SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stressed the need for Singaporeans to build a consensus on the future they want.
What Singapore will be in 20 years depends on Singaporeans, he said in an interview on Singapolitics.sg.
If the decision is to have a place that Singaporeans are proud to live in and where others look up to, Mr Lee said the country can get there.
He said Singapore has the resources and it is prepared to thrive.
But Singaporeans need to have a "toughness of mind" to do that.
Should Singaporeans decide on a more relaxed pace of life, with less pressure, Mr Lee warned that new pressures will come.
The challenge is when a consensus cannot be reached, he said.
Asked if the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) will be dominant in future, Mr Lee said the question is whether Singaporeans can come to a consensus on the direction they want to go.
If ’yes’, then there can be one party which has a strong mandate and can work on behalf of citizens effectively.
He cited countries like the US and India where divisive politics has led to gridlock and dysfunction, which can happen to Singapore.
"If we don’t have that consensus within society, like in America where there is a deep divide between the Republicans and Democrats... then you have gridlock, dysfunction and it can happen to Singapore," said Mr Lee.
Mr Lee noted that coming to an agreement is harder now because interests are more diverse and citizens differ on what they feel are important to them.
He said the country needs to build more strongly that sense of being Singaporeans together.
It’s a serious question, which he urged citizens to focus on.
"The temptation is always to focus on immediate issues, rather than future things, because it’s remote, it’s not tangible, it’s hard to make sense of what’s going to come. But we must ask ourselves... down the road, (if our) children want to live in a special and successful place, what must we do to help them get there? And I think then we frame the question right and we can decide what we need to do. Otherwise, we are just navel gazing and I think that’s not constructive," said Mr Lee.
On whether he sees himself still as prime minister when he’s beyond 70 years old, Mr Lee, who is 60 now, said if he still is, then "something is seriously wrong".
He said Singapore needs a younger prime minister who is in tune with "that much younger and very much different generation".
Asked if he sees a potential PM in the current Cabinet, Mr Lee only said "it’s early days to say".
On what would be Singapore’s optimal population size, Mr Lee said he is hesitate to put a figure to it.
While the country’s masterplan puts that figure at 6.5 million, Mr Lee noted that’s not a target but a possibility mapped out.
How big the population grows would depend on how Singapore develops, expands its land area and develops as a city while providing a good quality of life for the people in an urban environment, said Mr Lee.
Singapore’s population currently stands at 5.2 million.
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