March 24, 2008
An intriguing starting point would be what I have described elsewhere as the special and unique Lee Kuan Yew model of governance for Singapore. It is so successful that today it can be said to be a major Singapore export. For notice how eagerly countries as diverse as China, India, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, seek Mr Lee’s advice on their various economic projects.
A brief description of the model could be something like this: Its goal—total economic success. The kind of leadership needed—a completely efficient, hard-working, disciplined and above all, incorruptible government. The means by which such a government can achieve the goal—any means, even measures unpopular with the people or denounced by the outside world as undemocratic, as long as they get rid of the obstacles in the way. The most detested obstacle—political opponents who dare challenge the government openly and stridently. The most effective strategy against them—the use of fear to break them completely. And the most fearful tool of all—the defamation lawsuit reducing the opponent to permanent financial ruin. Mr Lee has rather proudly described what he calls his ‘knuckleduster’ approach, and has famously declared that he would rather be feared than liked.
This model of governance, useful for the rough early years when Mr Lee had to come down hard on Communist sympathizers, unruly trade unionists, racist newspaper editors and triads, must today seem like a relic of a bygone age. In its utter disregard of human feeling, it must be repulsive to the modern sensibility.
Recommended by at82: "Catherine Lim's incisive commentary on the need for a change in Singapore's model of governance. "