" The Business Times 24 October 2008 MM Lee said ....
Employers should use the down-time to build up the skills and knowledge of their workers for the upturn in the economy, he said. 'You've got to be optimistic and realistic enough that this will recover - when? I don't know.'
The government will push on with the continuing education and training
While China and India offer Singapore growth opportunities, Mr Lee said they also pose a big challenge to it.
'We have to decide where is our future, assuming China and India will (continue to) grow,' he said. 'We have to accept that what we do they will do as well, if not better.'
So what is it that Singapore can do that China or India cannot do, at least in the next 20-30 years?
Singapore's comparative advantage over China and India is its system, Mr Lee said. 'They can have the individuals to catch up with us but they can't catch up with our system so easily.'
In particular, he cited Singapore's system of laws and fair play, its meritocracy and patent laws.
He also said that in a globalised world of greater mobility and competition, the ability to attract and retain talent is the key to economic success.
Singapore has won and lost talent, but its important that it 'wins more than it loses', he said. 'Without foreign talent, Singapore would not be where it is today.' "
MM Lee Kuan Yew is a wise man. This is a fact that could not be disputed given his track records over that last 3-4 decades! Some may disagree with some of his tactics and strategies, but none of them can gloss-over some of his really significant achievements.
So, when he speaks, it is worthwhile to listen and decide if it is good advices or not so wise advices.
Lessons for me are:
1. if you are in a situation where you are quite vulnerable to outside forces, it pays to recognize which thing or who can be your safe harbour when the winds picked up and the water gets choppy. By aligning to China and India, Singapore has done a great job of finding a shelter in hard time. This is strategic. This is forward thinking though it comes with a price. e.g. Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park debacle;
2. each one of us has to make plan for the unexpected. No matter how well intention the government may be in creating strategic moves to position our nation, we, ultimately, are responsible for our own destinies. If the companies are NOT willing or able to invest in upgrading our skills and knowledge, we need to change our Attitude towards acquiring Skills and Knowledge! We need to ASK (attitude, Skills and Knowledge) ourselves what Attitude we need to have to survive (e.g. be optimistic, look for solution rather than just lament that there were problems, be realistic and take what work 1st instead of looking for the perfect solution, forget about 'the government will take care of my every needs to 'i need to take care of myself!, etc..), what Skills do I need to stay relevant, what Knowledge (an applied Skills in my opinion) do need to help me breakthrough and be relevant;
3. to recognize that competition is everywhere! our unique physical location is no longer good enough to shield us from competition. We need to be constantly on the look out to do better and be better than other countries and regions!
May MM Lee be right about China and India picking up the slacks from the slow down of the world's biggest consumer country, USA. Otherwise, we will all be in for tougher time than anyone expect!