Lee Kuan Yew recently said at the Human Capital Summit held last month:
"You marry a non-graduate, then you are going to worry if your son or
daughter is going to make it to the university."
Don't gasp. The
Minister Mentor was just restating his long-held view that smart people
(read university graduates) produce smart people. Such a Hitlerian
outlook is repulsive. But in Singapore, no one dares to oppose the man.
In his book A Nation Cheated,
Dr Chee Soon Juan reproduces some of Mr Lee's comments on the subject
and discusses how they have tragically moulded the Singaporean society:
truth be told, the PAP's neglect of the poor stems directly from Lee
Kuan Yew's personal philosophy. In 1967, the Minister Mentor said that
every society has approximately 5 percent of the population:
who are more than ordinarily endowed physically and mentally and in
whom we must extend our limited and slender resources in order that they
will provide that yeast, that ferment, that catalyst in our society
which alone will ensure that Singapore shall maintain its pre-eminent
place in the societies that exist in South and Southeast Asia.
Lee repeated his ideas in 1969, this time even more forcefully:
Free education and subsidised housing lead to a situation where the
less economically productive people in the community are reproducing
themselves at rates higher than the rest. This will increase the total
population of less productive people. Our problem is how to devise a
system of disincentives, so that the irresponsible, the social
delinquents, do not believe that all they have to do is to produce their
children and the government then owes them and their children
sufficient food, medicine, housing, education and jobs...We must
encourage those who earn less than $200 per month and cannot afford to
nurture and educate many children never to have more than two. We will
regret the time lost if we do not now take the first tentative steps
towards correcting a trend which can leave our society with a large
number of the physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic.
The Minister Mentor, then Senior Minister, made this point again in 1993:
Singaporeans will not become successful and prosperous by talking and
concentrating on dividing the pie. Our journalists write about who are
the poor. Give them some money. If he can't study because he's too busy
helping his father, we must look after his father and him. We are
concentrating on our navels!
One of his faithful ministers, the late S Rajaratnam, echoed his
sentiment by sneering, "We want to teach people the government is not a
rich uncle. You get what you pay for. We are moving in the direction of
making people pay for everything."
A Nation Cheated is available at Kinokuniya Bookstores and Select Books (Tanglin Shopping Centre). For online mail order, please email us at
SingaporeSunday, 09 November 2008SingaporeDemocratsPrint