On Friday, 24 August 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong helped launch a new book on Singapore’s asset building policies. Co-edited by Dr S. Vasoo from the Department of Social Work and Associate Professor Bilveer Singh from the Department of Political Science, “Critical Issues in Asset Building in Singapore’s Development” discusses how Singapore’s strong emphasis on asset building policies in its model of governance has facilitated the nation’s growth since independence. (From Left to Right: A/P Irene Ng, Dr S. Vasoo, PM Lee Hsien Loong, A/P Bilveer Singh, A/P Bernard Loo, and Dr Norshahril Saat)
PM Lee delivering his speech at the Book Launch
“Singapore’s asset-building approach emphasises individual work ethic and personal responsibility supported by government policies and resources”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Friday. Citing examples of Housing Development Board (HDB) flats and the Central Provident Fund (CPF) as tangible assets that contributed to Singapore’s success, Mr Lee shared that Singaporeans’ support for these policies also constituted intangible assets that underpin Singapore’s society and unity by holding us together as one people.
Mr Lee made these comments at the book launch of Critical Issues in Asset Building in Singapore’s Development, co-edited by Dr S. Vasoo, Former Member of Parliament (1984 – 2001) and Associate Professorial Fellow at the Department of Social Work, and Associate Professor Bilveer Singh from the Department of Political Science, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Among the policies discussed in the book are multiculturalism, accessible housing, social mobility for low-income families, water resource management, and national conscription.
The launch saw an impressive turnout with esteemed members across Singapore’s four generations of leaders in attendance (From left to right: Mr Ng Kah Ting, Mr Tang See Chim, Mr Ong Pang Boon, PM Lee Hsien Loong, Prof Robbie Goh, and Minister Ong Ye Kung)
In his speech, PM Lee further elaborated on the Government’s motivations behind selling Housing Development Board (HDB) flats to Singaporeans on 99-year leases, in place of alternatives such as instituting controlled rents, providing rental flats, or simply leaving housing to the private market. In addition to ensuring that housing remains affordable for Singaporeans, Mr Lee shares, the sale of HDB flats inculcates in its owners with a sense of responsibility and interest in the long-term value of the property, and, correspondingly, “the society and system on which the value of his home depends”.
Another key initiative is the Central Provident Fund (CPF). While originally designed to help Singaporeans save for retirement, its purpose has expanded over time to include savings for housing, medical, and education needs as well, all of which helps Singaporeans build up their assets. Acknowledging alternative and divergent voices, Mr Lee emphasised that constructive debate should be encouraged, as it will “help us understand issues better, come up with better solutions, see things in a fresh perspective, and move debate, policy, and outcomes forward”.
PM Lee chats with students from the Department of Social Work and the Department of Political Science, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Both authors also gave opening remarks at the Book Launch that echoed PM Lee’s emphasis on people being Singapore’s key asset. Calling the book the brainchild of Dr S. Vasoo, A/P Singh maintains that Singapore is not special because of its financial assets. After all, “this is something that oil or gold rich states can easily do.” Rather, A/P Singh shares, Singapore’s success is owed to the social and political stability that has prevailed since independence, a stability that is built on its exceptional people, forward-looking, optimistic, and armed with a strong survivalist orientation; and its people-centric leadership that pioneered asset-building initiatives.
The book makes explicit the role of the first 3 generations of leaders that contributed to the construction of what is known as modern Singapore, A/P Singh shares. “It is as if each brick that was laid to build a complex called Singapore - something that was the function of dreams, visions, nightmares, hard work, team spirit and a sense of unity that is hard to come by in a highly fractured small state surrounded by challenging geopolitics.”
A/P Singh’s sentiments were shared by Dr Vasoo, who remarked that Singaporeans need to continue to work on and strengthen the foundation laid by pioneers. If we do not work in close unison, Dr Vasoo cautions, “our asset building efforts will be slowly eroded and Singapore will not be an attractive place to live and work”. “With good governance, social stability and better people, Singapore will be able to further enhance its asset building capacities and encourage the succeeding younger generation of Singaporeans to design new socio-economic and political scaffolds that make our society sustainable,” Dr Vasoo adds.
“Critical Issues in Asset Building in Singapore’s Development” is available at all major bookstores including Kinokuniya, Times the Bookstore, MPH, and Popular. It retails at S$36 (paperback). More information about the book can be found at: https://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/10976