Did you miss that interview IHT had with Lee Kuan Yew?

IHT: This system, machinery of government here in Singapore is looked on as a model all over the world. Are you confident that it can survive indefinitely or does it face problems that some companies face? For example, when they try to expand, they start to lose their edge. They start to lose their competitiveness.

Lee Kuan Yew: Well, I cannot say that we will not lose it. If we lose it, then we’re done in. We go back to where we started, right?

We knew that if we were just like our neighbors, we would die. Because we’ve got nothing to offer against what they have to offer. So we had to produce something which is different and better than what they have. It’s incorrupt. It’s efficient. It’s meritocratic. It works.

The system works regardless of your race, language or religion because otherwise we’d have divisions. We are pragmatists. We don’t stick to any ideology. Does it work? Let’s try it and if it does work, fine, let’s continue it. If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one. We are not enamored with any ideology.

Let the historians and the Ph.D. students work out their doctrines. I’m not interested in theories per se.

IHT: But a lot of these reflect your personality – the force of your personality.

Lee Kuan Yew: No, no. A lot of it is the result of the problems we face and a team of us – I wasn’t a loner. I had some very powerful minds working with me. And we sat down and thought through our options. Take this matter of getting MNCs [multinational corporations] to come here when the developing world expert economists said, “No, MNCs are exploiters.”

I went to America. This was a happenstance . . . What were the Americans doing? They were exporting their manufacturing capabilities . . . That’s what I wanted. That’s how it started.

I said O.K., let’s make this a first world oasis in a third world region. So not only will they come here to set up plants and manufacture, they will also come here and from here explore the region.

What do we need to attract them? First class infrastructure. Where do we get it from? We had the savings from our Central Provident Fund. We had some loans from the World Bank.

We built up the infrastructure. The difficult part was getting the people to change their habits so that they behaved more like first world citizens, not like third world citizens spitting and littering all over the place.

That was the difficult part. So, we had campaigns to do this, campaigns to do that. We said, “Look, if you don’t do this, you won’t get the jobs. You must make this place like the countries they came from. Then, they are comfortable. Then they’ll do business here. Then, you’ll have a job. Then, you’ll have homes, schools, hospitals, etc.” That’s a long process. [Excerpts from an interview with Lee Kuan Yew. International Herald Tribune. August 29 2007]

I would love to hear what the touchy nationalists would have to say.

As for me, the hot hot hot aftertaste still lingers and so, my brain is not working.

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