SINGAPORE: In 25 years’ time, Singapore will be a country that reflects the state of the major powers and its Asian neighbours.
While the look and colour of its society might change, its major resource — talent — will remain a predominant issue, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Friday.
He was speaking to an audience of about 500 students, alumni and invited guests at a National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) lecture on the topic of "Singapore and Singaporeans — Quarter Century From Now".
The evening started with Mr Lee officially opening the Alumni Complex at the university — the largest graduate club in the country.
During the dialogue, he said Singapore’s future might have a different ethnic and demographic composition as many immigrants become new citizens and permanent residents.
But the main ethnic groups would still be the Chinese, Malays and Indians. The population would also be more educated.
Mr Lee said: "We are caught in a bind — we’ve got to decide this is our country, our society and we must remain the majority. Yes, we will take immigrants; yes, we will take talented people, but we must be the majority.
"Otherwise, they will change us if they are the majority. So I think 25 years from now, Singapore will be more cosmopolitan because we’ve got many people from China, India, Malaysia and from the region. We have European children doing National Service."
The minister mentor also painted "optimistic and pessimistic scenarios" of where the world and ASEAN would be. But he said the more likely outcome would be "somewhere in between".
On top of that, Mr Lee spoke about where Singapore’s economy could go from here.
"I cannot tell you what’s going to happen. I can say the optimistic scenario is in two or three years, we’re out of this (crisis). At the worst, four, five or six years. As the IMF said, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are going to be hit. Why? Because we are export dependent.
"I’ve got economists saying you’ve got to change your system. Wall Street Journal has said, ’Oh, this won’t work, consume yourself’. Four million people to consume and keep an industry that supplies the world with top—end goods — it’s rubbish," he said.
On the political front, when asked what would happen to the country if there was a major shift of power, Mr Lee said he was not concerned as to which political party was in charge.
He said: "If you get capable people forming the next government, people who know what they have to do to make Singapore work, then I’m not worried. I’m not worried whether it’s PAP or SDP or whatever government.
"But I am worried about the quality of people who get into power. Integrity (is) crucial, (and) ability, experience and a willingness to do what is necessary for the people, and not for yourself."