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Mr 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:
If 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 [email protected].