July 5, 2008 | The Straits Times
TABLE TALK: WITH FAREED ZAKARIA
How might Singapore deal with a world in which people are richer than ever before and many players are jostling for supremacy? The editor of Newsweek International, Dr Fareed Zakaria, proffers his thoughts
By Cheong Suk-Wai, Senior Writer
What Singapore has done very adroitly is to have moved up the value chain – to have said that ‘okay, we can’t compete with other countries in cheap labour, and so we’re going to do value-added products, we’re going to try services, we can compete (in) these areas, we’re going to move to the next level’.’
He applauds the Republic’s ‘very clever’ forays into such areas as tourism, film-making and software design. And all this, on top of managing good relations with both the United States and China, he notes admiringly.
But he adds that Singapore is the only rich country in the world without a fully functioning multi-party democracy. That will hobble its advance in the long run, he believes, because people ‘want not only economic rights, but also freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of thought’.
‘You may get lucky with a particular autocrat, but what happens after him?…If you could guarantee me in advance that you’ll get Lee Kuan Yew, that’s a whole different thing. But there’s no way beforehand to know that you’re going to get a leader like Lee Kuan Yew.’
He adds wryly, wondering whether this would get into print: ‘I think that the political system is rigged in favour of the People’s Action Party (PAP). Some of it is formal…Some of it is informal. But all of it is largely unnecessary.’
Singapore is already ‘a very open society in many ways’, he points out. ‘I often say this to people because they have an image of Singapore which is essentially incorrect…It is a place where you would certainly feel as if you had many, many freedoms and liberties…It has been lucky in having very wise leadership.’
But it has to widen its political outlook much more, he insists.
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