SINGAPORE — Former Minister Mentor Lee
Kuan Yew said yesterday Singapore would
not be able to punch above its own weight
if it were to depend on talent from its own
population. He was speaking at a dialogue
to wrap up the two-day South Asian Diaspora
DBS Bank CEO Piyush Gupta posed a
question to Mr Lee, asking just how big
the issue of attracting foreign talent in
Singapore is, having noted that it was a hot
topic during the recent General Election.
Mr Lee felt it was an issue among Singaporeans
even before the election. He said:
“For some time, the Singaporean has felt
the competition from talented foreigners.
But these are people who have come here
to become our citizens and I am a firm believer
that the more talent that you have in
a society, the better the society will grow.
“If Singapore depends on the talent it
can produce out of 3 million people, it’s not
going to punch above its weight.
“It’s because we have been drawing
talent from across the globe — South Asia,
North-east Asia, China, India and beyond
that — you have a vibrant economy which
is way beyond what 3 million Singaporeans
with the talent they can produce can do.
“So you’ve got to accept the discomfort
which the local citizens feel, that they are competing
unequally for jobs. (It) cannot be helped.
“But without them, the jobs will not be
there to begin with. So welcome talent and
we’ll continue to welcome talent.”
When asked how the political problem
associated with the foreign talent issue
could be managed, Mr Lee said: “You just
have to assuage it.
“What is the choice — slow growth with
no input of talent or faster growth with input
of talent and the feeling that some of the top
jobs are going to the foreigners? You may
get no jobs at all if there were no growth.”
Several participants at the convention
also took the opportunity to tap Mr Lee’s
views on the importance of governance and
meritocracy for the success of a country.
One question raised during the dialogue
was how Mr Lee would have governed
India, if the country was handed to him.
Mr Lee replied: “First, what sort of
Indian would I be? A northern Indian?
A southern Indian? That identifies you with
the interest of a particular group.
“Or a Bombay Indian, which is the most
cosmopolitan of all. But it may well be that
a Bombay Indian doesn’t represent Indians
at all, so it’s a problem India has to face.
“It is important whoever leads India
should find acceptance with the widest
group of Indians possible. But I think it is
very difficult for any Indian leader to find
more than 40 per cent of Indians believing
he represents them.”
Mr Lee also noted that Indians speak
nearly 300 different languages but, in
China, 90 per cent of the people speak the
same language and that makes it a much
easier country to lead than India.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... 1jX8gXi4fM
are we that hopeless?