ST Nov 4, 2006Heheheh. Why is Mr Wang laughing? Because MM Lee's remarks reminded Mr Wang of one of his old posts.
Tougher to get leaders to stay in govt for long
They need 10-20 years to master art of govt, but private sector a strong draw, says MM
By Sue-Ann Chia
MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew believes it will be increasingly difficult to expect political leaders to stay in office for long, given the attractions of the private sector.
But without good leaders stepping forward, Singapore will falter, he warned.
'So, I'm hoping that while we may not get them to stay for long terms like I have done - my whole life... since 1955, that's a good 51 years - at least you're going to stay for 10, 20 years because you need two to three terms to really master the art of government.'
MM Lee was speaking to about 300 faculty staff and students from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy during a one-hour dialogue which centred on the issue of good governance.
Those who asked questions hailed from countries such as China, India and Kazakhstan.
MM Lee's remarks on the tenure of political leaders here was in response to a Singaporean who asked if Singapore would consider having foreigners take on important positions in the public sector.
'It is not possible to hire a foreign talent to run this country,' he replied. 'You must have the passion, you must have the commitment, you must share the dreams of your people.'
On a separate note, it's interesting to note that MM Lee used the phrase "foreign talent" here, where PM Lee appeared to have consciously dropped it during his NDP rally speech in favour of "immigrants" and "foreigners".
There are two ways to interpret PM Lee's refusal to use the old phrase "foreign talent" (and they're not mutually exclusive).
The first interpretation is that PM Lee wanted to avoid creating the usual dissatisfactions that Singaporeans often have, when they observe that many of the "foreign talents" in Singapore don't seem particularly talented. The continual use of the phrase "foreign talent" can alienate the masses because there is some implicit suggestion that locals are not as talented.
The second interpretation is that PM Lee hoped that by using the word "immigrants", he could win more Singaporeans over to his foreign talent policy and convince Singaporeans that these foreigners love Singapore and are here to stay and contribute. After all, the large majority of Singaporeans had an immigrant background as well.
What about MM Lee using the phrase "foreign talent" then - how do we interpret that?
Well, firstly, this was in the context of who should run the country. In his mind, it was a given that the person should of course be a "talent".
Secondly, maybe he never agreed with his son dropping the phrase "foreign talent". Mind you, it was MM Lee himself who popularised the term "foreign talent" in the late 1990s. It was a key MM Lee idea that the foreigners we were going to attract were indeed going to be outstandingly talented and just by standing here on Singapore soil, were going to generate a great number of jobs for less-talented Singaporeans.
Thirdly, maybe MM Lee just blurted the phrase without thinking or caring too much about it.
Ah, the dangers of over-reading things.
Technorati: Singapore; politics; foreign talent.