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Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 7:22:19 AM
SINGAPORE will be in trouble if it thinks it has arrived and can afford to relax, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated.
The country is small, and while it is no longer as poor and defenceless as it used to be, it must continue to be on its toes and work hard to improve.
Speaking to the at the end of his official visit to France yesterday, he said “my eyes popped out” when he read a commentary in The Straits Times likening Singapore today to a cruise ship.
Commentator Koh Buck Song had argued in Monday’s Opinion pages that Singapore politicians’ oft-used metaphor of the country as a sampan, easily tossed about by the waves of global competition, was no longer valid.
He said it risked promoting small-mindedness and cramping national self-confidence and ambition.
Instead, Koh said, Singapore was more like a well-oiled cruise ship that caters to every need.
As it offers the smoothest of journeys, passengers can relax because they feel secure, he added.
Lee, however, warned: “Once you think you are in a cruise ship and you are on a holiday and everything must go swimmingly well and will be attended to for you, I think you are in trouble.
“We are small, we are not as poor as we used to be, we are not defenceless, we are able to fend for ourselves and to make a living for ourselves, and we are better off than before, and I think that we need to keep on working hard, to continue improving.”
As to what might be a more appropriate metaphor, he said with a laugh: “I think we have upgraded our sampan. It’s sampan 2.0.”
He made these remarks when asked about the meetings he had held with French business leaders since he arrived on Sunday.
The businessmen were keen to find out more about Singapore’s long-term strategy for economic development, and asked about the tightening of foreign talent and workers in recent years.
Lee reiterated that Singapore had to find a balance when it comes to foreigners.
He said the number of foreign workers was “still a little higher than what we would like”, but that was dependent on the state of the economy.
He also reiterated the need for society to integrate such that foreigners adapt to Singapore norms, and Singaporeans are open to them “in order to help ourselves prosper”.
“This is going to be work in progress for some time to come but we have to persevere.”
Lee left Paris for Warsaw, Poland, yesterday. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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