits Times report of your comments at an Ang Mo Kio event.

The shortage of onions in India due to blight and soaring wheat prices due to a drought in Northern China show the fragility of an agrarian economy. Singapore’s agrarian sector is so negligibly small we are therefore less affected by the vagaries of nature.

It is true that very few countries can be like Singapore where budget surpluses are available in times of hardships. Strangely, the few countries or economies that can do the same are Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. It appears that generating budget surpluses is inherent in the East Asian culture. So while prosperity hinges on good government, good government doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t have good government growing out of lousy people or vice versa. Good government grows out of good people who are in turn nurtured by the culture that defines them.

Dear SM Goh,

I refer to the same report of your comments at a Marine Parade dinner.

While it is true that we need to grow before we can share, it is also important to understand that growth is not just a simple matter of adding more people. The people we add may contribute more now. But they too will grow old and will eventually require the support of even more people. This is just not sustainable forever. We must learn to grow, not by adding numbers, but by adding quality to the numbers we already have.

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