Archive for October, 2013

Revisiting congratulatory messages on LKY’s 90th birthday – Part 3

October 19, 2013

I refer to Straits Times congratulatory messages by Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s worshippers on the occasion of his 90th birthday [1], [2], [3], [4], [5].

Founding Father?
Mr Johnson Lim and Mr Oei referred to LKY as our founding father [3] and founding prime minister [2] respectively. The term ‘founding father’ or ‘founding’ has special meaning and should only be used on those truly worthy of the title. George Washington, Gandhi and Sun Yat Sen have been respectively credited as the founding fathers of America, India and China because they led the fight against foreign overlords and eventually won independence for their respective peoples. This in essence is what it takes to be a founding father – to put one’s life on the line for the freedom of one’s people. LKY never did that but cooperated with and worked for our British overlords instead just as he cooperated with and worked for Japanese overlords during the Japanese Occupation. LKY never fought for our independence. Instead, he fought to get Singapore married into the Malaysian family which was in effect an exchange of British lordship for Malaysian lordship. That by any definition is not an act of founding. Our eventual independence was thrust upon us without a fight, without us even wanting it. The mere act of receiving independence cannot be considered an act of founding for that would cheapen what it means to found. It was such a day of anguish for LKY that he cried on national TV. The stark contrast between the joy of leaders like George Washington and the sadness of LKY on the occasions of their respective nations’ independences marks the clear difference between true founding fathers and founding father wannabes.

Mr Senan described LKY as having tremendous force of authencity that earned him respect through a lifetime of consistent inner alignment [1] while Dr Ng described LKY as being at his fiery best in his first legislative assembly speech as an opposition member [5]. But in those first legislative assemblies, LKY said the following:

• If you believe in democracy, you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought, and no excuse, whether of security, should allow a government to be deterred from doing what it knows to be right, and what it must know to be right
Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, April 27, 1955

• If it is not totalitarian to arrest a man and detain him, when you cannot charge him with any offence against any written law – if that is not what we have always cried out against in Fascist states – then what is it?… If we are to survive as a free democracy, then we must be prepared, in principle, to concede to our enemies – even those who do not subscribe to our views – as much constitutional rights as you concede yourself.
Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, Sept 21, 1955

• Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love-it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they’re conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict.
Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition PAP member speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956

Having said all that in his supposed fiery and authentic best in 1955 / 1956, LKY went on to do the exact opposite by enacting the Television and Newspaper Act and by continuing to use the Internal Security Act (ISA) in peaceful times when it was clear that the ISA was never meant for peace time use. What force of authencity and what lifetime of consistent inner alignment was Mr Senan referring to that led LKY to say one thing and do another? What was that supposed fiery best that Dr Ng remembers LKY by that have stood the test of time?

Mr Johnson Lim quoted from LKY’s book in which LKY said everything he did was for an honourable purpose [3]. What honour was there in locking up good citizens like Dr Lim Hock Siew and Dr Chia Thye Poh for nearly 20 years and 32 years respectively? Dr Lim was locked away when his son was only 5 months old and released when his son entered college. Dr Lim thus lost a quarter of his life and missed out on his once a lifetime joy of experiencing his only child grow up even though he never committed any crime that was punishable by law. The simple fact was that Dr Lim was never charged or convicted in court. Having denounced in 1955 the arrest and detention of a man without charge as being totalitarian, how then can there be honour in detaining Dr Lim for nearly 20 years without charge?

Fair Play?
Mr Allen Tan credited LKY for developing a culture of moral correctness and fair play that is lacking in many countries even today [4] while Dr Ng described LKY as being so important as to eventually rise above politics [5]. But where is the supposed fair play when LKY himself admits without shame that he engages in unfair pork barrel politics by giving priority for HDB upgrading to constituencies with stronger voter support for the PAP [6]? How will LKY eventually rise above politics when as recently as two years ago he said Aljunied has five years to ruminate, regret and repent if they choose the opposition?

Never wrong?
Mr Senan quoted Margaret Thatcher saying LKY was never wrong [1]. But how do we trust Margaret Thatcher to be always right when she said LKY was never wrong when many Britons believe Margaret Thatcher to be wrong and that many of her policies gave rise to problems later for Britain [7]? Is it a case of LKY was never wrong or LKY would never admit that he was wrong?

Still holding the fort?
Dr Ng reminded us that LKY is still holding the fort in Tanjong Pagar GRC [5]. But how in his current state is LKY serving the people of Tanjong Pagar? Has he met or served any of his constituents over the last few years? Is he being fair to his constituents?

Mr Senan described LKY as a teacher who rolled up his sleeves, took the mantle of leadership and accountability to the people and dished out tough leadership necessary for the tough times then [1] while Mr Johnson Lim quoted from LKY’s book saying one is either born a leader or one is not [3]. Sleeves rolled up or otherwise, what is certain was that LKY never picked up arms to defend Singapore when Singapore was invaded by the Japanese. His supposed accountability to the people is to deny that he was ever responsible for our low birth rates today. The excuse of tough leadership for tough times extended well beyond us becoming First World. When it was time for him to show his leadership during our momentous split from Malaysia, LKY ended up devastated, out of action and propped up by Dr Toh Chin Chye instead:

• When Lee Kuan Yew got back to Singapore, he invited the members of the Convention to attend his press conference. He was crying. I don’t understand him at all. On one hand, he worked so hard for merger. Having gotten the cupful, he shattered it. And then cried over it. He held two successive press conferences, and in which both he cried. On the third morning I went to work, and saw the press boys again. I asked Lee Wei Ching, his press secretary, “Why are they hanging around here?” Another press conference! I told Lee Wei Ching, “You ought to tell the Prime Minister to go to Changi and take a rest. Call the press conference off! Another crying bout, and the people of Singapore will think the government is on its knees. So he went to Changi, staying at the government bungalow for six weeks. There was a big time gap … between our last parliamentary meeting and the next meeting. More than five months. One would have thought with such a big event, Parliament should be immediately summoned and the announcement made to Parliament. The opposition came at me. Why is there no Parliament sitting? So I had to hold the fort. I was not appointed to act for him while he was away. When he went off to Changi, Parliament did not meet. So Singapore had a Parliament in suspended animation. Keng Swee and Lim Kim San saw me and asked me what was the constitutional position. Has he recovered? What if he does not recover? So what happens? I said I thought he was getting better, although I could not see him and telephone calls were not put through.
Excerpt of an interview with Dr Toh Chin Chye, published in ‘Leaders of Singapore’ by Melanie Chew, 1996

• During the Big Split … Dr Goh Keng Swee … recalled Dr Toh Chin Chye visiting him in his Fullerton Building office in 1961, after seeing Mr Lee, saying: ‘I have just come from Harry’s office. He was staring at the ceiling just like you did. You should snap out of this mood. The fighting has just begun. It is going to be long and nasty. But if we keep wringing our hands in anguish, we are sure to lose.
Straits Times, What if there had been no Toh Chin Chye?, 4 Feb 2012

Mr Oei declared LKY as having led his party to landslide victory in 1959 [2]. There can be no doubt that the victory was Lim Chin Siong’s as LKY himself often describes the situation then as one of riding the tiger. Lim Chin Siong and his fellow leftists were the tigers who won the day, never mind who sat on them then.

[1] Straits Times, ‘Bold vision put S’pore on path to fast growth’, 16 Sept 2013, Mr Dinesh Senan
• Underlying his accomplishments is the tremendous force of his authenticity. What he feels and thinks, he says and does. This often meant bluntness of expression and political incorrectness.
• Authenticity won him global influence. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher said “he was never wrong”. Mr Lee has earned such respect through a lifetime of consistent inner alignment, raising Singapore’s image in the process.
• Above all, he has been a teacher who rolled up his sleeves and took the mantle of leadership of, and accountability to, the people.
• We learn from him that tough times demand tough-minded leadership

[2] Straits Times, From Third World to First – in one generation, 16 Sept 2013, Anthony Oei
• This is just a glimpse of the colossal accomplishments of our founding prime minister, who celebrates his 90th birthday today.
• In 1959, he led his party to a landslide victory in a historic general election for a fully elected self-government.

[3] Straits Times, Lessons on the S’pore Spirit, 16 Sept 2013, Johnson Lim Teng Kok (Dr)
• FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, celebrates his 90th birthday today.
• “I am not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honourable purpose.”
• “I think you are a born leader or you are not a leader. You can teach a person to be a manager, but not a leader. They must have the extra drive, intellectual verve, an extra tenacity and the will to overcome.”

[4] Straits Times, The little country that could, 17 Sept 2013, Allen Tan Han Loong
• Under Mr Lee, Singapore developed a system of clear governance, that is, a culture of moral correctness and fair play, which many other countries lack even today.

[5] Straits Times, Mr Lee takes the spotlight – with no pomp or fanfare, 17 Sept 2013
• In his first speech in the then Legislative Assembly, Mr Lee, who was one of three People’s Action Party members in the opposition, was at his fiery best.
• Some men are so important in a nation’s history that they eventually rise above politics.
• Dr Ng pointed out that Singapore’s first prime minister has been a member of the legislature since 1955, when he won his first election. He has not looked back since and today, 58 years later, he is still holding the fort in Tanjong Pagar GRC.

[6] From Third World to First. The Singapore Story: 1965-2000, Lee Kuan Yew, page 157
The PAP had countered the opposition’s “by-election” strategy with the electoral carrot that priority for upgrading of public housing in a constituency would be in accord with the strength of voter support for the PAP in that constituency. This was criticized by American liberals as unfair, as if pork barrel politics did not exist elsewhere.

Dispelling the Thatcher myths
“The trouble is that almost everything that’s wrong with Britain today is her legacy,” Mr Livingstone said … Thatcher deregulated Britain’s banks, “allowed manufacturing to wither” and stopped building council homes, Mr Livingstone told Sky News UK. “She created today’s housing crisis, she created the banking crisis, and she created the benefits crisis. It was her government that started putting people on incapacity benefit rather than register as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was at broadly full employment. “She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry, that she could live with two or three million unemployed, and the Benefits Bill, the legacy of that, we’re still struggling with today. “In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact she was fundamentally wrong.”
Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said it is wrong to eulogise Thatcher as a conviction politician because her beliefs have since proven to be “half-baked”.
In reality, however, in taking a meat cleaver to the unions, Thatcher was tackling the symptoms not the disease.
The fact is that under Thatcherism the UK’s trade position went from the merely weak to the totally disastrous. The UK ran a current account surplus of 0.6 percent of GDP in 1978, the last full year before Thatcher came to office. As of 1989, the last full year before she was ousted by her own party in May of 1990, the current account DEFICIT had reached an appalling 3.9 percent of GDP. In the meantime Thatcher presided over a savage program to destroy the UK’s core exporting industries and, with wholesale financial deregulation, laid the groundwork for the catastrophic financial bubbles of more recent times.


Revisiting congratulatory messages on LKY’s 90th birthday – Part 2 (economy)

October 14, 2013

I refer to Straits Times congratulatory messages by LKY worshippers Mr Senan, Mr Anthony Oei, Mr Sim S. Lim, Mr Johnson Lim, Mr Ramasamy, Mr Allen Tan, Dr Tony Tan and Mr Ng Eng Hen on the occasion of his 90th birthday [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8].

The claims

Mr Senan claimed that it was LKY’s audacious, bold, pragmatic yet willful vision and determination of choosing export industrialization over the traditional import substitution that put us on our path to rapid development, allowed us to succeed against the odds in the 1960s and transformed us into a vibrant nation of global influence out of proportion to our tiny base [1].

Mr Oei claimed that LKY elevated Singapore from Third World to First in one generation and made it a spectacular success so that Singaporeans today enjoy a high standard of living and a stable and peaceful environment [2].

Mr Sim claimed that LKY, at the heart of our good government, took the poorest Asean country (by gross domestic product per capita) and made it the richest through brilliance and tenacity and proved that one man can make a difference and create value from little more than air, water and earth [3].

Mr Johnson Lim claimed that we owe LKY a debt of gratitude for our success story because our nation is what it is today because of his energetic passion, prophetic vision, foresight, courageous leadership, pragmatic policies, courage, compassion, conviction and commitment that decisively transformed Singapore and made it possible for a small city state to make a big difference on the world stage [4].

Mr Ramsamy claimed that we owe a great deal to our pioneer leaders led by Mr Lee who, in one generation, transformed Singapore from Third World to First [5].

Mr Allen Tan claimed that modern Singapore is the result of LKY, whose leadership and vision made Singapore exceptional and made us feel exceptional [6].

Dr Ng claimed that LKY, with singular mission and dedication, steered Singapore to independence, laid the foundations that transformed Singapore from a nation born into hardship and poverty to a modern, thriving metropolis, forged Singapore into a nation admired worldwide for its prosperity, harmony and stability, lifted an entire nation, improved the lives of countless Singaporeans over several generations, left a lasting legacy to us all and achieved greatness [7], [8].

Dr Tony Tan claimed that generations of Singaporeans benefited from LKY’s lifelong contribution towards creating the peaceful and prosperous Singapore that we know today [8].

The Truths

1. We weren’t the poorest

Singapore wasn’t the poorest but the richest Asean country in per capita GDP when LKY took over [9]. LKY thus could not have taken the poorest country in Asean and made it the richest since Singapore was already the richest at the point when LKY took over.

Country 1960 real per capita GDP
Singapore $4,398
Philippines $1,466
Malaysia $1,453
Thailand $962
Indonesia $665

2. LKY didn’t take us from Third World to First

LKY did not take Singapore from Third World to First because we weren’t Third World to begin with when LKY took charge in 1959. Our 1960 per capita GNI in 2010 PPP USD was already US$4,794 [10] which put us in the Upper Middle Income category according to World Bank classification.

Category Criteria (based on 2011 per capita GNI)
High Income US$12,476 or higher
Upper Middle Income From US$4,036 to US$12,475
Lower Middle Income From US$1,026 to US$4,035
Low Income US$1,025 or below

Carl Trocki also wrote on page 166 of his book ‘Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control’: “Singapore had already attained a middle income status in 1960 with a per capita GDP of $1,330”. Thus, Singapore did not transition from Third World to First under LKY’s watch but from near First World to First World.

3. LKY didn’t transform us from poverty and hardship into a modern metropolis

Many authors testify to the fact that Singapore was already prosperous when LKY took over:

• Post-war Singapore was never a backward fishing village waiting to be transformed by Lee Kuan Yew into a modern economy. The King of Thailand wouldn’t have sent 20 of his sons to a fishing village for education in the late nineteenth century. A fishing village could not have staged a manned air flight as early as 1911. Singapore was credited with the finest airport in the British Empire in the 1930s. LKY had already acknowledged in an Aug 1967 speech to American businessmen in Chicago that we were already a metropolis. (LKY could not have transformed Singapore into a metropolis in just two years after our independence).
Peter Wilson / Gavin Peebles, Economic growth and development in Singapore: past and future, Page 26

• Before World War II Singapore had already experienced very considerable economic development. At the beginning of the 1950s it was the most important communications centre in the Far East, not just for shipping but as a focal point for airlines, telecommunications and distribution of mail, Singapore in the inter-war period, was the biggest market in the world for natural rubber, internationally important as a specialized futures market for tin, and a major world oil distribution centre. There existed a reservoir of human capital: the city had an entrepreneur class which is both extensive in numbers and high in quality, and substantial industry, not least as a centre for ship repair with the skilled labour force this implied. Quantitative evidence confirms this impression of rising living standards. In 1956 the first estimates of national income for Singapore showed that per capita income had been increasing fairly steadily and rapidly since 1948 and were very much greater than almost anywhere else in Asia. Per capita income was probably over a third of that in the United Kingdom. Prosperity had spread, so that Singapore was almost certainly the only place in Asia where there is a really substantial middle class. In the mid-1950s the island had 30 people per private car and British Malaya 70. No other country in Asia had fewer than 120.
The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33

• Since its foundation, Singapore had rapidly developed into a prosperous international free port. Its success was due to joint Sino-British expertise, capital and labour. By the 1930s Singapore had become a trade focus for an immense and wealthy area stretching from the Bay of Bengal to China and embracing the whole of Southeast Asia. This entrepot trade in tropical produce of the surrounding regions and imported manufacturing goods from the West was the backbone of the Colony’s economy
Yeo Kim Wah, Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55, page 14

• Singapore thrived as the intermediary for the trade between the advanced industrial economies and countries with lower levels of achievement. Singapore was the example par excellence of a colonial port that had prospered on global trade because its overlord had the wisdom not to confine its trade for narrow imperial gain.
Abu Talib Ahmad and Liok Ee Tan, New terrains in Southeast Asian history, page 152

• By the time the Suez Canal opened in 1869 and with the advent of the steamship revolution in the latter half of the nineteenth century, this small settlement and outpost of British imperialism had become a global port that could rival any other in the world.
Derek Thiam Soon Heng, Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, Singapore in Global History, page 57

• The growth of Singapore to its position not only as the key port of the Straits region by the late nineteenth century but also to a position as a major global port is perhaps the most exciting aspect of economic change in the Straits in this period. By the early 1930s, Singapore was estimated to be the fifth or sixth most important port in the world.
Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca, pages 107, 114

4. We had more than just air, water and earth

Nearly all First World nations derive less than 2% of their GDP from natural resources. Thus, just about all First World nations create wealth out of little more than air, water and earth. Furthermore, many authors testify to the fact that Singapore had more than just air, water and earth to help us succeed:

• There are four reasons which enabled Singapore throughout her history as a British colony, and today as an independent republic, to survive and even prosper in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties. First, there is the well-known fact of a superb central geographical location with a natural harbor swept by currents flowing between the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca. The second reason must be ascribed … to Sir Stamford Raffles’ great vision of the island growing into a great emporium founded on the Victorian belief in the virtues of free trade. Successive colonial governors zealously nurtured the port, maintained lean and efficient administrators, and allowed merchants and bankers full scope for the exercise of their talents. In the modern idiom, the Victorians who governed Singapore established and maintained an infrastructure at minimum cost with maximum efficiency. The third reason derives from the second condition, the nurturing of the free enterprise system. In the absence of monopolies and privileged business interests, keen and free competition ensured efficient business. Finally, what made Singapore grow as a trading centre despite mercantilist policies of neighbours was that the economics of the business did not add up to a zero sum game. This happy result emerges from the continuous and rapid economic development of the countries in Southeast Asia under British and Dutch colonial administrations. For well over a hundred years Singapore learnt to adapt her economy to changing circumstances. This ability to adapt which was won in the hard school of experience remains an asset which the government of independent Singapore decided to retain. It might have been politically expedient to rid ourselves of institutions and practices that bore the taint of colonial associations. Had we done so, we would have thrown away a priceless advantage.
Goh Keng Swee, The Practice of Economic Growth, Chapter 1: Why Singapore succeeds, pages 6-7

• The economic success of Singapore is explicable on two counts. One is that Singapore started from a high base. The other is the favourable international economic forces on which Singapore capitalized. Singapore inherited an administration which worked and built on it.
The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33

• By the 1830s, Singapore had become the major trading port. It was challenged by Manila and Batavia but had three crucial advantages over the other colonial port cities and over the major indigenous ports. First, its geographic location: most ships trading between China, India and Europe had to pass Singapore. Second, its status as a free port: the Dutch in Batavia and the Spanish in Manila levied a range of tariffs and charges on imports, as did local rulers in the smaller ports. Third, its linkages into the British commercial and industrial empire: Britain was then the dominant colonial power.
A Short History of South-East Asia, Peter Church, Chapter 9

• This entrepot economy was a combined product of Singapore’s geographical location and the deliberate policies of British policies after 1819. The international free trade policy of the Straits Settlements Government has also done much to attract the trade of the nearby countries to Singapore and to make the city a clearing house for the products of the area known as south eastern Asia.
Sin Kiong Wong, Singapore Chinese Society in Transition: Business, Politics, and Socio-Economic Change, 1945-1965, page 231

5. Our economic blueprint was from Dr Winsemius, not LKY

Many authors testify to the fact that it was Dr Winsemius and his team of United Nations experts who developed the economic blueprint upon which Singapore’s post independence economy was based.

• He was Singapore’s trusted guide through economically uncharted waters for 25 years from 1960. Through him, Singapore borrowed ideas and strategies that worked for Netherlands and other developed nations. Singapore’s economy is flying high today, thanks in large measure to his sound advice and patient counsel. He is the Father of Jurong, the Dutchman behind Singapore Incorporated. Dr Winsemius was a special person for he had changed Singapore to what it is today. For Singaporeans today, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Dutch economist.
Straits Times, Dr Albert Winsemius Singapore’s trusted guide, 7 Dec 1996

• He was behind the 10-year development plan that saw the island state transform into today’s high technology, high value added industrial hub.
Straits Times, He Believed in Singapore’s Future, 7 Dec 1996

• Singapore’s economic miracle owes something to Dutch economist Dr Albert Winsemius. Dr Albert Winsemius was not merely a consultant, he was someone who revolutionalised and set Singapore’s economy in the right direction.
Tactical Globalization: Learning from the Singapore Experiment, Aaron Kon, page 170

• Dr Winsemius of the Netherlands and Mr I.F. Tang of China were two foreign friends of Singapore who made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961.
A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections, Tong Dow Ngiam, page 66

• Goh Keng Swee and Dr Albert Winsemius are generally regarded as the brains behind the coherent export/foreign investment oriented policies that Singapore has followed.
Multinationals and the Growth of the Singapore Economy, Hafiz Mirza, page 77

• A year after his first visit to Singapore, he presented a 10-year economic development plan. Winsemius also advised the government about large scale housing projects in Singapore and managed to get Philips, Shell and Exxon to Singapore.
Managing Transaction Costs in the Era of Globalization, F. A. G. den Butter, page 38

• Albert Winsemius presented a ten-year development plan to turn Singapore from a port dependent on entrepot trade to a manufacturing and industrial centre. Following the Winsemius Report, the Legislative Assembly passed an Act in 1961 to create a statutory board to promote industrialisation and economic development. The EDB came into being …
Lim Kim San: A Builder of Singapore, Asad Latif, page 106

• The 1960-61 United Nations mission led by Albert Winsemius helped develop a blueprint for Singapore’s industrialisation and development plan and recommended the establishment of EDB. The Winsemius report provided the basis for Singapore’s first development plan. It made two particularly notable observations. The first was that Singapore did not lack entrepreneurs but they were mainly in commerce and not in manufacturing. This suggested the need for the government to participate directly to operate certain basic industries if neither foreign nor local enterprises were prepared to do so. However, said the report, long-run government participation might harm the investment climate unless it was true to commercial and market principles. The second point recommended the establishment of a nonpolitical EDB with divisions for financing, industrial facilities, projects, technical consulting, services, and promotion. The report recognised that the EDB’s core function should be the promotion of investment and that it should eventually hand over its financing activities to an industrial development bank. The Winsemous report was accepted and its recommendations implemented almost immediately. In its early years, the EDB had technical advisers from the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Initially, it concentrated on the four industries identified in the Winsemius report, namely, shipbuilding and repair, metal engineering, chemicals, and electrical equipment and appliances.
Lessons from East Asia, Danny M Leipziger, pages 240, 241

• In 1960, a UN industrial survey mission headed by Albert Winsemius was sent to Singapore, at the PAP government’s request, to survey the possibility of industrialisation. The Winsemius Report recommended, among other things, that Singapore should make use of the skills and ability of the local labour force to develop certain selected industries including chemicals, building material, steel-rolling, ship-building, and electrical appliances and parts, by wooing well-known foreign firms to set up joint ventures with local firms. It also advised that the new local industries to be set up should aim at the overseas market, since the domestic market was tiny. In 1961, the government drew the State Development Plan based on the Winsemius Report, which later became a Five-Year Development Plan. That same year, in accordance with the advice given by Winsemius, it set up the Economic Development Board (EDB), which was then given the task of constructing industrial estates, providing loans to firms in the private sector, attracting FDI, setting up joint ventures with foreign MNCs, and putting into practice fiscal measures under the Pioneer Industries Ordinance.
Japanese Firms in Contemporary Singapore, Hiroshi Shimizu, page 31

• In line with the recommendation of the Winsemius Mission, Singapore implemented policies contrary to the spirit of the 1960s by allowing foreign companies full ownership of their investments and control of operations. This gave Singapore an immediate advantage over other countries that had adopted a more nationalistic or socialist philosophy that prevented complete foreign ownership and control of large manufacturing investments.
Singapore, the Energy Economy: From the first refinery to the end of cheap oil, Ng Weng Hoong, page 12

• Singapore’s emergence as a pivotal manufacturing node in the emerging network of transnational capitalism was partly made possible by missionary zeal displayed in the adoption of the Winsemius Report, submitted on behalf of the United Nations Industrial Survey Mission of 1960.
CyberAsia: The Internet And Society in Asia, Zaheer Baber, page 59

• The Winsemius Report, as it is commonly known, eventually formed the blueprint for Singapore’s development efforts.
No Miracle: What Asia Can Teach All Countries about Growth, Mitchell Wigdor, Chapter 6

• An area of 2,025 hectares was suggested at first for the new Jurong Industrial Estate. In June 1961, Dr Albert Winsemius, an economic expert from the United Nations Bureau of Technical Assistance, submitted his report on an Industrialization Programme for Singapore, and recommended 6,480 hectares. The Winsemius Report also proposed the setting up of an Economic Development Board (EDB) to develop the area and promote free-enterprise industry.

• With Singapore’s secession in 1965, the United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore became the basis for Singapore’s industrialisation strategy.
State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Philip Nalliah Pillai, page 30

LKY himself feels indebted to Dr Winsemius for our economic success today when he said:
• Singapore and I personally are indebted to him for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore. I learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him … He gave me practical lessons on how European and American companies operated … showed me that Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments.
Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996

6. LKY’s primary goal was import substitution based on merger with Malaya

Many authors testify to the fact that LKY was the chief proponent of merger with Malaya and import substitution.

• Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP proposed a political union with Malaysia, which would provide a good-sized domestic market for an industrial strategy of import substitution. Expulsion from the union with Malaysia in 1965, on political grounds by the government in Kuala Lumpur, destroyed the import-substitution strategy.
The Fraser Institute, Case Studies in the Relationship between Political, Economic and Civil Freedoms, page 155

• During the federation period and immediately afterward, Lee’s government initially pursued an import substitution strategy … but the alienation from Malaysia, with its much larger market, rendered the strategy impractical.
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Asia Competitiveness Institute, Remaking Singapore, Michael Porter and Christian Ketels and Neo Boon Siong and Susan Chung, July 2008

• Lee Kuan Yew, appearing in tears on television when announcing separation, was devastated. His feelings strongly contrasted with scenes in Chinatown where firecrackers were set off to celebrate liberation from rule by Malays from Kuala Lumpur. Most Singaporeans did not share the government’s dismay. Winsemius also did not share Lee’s dismay. He said in a 1981 interview: To my amazement, a discussion had started: can Singapore survive? That was the only time I got angry in Singapore. I said: ‘now you have your hands free – use them!’ It was the best thing that happened during the whole period from 1960 till today.
The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sikko Visscher, page 171

7. Government doesn’t make all the difference

Mr Sim claimed that Singapore’s only competitive advantage is our government and that some born and bred Singaporeans do not appreciate Singapore as much as immigrants do because immigrants have seen how bad things can get in other countries.

In other words, Mr Sim attributes the difference between Singapore and his former country Malaysia primarily to a difference in government. The following table shows 24 countries / economies that have worse governments than Malaysia but that have performed better than Malaysia economically.

Country Average real GDP 1996 to 2010 (Penn World Tables) Average Government Effectiveness 1996 to 2010 (World Governance Indicators)
Macao $35,119 0.955
Italy $28,895 0.617
Taiwan $25,922 1.002
Seychelles $25,233 0.125
Puerto Rico $24,286 0.834
Greece $24,080 0.699
Bahrain $22,219 0.512
Slovenia $22,184 0.964
Trinidad and Tobago $22,020 0.272
Korea, Rep. $21,852 0.928
Malta $20,148 1.038
Czech Republic $19,837 0.877
Libya $17,808 -1.045
Slovak Republic $15,390 0.755
Hungary $15,279 0.853
Antigua and Barbuda $14,997 0.52
Estonia $14,511 0.935
Grenada $14,380 0.275
Croatia $13,380 0.413
Poland $13,198 0.556
Lithuania $12,116 0.574
Mexico $11,402 0.185
Latvia $10,945 0.507
Gabon $10,371 -0.684
Malaysia $10,333 1.054

Thus, a good government isn’t a sufficient condition for economic success, there are other more important factors that can overcome government deficiencies.

Mr Sim also claimed that it was LKY who spawned good schools, rule of law and meritocracy. But Singapore already had good schools, rule of law and meritocracy before LKY took charge. LKY himself attended the good school of Raffles Institution spawned by the colonial government. LKY’s wife benefited from the British meritocratic practice of sending our best to UK for studies. If there was no rule of law during colonial days, how could LKY have become a practising lawyer before he took power?

8. LKY didn’t steer Singapore to independence

Singapore became independent when we were kicked out of Malaysia by Tungku Abdul Rahman. It was a result that went against LKY’s wishes and for which he cried on national TV. Our independence was essentially a divorce from Malaysia. LKY, being the number one proponent of merger with Malaysia, couldn’t have advocated let alone steered Singapore into a divorce from Malaysia.

In short, an abundance of factual evidence exists to show that the truth is diametrically opposite to the claims made in these congratulatory messages rendering the messages hollow and meaningless.

[1] Straits Times, ‘Bold vision put S’pore on path to fast growth’, 16 Sept 2013, Mr Dinesh Senan

The man has transformed a very troubled colony (troubled by communist insurgencies, triads, illiteracy and poverty) into a vibrant nation whose global influence is out of proportion to its tiny base.
The odds in the 1960s were against us succeeding at all, let alone at this pace. To a huge extent, it was his audacious yet pragmatic vision and his wilful determination that put us on this path to rapid development.
He chose a bold vision: to leapfrog the traditional path of import substitution into export-oriented activity. His formula: Paint the vision, then build infrastructure to support the best global companies, while educating our workforce to meet their demand. The result: Thousands of multinationals set up regional headquarters here.
Most of all, I thank you, Mr Lee, for leaving me and my children a Singapore we are so very proud to be a part of in this world.

[2] Straits Times, From Third World to First – in one generation, 16 Sept 2013, Anthony Oei

He elevated Singapore from a Third World to a First World nation in one generation. Singaporeans today enjoy a high standard of living and a stable and peaceful environment to live, work and play in. Thank you for making this little red dot such a spectacular success.

[3] Straits Times, He’s proof one man can make a difference, 16 Sept 2013, Mr Sim S. Lim

Born and bred Singaporeans sometimes may not come to appreciate Singapore the way immigrants do – simply because immigrants have seen how bad things can get in other countries.

The only competitive advantage this country has is a good government, which has spawned good schools, the rule of law, meritocracy and corporate governance, which have in turn brought high-end investments here. These investments have raised the standard of living for all.

At the heart of good government, of course, is Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Through his brilliance and sheer tenacity, he has proven that one man can make a difference. He took the poorest country in Asean (by gross domestic product per capita) and made it the richest.

Singapore can create value from little more than air, water and earth.

Thank you for building this great nation.

[4] Straits Times, Lessons on the S’pore Spirit, 16 Sept 2013, Johnson Lim Teng Kok (Dr)

We owe him a debt of gratitude for Singapore’s success story – our nation is what it is today because of his energetic passion and prophetic vision. His foresight, courageous leadership and pragmatic policies decisively transformed Singapore.

One person with courage, compassion, conviction and commitment from a small city-state can make a big difference on the world stage.

[5] Straits Times, Lucky to be born in Singapore, 17 Sept 2013, Rajasegaran Ramasamy

We owe a great deal to our pioneer leaders led by Mr Lee. In one generation, he transformed Singapore from a Third World to a First World nation.

[6] Straits Times, The little country that could, 17 Sept 2013, Allen Tan Han Loong

Modern Singapore is the result of his leadership and vision.

His leadership has made Singapore an exceptional country, and made us believe and feel that we are exceptional.

Singapore is not a “natural” country. It is the result of sheer human will and determination; it cannot run on autopilot and complacency is our greatest threat.

[7] Straits Times, Mr Lee takes the spotlight – with no pomp or fanfare, 17 Sept 2013

Singapore was not born into greatness but hardship and poverty, Dr Ng said. But Mr Lee, with his singular mission and dedication, forged Singapore into a nation which today is admired worldwide for its prosperity, harmony and stability.

In lifting an entire nation and improving countless lives of Singaporeans of several generations, Mr Lee Kuan Yew has left a lasting legacy to all of us and achieved greatness.

[8] Straits Times, Parliament pays tribute to Mr Lee on his 90th birthday, 17 Sept 2013

Tony Tan Keng Yam wrote that “generations of Singaporeans have benefited from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s lifelong contributions towards creating the peaceful and prosperous Singapore that we know today.

“Mr Lee, with his singular mission and dedication, steered this country to independence and laid the very foundations that transformed Singapore into a modern and thriving metropolis,” – Ng Eng Hen

“He led and forged a nation which today is admired worldwide for its prosperity, harmony and stability. In lifting an entire nation and improving countless lives of Singaporeans of several generations, Mr Lee Kuan Yew has left a lasting legacy to all of us and achieved greatness.” – Ng Eng Hen

[9] 1960 per capita GDP figures in 2005 PPP USD obtained from Penn World Tables (PWT). No 1960 data available for Brunei.

[10] PWT’s 1960 per capita GDP figures in 2005 PPP USD can be converted to GNP figures using PWT’s GNP to GDP ratios. GNP is equivalent to GNI. The resulting GNP figures in 2005 PPP USD can then be converted to 2010 PPP USD. 2010 is the last available year in Penn World Tables and is as close to 2011 as one can get.