My Thoughts on Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s Future

Lee Kuan Yew Singapore Future

Photo credit for Lee Kuan Yew: Singapolitics

I was asked about my thoughts on Lee Kuan Yew’s “legacy”. This was my response. 

Lee Kuan Yew is respected by many Singaporeans, for what he has contributed to Singapore’s growth though I need to add that much of the development of Singapore in the early years has to also be attributed to a team of people, who have unfortunately been forgotten for their contributions. It might be more meaningful to talk of the contributions of them as a group – Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye, S. Rajaratnam etc – so that we can have a good sense of how Singapore’s success should be seen in perspective.

On the same note, Singapore’s economic development in the first 20 years of independence, from the mid-1960s to mid-1980s was actually on the right track, where wages were increasing, income inequality was decreasing and interest rates on the pension funds were increasing. In short, people’s lives were getting better. In the first 20 years of Singapore, the Singapore Model was working well because there was “balance”, where wages and the living standards were rising in tandem with growth.

However, from the mid-1980s, the new policies became decidedly less favourable towards Singaporeans, where the government reduced health subsidies and where public housing and education prices escalated by even several times over. From the mid-1990s, real wages for the low-income workers started stagnating and for the middle-income, this has been happening for the past 10 years. And some Singaporeans are today beginning to feel that Singapore is seeing a reversal of our fortunes in the last five to 10 years.

Rightfully or not, in the mid-1980s, when Lee Kuan Yew removed the “Old Guard” or first-generation leaders who has helped to build Singapore in the first 20 years and replaced it with the second-generation of leaders who were too eager to please, it caused the system to go out of balance, where we have reached a point today where wages are too low, prices are too high and where Singaporeans cannot save enough to retire, and poverty is estimated to have risen to even 30%.

As such, Lee Kuan Yew had a good team of people in place in the first 20 years of Singapore who worked with him to build Singapore but his team thereafter, from the 1980s, did not perhaps have the foresight and ethical beliefs as the “Old Guard” had, and because of that, the system could not be well-maintained.

As a result, this has contributed to the belief that the current PAP leaders are in the business of politics for money, also because they earn the highest salaries among politicians in the world, as well as because they have pegged their salaries to the richest in Singapore, who also earn the highest salaries among the developed countries.

Thus if you ask me, Lee Kuan Yew could have a much favourable legacy but his selection of people after the first-generation leaders, as well as their obedience in an effort not to offend him have resulted in a system which became lopsided, as they were too eager to get into his good books. Thus Lee Kuan Yew’s formidability and wrath became a double-edged sword. Some Singaporeans believe that Lee Kuan Yew’s dictatorial leadership in the earlier years of independence was necessary as it helped to fasten Singapore’s development but it is also this fear that has even stuck into the highest levels of governance that has caused an unquestioning principle towards his way of working which has also caused the policies to become skewed. At least the “Old Guards”dared to challenge him and maintain that stability and balance for Singapore.

I would say that Lee Kuan Yew’s temperament was a characteristic that moulded Singapore’s initial growth but it was also because of this unforgiving trait that has institutionalised fear into the system which has become an unhealthy impediment for the growth, and more importantly, sustainability of Singapore.

Thus moving forward, what does this mean for Singapore? I think Singapore has to go back to the basics. First, over the last 10 to 20 years (or even 30 years), policies that have been created have moved away from caring for the people. When the People’s Action Party (PAP) removed “equality” from their constitution and replaced it with “self-reliance” in 1982, that was when their policies became more selfish, if I may add. In a way, Lee Kuan Yew was instrumental to this as he was still the Secretary-General of the PAP when the constitution was changed and he was also the prime minister who retired the “Old Guards” in the 1980s and brought in the second-generation leaders who created the imbalanced policies.

What we need to do at this point is to undo some of these policies and their effects and to bring balance back to Singapore. Thus we need to increase wages to bring it parity, so that income inequality and poverty can be reduced. The government also needs to increase health and education subsidies so that all of Singaporeans can be uplifted, and not just the select few in the elites. Also, pension returns need to be returned to the people and transparently managed, so that Singaporeans will be protected for their retirement. In that sense, we have to remove or reduce a lot of the complications that have bogged down our system and which are making the system less efficient. We need to streamline the system and start making it more focused towards the people, and to protect the people.

In short, the government has to stop pursing a business/profit-motive and to start taking care of the people. The PAP over the past 30 years have steered away from the objective of governance – for the protection of the people, and so, either the PAP has to regain a sense of ethical responsibility or Singaporeans have to do what is right to for themselves and to vote in a new government that will take care of and protect them. I think the latter is a more viable alternative, seeing how the PAP has become rigid and entrenched in its ways and is resistant to change.

Singapore cannot continue on the current modus operandi that the PAP has taken for the past 30 years. We either have to go back to where Singapore was in the first 20 years, in terms of the balance that was attained, or to allow a renewal, where Singaporeans are engaged and empowered to make decisions for the country and partake in the country’s growth. The very reason why the first-generation leaders wanted to focus on educating the population was precisely because a more educated populace will be able to help the country grow.

The current development of Singapore is not sustainable if we continue on a model of self-inflicted price escalation and artificially-depressed wages where the growing inequality can tear the social fabric apart. We need to focus on bringing our country back to balance.

As such, is it to follow Lee Kuan Yew’s approach or is it to create a new approach? It really depends on which era and which team you are talking about. Where Lee Kuan Yew had a good team in the first-generation leaders, Singapore was progressing nicely. Where he later transited into a second-generation (and then third-generation) leaders who lack the gumption and who became submissive and less ethical in their approach, it has instead thwarted Singapore’s development path.

So, is it to follow Lee Kuan Yew’s approach or not? I would say it is about putting in a team which has the heart for Singapore and Singaporeans, as well as the other inhabitants on this island, and which have the foresight and belief to start re-investing back in Singaporeans, for our health and education, and retirement for the elderly, so that with the right commitment to the people, we can bring our country back on track. Where a dictatorial leadership might work in the earlier years of consolidation and growth, a more equitable and collaborative governance is needed now where the PAP does not monopolise or hold onto power stridently, but where governance becomes a shared and decentralised responsibility and distilled among the people.

Only with unity and equality, and justice and fairness, can we see Singapore move towards a brighter possibility, and this also requires Singaporeans to let go of the fear that the idea of Lee Kuan Yew has created, and to be willing to restart our engagement with our country.

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143 comments

  1. Vice

    vice dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said:

    “It cannot be just the government leading the way forward. The people have to be as much a part of this, so a new social contract can be forged which can be legitimate to all.”

    If one reads between the lines, one could even infer that the current social contract is not “legitimate to all.”///

    The smarty pant who framed the words show that he is still clueless.

  2. THE SIXTEN

    1) “Tinkerbell” & “The Oracle ” , ” Slayer”, ” lolz” is same person – – PM’s adviser. he is in charge of the persecution campaign . he is a crafty knave .

    2) “Prince” & ” jackfruit “, ” Viper ” is the same person, because a fool always comes short of her reckoning. so this single woman is not so bad, only responsible for yelling in the persecution campaign .

    3) ” Question ” and ” Jim “, ” Royisloser “, is the same person — PM’s female secretary , she is responsible for tattler, and manufacturing fake news, She took advantage of her position, leaking the nationals private account , In order to further threats and intimidation against nationals .

    It is a clown office where the hen crows louder than the cock. evil communications corrupt good manners.

    LHL ever said : ” we are paying correct salaries to morally upright and trustworthy civil servant ” ——– even in your office ill deeds cannot honour , Singaporeans see a great talker is a great liar. LKY’s elite is not to be found in the market.

  3. dumbanddumber

    Here’s the greatest irony: LKY was a very intelligent man, he was highly articulate and has a brilliant command of the English language. I enjoyed reading some of the choice quotes from him here.  The Singapore he created however, has a population who aren’t often that articulate or even confident when it comes to expressing themselves. Singaporeans don’t often know how to handle a situation where people disagree with them – they either retreat into their shells, feeling miserable but not do anything about the situation or they simply lash out with personal insults (as in the case of Phneah).Thanks to decades of draconian censorship, we simply do not have a culture where people feel free to debate each other respectfully when they do not agree with each other.  I have nothing but the deepest respect for LKY – but the people I have a problem with are ordinary Singaporeans who are inarticulate and struggle to express themselves at the best of times. I used to believe that perhaps it was a question of education – that the older generation were less articulate because they didn’t have the benefit of a fine education; but sadly, the younger generation in Singapore today don’t seem to perform any better on this point.

    Planet of the worshipping apes?

    • THE SIXTEN

      tired out – stress – overcrowd – unhappy – probably by procedures this two miserable Singaporeans would arrest in jail.
      I feel very sad …. they treat flowers decorations sweet more than the people .where is the life ? a bunch of body shipment !

      No wonder the people somehow choose to commit suicide ,Singapore no leader in research why people have so much pressure ?

      After you obtain Obama’s 5 times wage , you were very wrongly through your female secretary warned the people
      : ” If you no happy , give up your citizenship ….”.

      Until now, this team has not changed, Singapore people must not continue to feed up this female secretary !
      If you PM does not want to move this woman , then ? the greatest weapon against the failure is our ability to choose one thought over another. electing a new leader who will solve problems, rather than the heir .

    • THE SIXTEN

      Attn to Singapore President Mr. Tony Tan, The medias and Singapore Parliament ,

      Fish begins to stink at the head. Look at PM Lee Hsien Loong’s private female secretary She used logo of ” Jim ” & ” Royisloser” threatened people’s evidence as below:

      https://thehearttruths.com/2014/09/29/further-thoughts-after-the-returnourcpf-protest/comment-page-2/#comment

      OCTOBER 2, 2014 – 10:44 PM
      Royisloser
      TO JIM

      unfortunately the money in temasek, GIC + country reserves does not belong to you. … so it is a mute point \
      Not happy, give up your citizenship, you will get every cent of your CPF. PLeaes dun give me the BS about yr country and so and so.

  4. sally

    I think hor… their brains and their mouths suffered from too many knuckle beatings from the old man Or have they been told too many lies and listen to too many gospels from MSM that they can only perform in school concerts?

    • hallelujah

      IN SO MUCH AWE…TEARS JUST WELL UP LIKE FLOODED LONGKANG AND PRAISES JUST ROLL OFF YOUR TONGUE IN UNKOWN LANGUAGES PERHADS

  5. strangecity

    Sinkapokais major in two things: mee siam mai hum or mee siam got hum. Sometimes, when they get bored, they say mee goreng mai crab meat or mee goreng got crab meat.

  6. VeryApprppriate

    “National Development Minister spoke to the Media yesterday at the botanical gardens, one of the tribute sites set aside for Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and he said that it was Mr Lee who made Singapore a Garden City.

    He called Mr Lee the “Chief Gardener” of Singapore and said that it was because of him that Singapore kept its nature intact as we developed.”

    Must be credited to his father who was in the garden.

  7. Edwin

    The debate over CPF misses a key point: The greatest factor in erosion of CPF savings is the high property prices.
    CPF has also been allowed for a misguided attempt to please the voters…letting them invest CPF in the share market. The statistics now show that most investors lost money.

    Since CPF cannot be used for buying a car, hiring a maid, life insurance and normal cost of living, the biggest factor in shortage of CPF at retirement is the large amount spent on property mortgages. Not everyone can downgrade…most Singaporeans are already in 3-room or 4-room flats and downgrading may not lead to much. That is why the Govt has decided to buy back the property.

    What if property prices especially HDB flats have been 50% or less? What if a high capital gains tax applicable only to HDB flats were applied unless the owner agrees to leave the capital gains in the CPF till 55? Such measures would probably have lead to sufficient CPF at age 55 for withdrawal and still leave a tidy sum for old age.

    The construction cost of a flat is normally 30% of the purchase price. The land cost is at least 50% or higher. The developer has to maintain a margin of about 20% to cater for profits and cost-overrun. There are not data on what is the HDB profit.

    As for investments in shares, that was a short-sighted policy. If GIC and Temasek were having return that were double or triple that of CPF interest, then it would have been logical to sell bonds at high rates to CPF holders. It is not too late to do that.

  8. CanSayOrNot?

    Interesting, in the house they wore black and white.

    “The color black relates to the hidden, the secretive and the unknown, and as a result it creates an air of mystery. It keeps things bottled up inside, hidden from the world.

    In color psychology this color gives protection from external emotional stress.

    It creates a barrier between itself and the outside world, providing comfort while protecting its emotions and feelings, and hiding its vulnerabilities, insecurities and lack of self confidence.

    Black is the absorption of all color and the absence of light.

    Black hides, while white brings to light.

    What black covers, white uncovers.” (google)

    The sum of good and evil… 🙂

  9. CanSayOrNot?

    “White

    White is a sacred and pure color.  It’s the color of angles and gods, as the color reflects that which is sacred and pure.   It is also the color of doctors, nurses, and others in the health profession, as well as cleanliness. In fact, the Japanese refer to nurses as “Angels in White”.
    White can also represent reverence, purity, simplicity, peach, humility, youth, winter, snow, good, cold, clinical, and sterile.”

    Ahem…non corrupt 🙂

  10. Regret

    Why did LKY need to sacrifice so many people for his nation building process? — Making people bankrupt, Prosecution and persecution without trial, ISA, fear mongering tactics, deaths of young men with bright future during NS etc.

    • WHO IS ROY

      LOW THIA KIANG
      “I do not think he was an autocrat who did not listen. If you have enough reason for an argument and can win him over in a meticulous policy debate, I think he will consider your views. I also know that he was someone who hated empty talk as he thought time was precious and there were too many things to do.”

      all empty talk is what you regret

  11. Jed

    oei roy,
    You must be thinking what you like to make the next post as now it’s been some days. You see the overwhelming response and gratitude and you now becomes more careful least you be told off by the public! Or you have repent? I doubt it will be, You should be lucky you are not born an earlier generations. Otherwise, you will suffer the same fate as the likes of Tan Liang Hong and now an exile.

    • Ah huh

      good remind, would you please give column describe what has Mr. Tan Liang Hong done ? why Singapore founding father exiled him ? the worldwide leaders is coming, whether they know the whole story. they quite interested in the history. perhaps send five gift to them:

      1. the book of Operation Coldstore
      2. the picture of 85 years elderly work at Changi Airport .
      3. the certificate of forbade HHH’s voice
      4. Premier requested 250,000.00 SGD from a jobless young guy , the certificate of prosecution .
      5. the videotape of victims

      may send to United States Congress, United States Senate, United States House of Representatives if they have no chance take it.

    • THE SIXTEN

      the following addressee only the person who in charge of Singapore :

      hope to apologize, don’t think people have no solutions .

      the person who in charge of Singapore, may apologize to Mr. Tan Liang Hong , allow him return home.

      Singapore has a song – ” This is home truly, where I know I must be, Where my dreams wait for me, where the river always flows. This is home surely, as my senses tell me, This is where I won’t be alone, for this is where I know it’s home. When there are troubles to go through We’ll find a way to start anew. There is comfort in the knowledge. That home’s about its people too. So we’ll build our dreams together.Just like we’ve done before. Just like the river which brings us life….. ”

      the next, apologize to Roy and the five others . You also clear, including Tang Liang Hong, since they are all innocent.

      that is a truly constructive leadership . Do it, you win your healthy and longevity. After all a good compromise is better than a good lawsuit !

    • lea xian loon

      The ones “full of lies” are the ones who can’t defend themselves and stand on their own feet against contextualized sound statistics

      Consequentially, the ones “full of lies” dare not face their opponents in a fair court cross-examination, and as usual hid behind corrupted kangaroo judges and state-controlled media in a “first world country”

      Has the one with no peanuts left south, started to repent?

  12. Plim

    Roy is full of lies and he is laughing at those who believe him and will donate to him. Lol. His supporters are the ones who are cheated.

    • @” Plim” = “Prince” = ” jackfruit “= ” Viper ”

      what a stupid jerk! during this sadness time, you fucking secretary sent you here for doing sales again ? die a virgin ! you’re fucking piece of shit !

    • lea xian loon

      The ones “full of lies” are the ones who can’t defend themselves and stand on their own feet against contextualized sound statistics

      Consequentially, the ones “full of lies” dare not face their opponents in a fair court cross-examination, and as usual hid behind corrupted kangaroo judges and state-controlled media in a “first world country”

  13. Jayss

    It is great that you have your heart for the citizens. However, your lack of sensitivity and moreover spurring on the younger generation’s criticisms towards him is a call for reflection upon yourself and insensitivity for the feelings of others. It is also deem disrespectful of you to post at such a time. If you really need to speak your mind, as a respect you should have done it at least a few weeks after. It kind of shows that as if you are bringing in unnecessary attention at such time, appealing more to the people did not like him and at the same time getting criticized for your action by the many who respected him. I am sure you do not wish to bring in the wrong attention at the wrong time and people misjudging you for a wrong intention? The least you could do, is to be grateful to have a roof over your head and a chance for a good education at this time.

    • lea xian loon

      If one of your senior family member is currently under detention without trial, courtesy of ISD, fined till close to bankruptcy, and mislabelled by state-media till many people bagan “misjudging you for a wrong intention”, can you still easily “be grateful to have a roof over your head and a chance for a good education at this time”?

      Kindly graduate from primary school, and Please be grounded to reality

  14. Transition

    Leadership.
    LKY: 80% good, 20% bad.
    GCT: 60% good, 40% bad.
    LHL: 30% good, 70% bad
    Chan Chun Sing/ Shanmugam/ KBW/TPL : 0% good, 100% bad.

    • THE SIXTEN

      1) LKY : He personally deal with the problem where people feedback to him
      2) LKY’s secretary : 100 points, she knows her place, never interfere politics.

      3) LHL : Never personally deal with the problem where people feedback to him. About 7 years, No time to care. no interested to read the feedback where people wrote to his e-mail which given from Singapore government website ?

      he turn a blind eye and give up the power to his secretary, he simply thought at his secretary interfere was a good way to buy his quiet life .

      4) LHL’s secretary : when people fell in the hardship time had ever wrote to PM’s email , asking for help, therefore , she is only one who knew very well of the people’s details . So she got it she sales it for threats !!!

      she likes to provoke disputes, she fully encouraged LHL to sue those Singaporeans
      If we don’t tell the truth, how Lee Kuan Yew know so called elite is so dirty tricks, like a pot of milk is ruined by a drop of poison.

      She ! — Lee Hsien Loong’s secretary is a bitch, a scumbag, a weasel, a sales woman !
      she makes a bad beginning makes a bad ending !

  15. Singapore Citizen Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)

    Subtle Denial of Medical Treatment by the Singapore Government for Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)

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