ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Singapore’s success brings own set of challenges: PM
Singapore's economy has fared better than expected over the last decade, but the country's success also brought about its own set of challenges.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made this point in a wide-ranging discussion with regional newspaper editors on Tuesday.
He said the country had paid the price of this fast growth, as infrastructure wasn't able to keep up with the rapid development.
Mr Lee was asked about Singapore's success during his time as Prime Minister and if anything exceeded his expectations.
He said yes, the country had done economically better than expected and grown faster -- attributing it to favourable conditions.
As investments poured in, the government had put in resources and brought in foreign labour needed to grow. As a result, developments at the Marina Bay area sprung up in within a decade, instead of the expected 20 to 30 years.
But Mr Lee acknowledged that this growth had come with a cost.
He said that in terms of infrastructure, the country had not been able to catch up and had paid a price, and added that the government had been working hard over the past three to four years trying to come back up to speed.
He said that if the government had been able to foresee the outcome, it would have acted sooner.
But that, he said, was with the benefit of "20-20 hindsight".
"We succeeded more than we expected, and so in terms of the infrastructure, we were not able to catch up -- our public transport, building houses," said Mr Lee. “And we paid a price."
"We have spent the last three, four years working hard to try and come up back to speed. I wish we had been able to foresee this outcome, and then we would have acted sooner.
“But that's 20-20 hindsight."
Mr Lee also emphasised that it's important for Singaporeans to feel they have a sense of belonging to the country -- and that is something that is still a work in progress.
In the dialogue with the news editors, it was no surprise that the media environment was an area of focus.
Responding to a question on Singapore's relatively low ranking by global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Mr Lee said: "I have given up that (Reporters Without Borders’ ranking)... I do not take them seriously."
He pointed out that information flows freely on the Internet and newspapers report the news freely, but also responsibly.
He said this is a model that has worked for Singapore, but also one that's changing as more people take to social media.
And the government too is adapting as Mr Lee acknowledged that social media can affect elections.
"People exchange opinions, snippets, moods, views as much as they seek for and slowly digest news and information and judgement,” he said.
On the subject of leadership succession in the government, Mr Lee was asked if Singapore would be alright if he was not Prime Minister tomorrow.
He replied candidly that that is the objective.
Mr Lee said leaders in Singapore stay as long as they are able to make a contribution.
He pointed to the more than 20 new Members of Parliament brought in at the last elections, with some already in the Cabinet.
He noted that they're doing well and moving into more responsible positions.
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