Comments on LKY’s reflections on Singapore’s economy in a global world

I refer to the 11 Aug 2013 Straits Times excerpt “Singapore’s economy in a global world” from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s new book [1].

Mr Lee said that Singapore inequality is due to the enormous supply of Chinese and Indian workers in China and India. Does it not occur to him that most Western nations have far less inequality despite being exposed to the same enormous supply of Chinese and Indian workers in China and India? Why does the enormous supply affect Singapore so much but not Western countries?

Mr Lee said that the gap will widen to the disadvantage of those without skills. But it isn’t just the unskilled that are affected; the PMETs have also been affected. So what if they have skills but aren’t as cheap as their foreign counterparts?

Mr Lee asked how many small and medium sized companies (SMEs) will pack up if foreign workers are cut. But in the case of restaurants and eateries, can they pack up and go to another country and still serve Singapore customers?

Mr Lee said that government is slowing down foreign labour force intake because Singaporeans feel uncomfortable, not because of economics. Mr Lee should take note that between 2007 and 2011, Hong Kong outgrew us economically with a much smaller foreign labour force intake. So slowing foreign labour intake need not necessarily go against economics.

Mr Lee said that from an economic perspective, we should grow. But do we just grow numbers only or should we grow quality instead?

Mr Lee said if we raise tax rate too much, our best people will leave and that we are already losing our best students to America. Does Mr Lee not realize that America already has higher tax rates than us but that doesn’t stop our best from going to America? If lower tax rate doesn’t bring back our best, surely something else matters more? Any Singaporean going to America will realize that housing and cars are on average much cheaper than they are in Singapore that more than compensates for higher tax rates. Their higher tax rate also pays for social security so they have a better bargain overall.

Mr Lee said the middle aged and beyond stay in Singapore because they have no choice. Does Mr Lee not realize this is the kind of nation he has created? One where people stay not because they love to or want to but because they have no choice?

Mr Lee said that Singapore won’t be the same without top quality Singaporeans. George Yeo is top quality and he has left for Hong Kong. Has Singapore’s standing or GDP fallen because of that?

Mr Lee said without his generation there would be no present Singapore. He must not forget that Singapore didn’t start with his generation and that there were generations that came before his. Without those generations, there wouldn’t be Mr Lee’s generation either. Mr Lee’s generation built upon the work of previous generations.

Mr Lee said his compatriots Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam and Lim Kim San would probably go to America to work for Microsoft in today’s world. He could be right but we are not so sure if Microsoft would have wanted Mr Lee. He might instead be advised to teleport to the Al Capone era where his knuckle dusters can be put to better use in cul-des-sac fights.

Mr Lee said he could not have stayed on as a lawyer in Britain because he wouldn’t be able to make a living as he didn’t do his chambers in Britain. But if it is a simple matter of doing his chambers in Britain to become a practicing lawyer in Britain, then isn’t it his choice not to do his chambers in Britain and hence his choice not to stay on in Britain as a lawyer?

When asked the question “Maybe Singapore is a special part of the oyster (globalised world)?” Mr Lee gave the non-answer “No. The World was not globalised now. It is now.” It appeared as though he gradually lost his ability to make sense of what was being asked as the interview went on.

[1] Straits Times, LEE KUAN YEW ON… Singapore’s economy in a global world, 11 Aug 2013


One Response to “Comments on LKY’s reflections on Singapore’s economy in a global world”

  1. dotseng Says:


    With respect Sir!

    Darkness 2013

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