Forum: Many people today unaware of hard truths Singapore faces

In 2011, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going was published. The book by our founding prime minister was a warning to Singaporeans, especially the young, who, brought up in an era of peace and prosperity, do not realise how difficult it is to keep Singapore going, let alone thriving, in normal times.

Yet, as the election results show, the young have little appreciation of the hard truths that the country faces, not even in these extraordinary times.

I find it ironic that many people who lament the death of Mr Lee say that the People's Action Party (PAP) is no longer the party it once was, yet it is the one party that continues to uphold the founding prime minister's values.

I believe that years of peace and prosperity have lulled the young into a state of complacency. They think what we have now is a natural state of affairs. They want to import hip American ideas without due regard to our circumstances.

When has Singapore succeeded by copying the West? From our early days when we rejected import substitution in favour of export-led growth and allowed multinational corporations to set up here rather than oppose "capitalist exploitation", our Central Provident Fund, race quota in Housing Board estates, tripartism, Progressive Wage Model in place of minimum wage legislation, an elected president with custodial powers, and other examples, we took in the lessons of other countries, but we never copied them.

Because we cannot change our size (or location), we have to be exceptional. With such a small margin of error, quality is an existential question. And it starts with the right political leadership and political landscape.

What needs to be done? Already, many voices are saying that the PAP must listen to the young. Of course, the PAP has to listen to all, especially the young.

I suggest that Singapore introduce Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going into the junior college, polytechnic and university syllabuses. We need to educate the young on the unique situation we are in. We do not need to teach Mr Lee's solutions, but should examine what he said and try to figure out solutions that are relevant for every generation.

I hope the young realise what is at stake. In the following months, when the world economy tanks further, some of the hard truths will become clearer.

Tan Ying San

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