Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ministerial Forum 2007

Attended the forum by our dear Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew this evening. Delightful, insightful yet candid. And just 4 hours after the event, I'm surprised to see an article published on Channel News Asia's website.. amazing.. The power of our media today.. =)

Despite the ridiculous wait and queue just to get the tickets 2 weeks ago and an even longer wait just to get into the auditorium today, it was probably worth it.. Full-house audience as expected. =) Prob a once in a lifetime chance for me..

The story from as follows:

S'pore must distinguish itself by having better governance: MM Lee
By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 04 October 2007 2131 hrs

SINGAPORE : Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said Singapore has to continue to distinguish itself from its neighbours by having better standards of governance.

And key to achieving this is a corruption-free government. Otherwise, he said, Singapore will degrade and decline.

Speaking at a forum on "Singapore in the 21st century", attended by 1,800 Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students on Thursday, Mr Lee added that the situation in Myanmar looked "troublesome".

At the start of the forum, Mr Lee warned of the main setback for Singapore - unexpected turn of events.

He said because the prospects for the next 5-10 years are favourable to the country, Singaporeans tend to be complacent and ignore warning signs that things could go wrong suddenly.

"A first warning was the sudden drop in the Dow Jones Index of the New York stock market in August. The losses spread right across the world's stock markets. They recovered only when the US Federal Reserve Board reduced its discount rate by 50 basis points to boost confidence in the market and increase liquidity," said MM Lee.

"But the underlying problem has not gone away. The sub-prime mortgages problem is still not cleaned up. These were high risk loans to people who did not have the means to repay. Now there are nagging worries: commodity prices are rising - oil, gold, corn, wheat, iron, coal... Inflation is up.

"If the US consumer, suffering from reduced house values, loses his appetite for consumption, there will be a downturn in the US economy. That will affect the export-driven economies of China and the rest of East Asia."

While Asia looks promising, there are problems in the immediate region. Myanmar, he said, can be a destabilising factor.

Said Mr Lee: "ASEAN leaders realise that if we have volatile and unstable neighbours, they will destabilise the whole region. Hence the common reactions from ASEAN leaders, foreign ministers, presidents and prime ministers are that of sorrow and revulsion, that Myanmar's generals have again used armed forces against monks and civilians who are demonstrating peacefully because they are suffering from deprivation due to their poor economic conditions.

"ASEAN leaders know that if the situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, there must come a breaking point when much more brutal force will again be necessary to put their people down.

"We must try our best to help stabilise Myanmar. Singapore is at the very heart of Asean. An unstable Myanmar is a time bomb in the whole region."

Turning to the challenges that Singapore faces, Mr Lee said that when he and his colleagues started out, they did not know what branding meant.

All they knew was that Singapore had to be different from the way the neighbouring countries were being run, and that the country had to make up for the lack of resources to survive.

So Mr Lee said he and his team set out to build up a clean, corruption-free, secure and safe system, and a government which was effective and efficient, and one which welcomed investors and business.

"We had to get the big pieces right - national solidarity, not racial, religion or language strife. Hence the emphasis on racial and religious harmony, the mixing of all the races as we rebuild the city, with everybody sharing the same HDB blocks," said Mr Lee.

"We avoided clashes over languages. We would have brought troubles if we had chosen Chinese as our working language and thus disadvantaged the other races. We chose English - a neutral language with no special advantage to any race - as the working language, but we keep our mother tongues," he added.

As for the future, Mr Lee stressed that it depends on every Singaporean to realise that the country always has to be different.

Singapore has to have better governance compared to its neighbours. This will ensure that Singapore survives the competition against neighbours who have a wealth of natural resources, larger territories and bigger populations. - CNA /ls

No comments: