"Why S'poreans must work hard
Country cannot afford to be weak, says PM at youth dialogue. - Sun, Nov 02, 2008 The Straits Times
Bhutan has a yardstick for measuring success which some youth here yearn to have in place of Singapore's relentless pursuit of economic growth.It was a longing that struck a chord in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, but he was quick to explain why Bhutan's Gross National Happiness index was not suitable for Singapore.
'We are one small island in the middle of a very turbulent South-east Asia. You have to watch your GDP (gross domestic product), because if you are poor, you will be weak; if you are weak, something will happen to you,' he said."
It is a matter of choice really. While it is important not to be seen as naive, it is worthy to consider alternatives to being strong without being too poor! In a practical world, especially one that usually measured in monetary and economic terms, we need to be wealthy to be respected. Also to have the resources to build a strong defence to protect one's interests. A the same time, can any nation invade a country where it's people are happy and proud of it's root and nation? When a country invade another country, what is the most fearful resistance the invaders can meet with? Not just more powerful weapons but a populace that will NOT accept the invaders as they are happy with their own way in the first place!!
So, from a practical point of view, it seems the obvious choice. At another level, we need to build a nation where happy people are so proud of it's way of life that no one will contemplate invading it as he knows the citizens of that nation will NEVER embrace his way!
Lessons for me are:
1. in order to build a nation or an organization that will withstand external threats, it is not just about the material and financial resources it can summon. It is important, but it is not the most important. When the people in the country or the organization is so happy with the way things are going in the positive way, they will fight to defend that way of life. The 'enemies' will not want to invade and expand energies and resources to 'change' the mindset and behaviors of the 'conquered'!;
2. in an open economy, no one is safe from competition, real competition. This is especially so if we want to participate in global commercial activities. With this in mind, Singapore has no choice but to continue to be relevant to anyone who will gain from using Singapore as a base instead of the end market. The challenge is if we adopt this position, we will forever be playing catch-up. We need to develop our own entrepreneurs who invest overseas and become multi-national. Working hard in Singapore is not going to be enough to ensure the economic survival of Singapore in the long run. To be successful in spreading our wings, we need to have Singaporeans who are more open-minded and worldly wise. This will not happen if the government continue to nurse Singaporeans from cradle to grave!!;
3. it is not about politic but politically connected enterprises in Singapore dominating the economy - internal and external. Due to this linkage, the government indirectly steered the many Singapore multi-national companies and they have their limitations as they have vested interests to please the political masters. There need to be more private enterprises that are not politically linked to be MNCs. It will take a long time as Singaporeans need to be more worldly wise. It is a chicken and egg issue in a way. Politically linked MNCs are just not good enough, really!
So, Singaporeans need to work hard, and smart, while the government need to build the internal strengths of Singaporeans on other foundations instead of just financial and economically measurement!