SINGAPORE - Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew yesterday again cautioned against pushing for a two-party political system – this time in light of the unfolding debt crisis in Europe and America.
But Singapore’s founding father, who was speaking for the first time as Distinguished Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, stopped short of telling what young Singaporeans’ vision for Singapore should be.
“The vision has got to be your vision,” Mr Lee said in response to questions from students of the school, both foreign and local. “I’ve lived my life. I am 88. I am strolling into the sunset, maybe I stumble towards the end. But you have the kind of vision for Singapore you want. You got to crystallise that and get your leaders to adopt your vision.”
His problem when he was prime minister was simple, which was mainly to move Singapore from Third to First World, he said at a dialogue that ran beyond the 30 minutes allocated.
The dialogue was moderated by Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School.
According to Mr Lee, it’s more complex now that Singapore is in the First World, with many highly educated Singaporeans who have highly competing beliefs.
“You must have more competition, more pressures on government,” he said. “So you want to have an opposition. Finally, you end up with a two-party system and you will become like the Europeans, or the Americans. I think that’s not a good development for Singapore.”
Mr Lee hoped Singapore would just stop at having a competitive opposition in Parliament – and he hoped Singaporeans would not be swayed into wanting a two-party system, believing that it would be better.
“I do not think so,” he said. “Among other reasons, I do not think Singapore can produce two top class teams. We haven’t the talent to produce two top class teams.”
Mr Lee said it’s popular democracy that has driven governments in the United States and Europe into its current debt crisis.
“When you have popular democracy, to win votes you got to give more and more,” he said. “And to beat your opponent in the next election, you got to promise to give more away. So it’s a never-ending process of auctions – and the cost, the debt being paid for by the next generation. So that’s it.”
Mr Lee said he had been careful to ensure Singapore did not go this way. And he hoped Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet would make sure Singapore “veer on the side of prudence and balance the budget, and not raid the reserves”.
Otherwise, the opposition would take the cue and make big promises to voters that could lead to a raid on the country’s reserves – and soon empty it, he warned.