Don't wait for Govt to solve our problems

I was amused to read that United States President Donald Trump had questioned why the Japanese were not buying American cars ("Abe's US visit offers hope of stable ties"; Feb 11).

The same question was asked at an American training workshop I attended in the 1990s.

Then, American car makers were crying foul over the protectionist market in Japan.

However, car imports into the US were also subject to tariffs, making Japanese cars more expensive for the US consumer.

Despite this, Hondas and Toyotas were still being bought by Americans.

In contrast, except for a few really exclusive brands and models, US-made cars were rare on the streets of Japan in the 1980s.

The training workshop noted two key things the Japanese car makers did which the American car makers did not do.

First, the Japanese car makers did not waste their time crying foul or pleading with the Japanese government to intervene.

Rather, they set up manufacturing plants in the US so that their cars would not be subject to import restrictions and tariffs.

Second, the Japanese re-engineered their cars from right-hand drives to left-hand drives so the vehicles could be used in the US.

There are two lessons Singapore can learn from this - the power of self-empowerment, and that we have a choice.

We do not need to always rely on the Government or some other country to address all the ills and challenges that life might throw at us.

In every challenge, we have a choice to take action or to be the victim. I, for one, do not relish the thought of being a victim.

Taking action may be unpleasant and may call for us to change our set ways of doing things or tighten the belt for a year or two.

But such actions may be necessary if we are to take charge of our own destiny and not be just another victim.

Matthew Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Don't wait for Govt to solve our problems'. Print Edition | Subscribe