Singapore

PM: Getting politics right critical for S’pore

PM: Getting politics right critical for S’pore
PM Lee Hsien Loong. TODAY File Photo
Reason many countries cannot get their economies right is their ‘policies do not work’
Published: 4:02 AM, July 6, 2013
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SINGAPORE — The Republic must get its politics right to remain economically competitive over the next two decades, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Speaking at the inaugural DBS Asia Leadership Dialogue, which was attended by government officials and business leaders from the region, Mr Lee said the key to a sustainable economic model “starts with politics”. “Because if your politics is wrong, your economics is bound to go wrong. And the reason why so many countries cannot get their economies right, it is because their politics don’t work,” he added.

And when the benefits do not reach the right people or broadly enough, or there is some unbridgeable divide within the society, “you spend your time fighting over that rather than working together productively”.

“I think that we have got to be able to get the fundamentals right and, so far, we have been able to do so,” said Mr Lee. “And we can continue to get the politics right and then I think the economics can work out.” The Prime Minister had said in the lead-up to the 2011 Presidential Election that Singapore is too small for political gridlock.

The hour-long dialogue with Mr Lee was billed as the highlight of yesterday’s day-long event, which discussed the internationalisation of the yuan, the Iskandar development in Malaysia and Myanmar as Asia’s most exciting emerging economy.

Responding to DBS Group Holdings Chief Executive Piyush Gupta, who noted that income inequality is one of the biggest challenges many countries are currently facing, Mr Lee said this does not mean forfeiting economic growth.

“If the economy was stagnant, it doesn’t mean everybody’s going to be happy, and it may be equally unequal,” he said, who added that part of the answer has to be in raising the education and skills of Singaporeans so that they can improve their standard of living.

Said the Prime Minister: “I cannot make everybody a billionaire, but I can make sure everybody can earn a good living for himself. I think that’s possible. But it takes effort and you have to be competitive.”

Mr Lee cited the Government’s investments in a slew of measures, ranging from infrastructure to providing less well-off Singaporeans with subsidies in healthcare and education, among other things. “I don’t think it will make us a society where everybody is absolutely equal,” he said.

“In fact, if I can get another 10 billionaires to move to Singapore and set up their base here, my Gini coefficient will get worse but I think Singaporeans will be better off, because they will bring in business, bring in opportunities, open new doors and create new jobs, and I think that is the attitude with which we must approach this problem.”

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