PM Lee: Harder to help professionals who lose jobs
In an interview with Time Magazine on Oct 20, PM Lee Hsien Loong shared his views on foreign issues as well as those that hit close to home. FOO JIE YING (firstname.lastname@example.org) looks at some of the topics Mr Lee touched on
In every American election, candidates say crazy things. They take positions and the winners try very hard to forget about it afterwards, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"George Bush Sr said 'read my lips' and regretted it," he said.
The former US president had promised no taxes in 1988, but broke his campaign pledge two years later with tax hikes.
Time Magazine's editor-at-large and foreign affairs columnist Ian Bremmer had asked about the damage done in the 18-month electoral process.
Mr Lee replied: "All American candidates who won have, before winning, been very harsh on China and, after winning, much more restrained in their approach towards China. On trade, too, that has been true for some time.
"But this time, it has been so nasty and harsh that I think Hillary (Clinton), if she wins, will have a lot of things to 'unspeak' which she will find very difficult to do."
In the past few months, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has ranted against US President Barack Obama and has said he wants to loosen his nation's alliance with the US.
When asked how the situation could develop between the two countries, Mr Lee said he preferred not to speculate.
"I do not know because these are early days. Mr Duterte's own position, I think, is deeply felt. I do not think he is posturing," he said.
"How far he will go, and what his civil service's and armed forces' positions will be, and whether they can influence him or he will work with them, only time will tell."
At 2.1 per cent, Singapore's unemployment rate is low by international standards.
But it can and will go up - even for the professionals, said the PM.
He was asked his thoughts on Singapore's position in the world, given how fast the labour force is changing thanks to the fourth industrial revolution.
Mr Lee said: "It is a challenge for us, just as it is for other developed countries.
"It is a challenge preparing young people to cope with the future world which we are not quite able to define yet. They have to have the skills to learn and learn again.
"It is also a challenge helping people who are already in the workforce. They have a career, they have a family, they have obligations.
"And now they are not sure whether they can continue in the same job until they retire. And if they can't, how can we help them?
"You cannot solve it by saying 'keep out the problem, stop the change, and therefore I carry on doing what I used to do'.
"Even General Motors could not survive that way."
The Government can help by offering training, transition assistance or social support if people are jobless.
Affected blue-collar workers are an "easier problem to solve" because they can be put on courses for three or six months to learn new skills.
It gets harder when it comes to the professionals like lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and bank managers.
"And that is coming. You can see it beginning already," said the PM.
Singapore has a long way to go when it comes to being swift-footed like a Silicon Valley company.
But how far and closely can we approximate a Silicon Valley firm remains a question, said Mr Lee.
"In the end, we are a country and we have to carry everybody along," he said.
"In Silicon Valley, if you are a firm, you choose your partners, you choose your team and you need not be typical of the country."