Han Hui Hui: I’ve never hated Lee Kuan Yew.
Singapore wouldn’t be what is arguably, the most admired nation in modern times, in respect of economic development – if not for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
It would not do justice to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, if we do not eulogise his legacy, by highlighting his vision in helming the crucial policies that propelled Singapore from “third world” to “first world”.
Our CPF system was a great conceptualisation of a unique solution to the pension’s problems of the world today.
It was a bold and brilliant idea, which worked superbly in the early decades, until the Government of the day became “overly extreme” in keeping an estimated 3% of the annualised returns derived from the investment of our CPF funds to itself, at the expense of the citizens.
If they had kept just 1% – it could have been a possible solution to the fiscal problems of many countries, like those in Europe today.
Imagine, if the Europeans can convince its citizens to allow the Governments to keep 1% of the returns on its pension scheme funds – it may help to minimise the fiscal deficits that are endemic today.
Our HDB public housing has won awards from organisations like United Nations agencies, because about 85% of the citizens live in HDB flats, and about 85% own their own homes – an unsurpassed achievement in the world.
However, the Government of the day, eventually became “overly extreme” in its zealousness in promoting its “asset enhancement” propaganda – to the undesirable outcome of having the most expensive public housing in the world.
If only the profits of the HDB were kept to 5% to 10%, instead of charging an estimated 60% of the price of new HDB flats to land cost.
Other countries may emulate our “HDB” and minimise their “public housing” problems, by reducing the profits to say just 5%.
Our 3Ms (Medisave, MediShield and Medifund) have been cited as one of the best healthcare systems at very low costs in the world.
However, arguably, similar to CPF and HDB, the healthcare system built by Lee Kuan Yew became “overly extreme” when the Government of the day made it into one of the most expensive in Asia – the lowest public healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP in the world and the lowest public share of total healthcare spending, at 33% amongst developed and developing countries.
If other countries emulate our “pre-pay” health financing model by not making their national health insurance schemes into a “huge surplus of premiums over claims” scheme like our MediShield, and spend more by reducing the fixation of collecting more in Medisave contributions annually than total outflows from Medisave – their healthcare problems may gradually melt away.
Lee Kuan Yew was a great proponent of “being prudent”, “saving for a rainy day” and “self-reliance”. But surely, he did not envision the “overly extreme” state today of more than $20 billion of cash budget surpluses every year.
From the above, we can see that the great ideas and policies implemented during Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, have arguably become “overly extreme” to the detriment of Singaporeans in recent years.
Perhaps the most appropriate tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew may be for the Government to re-assess, re-revisit and review these “great” policies of Lee Kuan Yew, in the light of how far they may have deviated from his original noble intentions?