Forum: Reaching out to developed nations instead of region alone still a good strategy

Singapore Management University (SMU) president Lily Kong’s concerns about young Singaporeans’ sense of superiority towards South-east Asia are misguided (Young Singaporeans abroad and their misguided sense of superiority towards S-E Asia, Nov 22).

When Singapore was kicked out of Malaysia in 1965, our Government realised that we could not depend on our neighbours as our hinterland.

Our country’s strategy then was to leapfrog the region and reach out to the developed world – the United States, Europe and Japan – to become a leading destination for international investment. Within our generation, Singapore was transformed into a First World oasis in a Third World region.

I believe that this strategy of reaching out to the developed nations to leapfrog the region should still bode well for the future for three reasons.

First, Singapore will have to depend on deep tech from advanced nations to continue to stay ahead. Given our limited resources, we have been unable to develop this on our own.

Second, only when we continue to do well will the developing nations in South-east Asia respect us and will we attract their best and the brightest to join us.

Finally, young Singaporeans who are less in touch with the struggles of the past and are hyper-connected to the world of the future must continue to strive to be the best in the region if not the world.

SMU’s plans to launch overseas centres in selected South-east Asian cities are laudable. I would also encourage it to do likewise in locations such as Silicon Valley, Shenzhen and Tel Aviv to allow young Singaporeans to absorb their innovative spirit.

Liu Fook Thim

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