Famous Quotes From Singapore Leaders

See also Infamous Quotes from Singapore Political Leaders(In)Famous Quotes From Lee Kuan YewMemorable Quotes From Fellow Singaporeans

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“First, Singapore discovered that some so-called foreign talent was not really very talented. Second, there was the discovery that, in some cases, when a foreign chief executive officer was hired, he or she discriminated against Singaporeans when hiring staff.”Tommy Koh

It is one thing to remember your heroes from your wars of independence, or those who have built your nation. But it is another thing altogether when you celebrate those who had acted in a brutal and cowardly manner. There is nothing heroic about killing innocent civilians.”Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin  took issue with Indonesia’s decision to name a navy ship after two marines who bombed an Orchard Road building in 1965 (8 Feb 2014, source)

“In the early pioneering days, we do first and talk later. Today some of us talk first and don’t do.” – Former top civil servants Ngiam Tong Dow (source)

“The only way to avoid making mistakes is not to do anything. And that … will be the ultimate mistake.” – Goh Keng Swee, founder/chief architect of modern Singapore and former deputy prime minister (Source)

“With 7,405 people per square kilometre, Singapore is “the most crowded society in human history” with no “pressure-release valve”, which other countries with a countryside possess. The population density is expected to increase to 10,000 people per square kilometre by 2030.”former Attorney-General Walter Woon (15 Nov 2013,Todayonline)

Anyone who breaks the rules will be caught and punished. No cover-ups will be allowed, no matter how senior the officer or how embarrassing it may be. It’s far better to suffer the embarrassment and keep the system clean for the long term than to pretend that nothing has gone wrong and let the rot spread.” – PM Lee Hsien Loong (18 September 2012, CNA)

There are deep fault lines in our society, based on race/religion … Her (Amy Cheong’s) comments reflect a deep seated racist attitude coupled with contempt for those who are less well off, or who wish to spend less.”Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam (Todayonline, 15Oct2012)

“freedom of expression does not mean that one has unfettered rights to insult and denigrate another’s religion or race. Rather this freedom must be safeguarded through mutual respect of the views and beliefs of others. It is wrong and counter-productive to respond to this inflammatory and offensive film with violence.” – DPM Teo Chee Hean on the violence caused by a made-in-USA film “Innocence of Muslims” which supposedly disparages Islam and its prophet.

“Remember that it took a network of people to enable your success — your family, teachers, customers, employers, even suppliers… In return, be sure to support and give back to that network.” – Senior Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong, calling on businessmen to work towards a larger purpose (The Straits Times 1 Sep 2012)

 ”When society’s brightest and most able think that they made good because they are inherently superior and entitled to their success; when they do not credit their good fortune also to birth and circumstance; when economic inequality gives rise to social immobility and a growing social distance between the winners of meritocracy and the masses; and when the winners seek to cement their membership of a social class that is distinct from, exclusive, and not representative of Singapore society – that is elitism.” – Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong

“We keep complaining that locals are reluctant to be in construction and engineerinf. But, look at the way HDB is calling for tenders for consultancy works. It is not even enough to pay our engineers adequately. We cannot live on passion for our profession alone.” - MP Lee Bee Wah criticising government agencies for not helping to develop local capabilities. (The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2012)

“With the new budget measures pushing labour costs higher, whilst doing nothing to afddress the key challenges of high rental and housing costs, core inflation will likely remain high this year. Is this the new normal?” – Nominated MP Tan Su Shan warning the impact of rising costs on Singapore’s business and consumers. (The Straits Times, 2 Mar 2012)

“You are the one who can determine your own success -yes, life may be hard on you, but if you try, you can succeed,and others have.” – NG ENG HEN, former Education Minister, on how social mobility cannot mean a diminution of individual effort.

“As far as I am concerned, PUB should not have used the word ‘ponding’. I call a spade a spade. A flood is a flood.” - Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan (Todayonline, 10 Jan 2011)

“After pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps in the pioneering years, we now outsource the CEO jobs to foreign talent. The irony is that when trouble looms, the foreign CEO just dusts off the seat of his pants and walks away with his sign-off bonus negotiated when he first signed on.” - Former top civil servant, Ngiam Tong Dow (The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2011)

“But the Achilles heel of a meritocratice system is that over time, the elite becomes inward-looking and disdainful of the people they lead”. – Former top civil servant, Ngiam Tong Dow (The Straits Times, 16 Sep 2011)

“Today, migration is economics driven. The best and the brightest move around the world searching for higher paying jobs. We risk having them use us as a stepping stone. Foreign fathers may advise their sons born in Singapore to leave when they reach the national service age of 18. Singapore will be left with the second tier of average people.” – - Former top civil servant, Ngiam Tong Dow (The Straits Times, 16 Sep 2011)

“Life is not just about shoes and mobile phones.” - Dr Seet Ai Mee said she has seen too many “ugly instances” when it comes to children and materialism. (The Sunday Times  20 Oct 2011)

“While Singaporeans are fully aware of potential trade-offs in policy, we should also be on guard against viewing trade-offs only from the Government’s perspective….. It seems to me that more often than not, the policy trade-off was biased against the people, especially those who are adversely affected.” Opposition leader Low Thia Khiang (22 Oct 2011).

“To live well in the present, we need to know the past and have a sense of the future,” - Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat urging Singaporeans not to forget the past as “emotion bonds among our people come from shared memories.”

“The test of progress is not whether there is more for those who already have much, but whether there is enough to those who have little.” - Opposition MP Chen Show Mao

‘If you find a woman you love, you marry her. If you have no money for a large wedding in a posh hotel, do it at a community centre. If you don’t have a flat, rent a room ….. Marriage is not all about money. You don’t need to wait for the Finance Minister to dish out incentives to get married.’  - MP Sam Tan urging Singaporeans do not over-rely the Government for handouts to achieve their dreams, work to earn it instead. (Source)

“Never forget we’re servants of the people, not their masters. Always maintain a sense of humility and service. Never lord it over the people we’re looking after and serving. Be as strict with ourselves as we are with others.” – PM Lee Hsien Loong addressing party activists and members of its youth wing (17 Apr 2011)

“When these problems vex you or disturb you or upset your lives, please bear with us. We’re trying our best on your behalf. And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry but we will try and do better the next time.” – PM Lee Hsien Loong, a rare humility in acknowledging the unhappiness on the ground in the watershed 2011 General Election.

“Sure you can give the goodies or offsets, but why break a man’s leg and then give him clutches to wobble on” - ex-PAP MP and former Speaker of the House Tan Soo Khoon on why the GST hike is regressive which the rich can afford the GST but not the poor.

“Let people complete their sentences first before interrupting them. That is very important. Because it is only when they feel they’ve communicated, that they are prepared to receive.” - George Yeo (6 May 2011)

“They want to be engaged and involved, they want to be talked to, not talked down to. Very importantly, they want to see fair play and accountability.” – Goh Chok Tong (06 May 2011)

“I don’t quite understand how a First World Parliament can be detrimental to Singapore. If you are arguing that perhaps a dominant one-party Singapore is the most efficient system, that it’s in the interest of Singapore, then perhaps we’d better off install a dictatorship. Why do you need elections in the first place?” - Opposition leader Low Thia Kiang on concern that a multi-party parliamentary system may not allow Singapore- a vulnerable state that lacks resources -to stay nimble and make decisive move. (The Straits Times, 17 Apr 2011)

“How can you formulate policies when you don’t even know the nuts and bolts ?That comes with a bit of having your nose to the ground. Of course, don’t spend the whole time doing it, otherwise it becomes too pedestrian.” - NGIAM Tong Dow, Ex-Head of Civil Service

“What does that achieve? Why don’t you just give us a tax reduction?” – NGIAM Tong Dow, Ex-Head of Civil Service, critiqued the Government’s intention of giving Economic Restructuring Shares to all citizens (Editor’s Notes: a often used tactics lately by the Singapore Government to give some sweeteners whenever they raise prices or taxes). (Source)

“The most important thing is that you have to respect an individual, whether he’s got six Cs or six As and whether he’s a brain surgeon or a dustman. I think we should give him the same respect. If you don’t give respect to your own citizens, I think you condemn them forever.” - Chiam See Tong, Opposition Leader

“When announcing the GST, at the same time, the Government also announced an off-setting package. The media has immediately publicised vigorously that this package will benefit the people. But the feedback I get from the people is that the Government gives me a piece of sweet and cuts a piece of my flesh” - Opposition MP Low Thia Kiang in opposing the increase of GST reflected the distortion in the event painted by the main stream media as opposed to ground’s voices.

“My conclusion after seeing all these figures is that the Government has realised what a goldmine the GST is’ -  ex-PAP MP and former Speaker of the House Tan Soo Khoon pointed out that GST collection had increased steadily over the years, except in 1998 and 2001 due to the recession.

“People like Lee Kong Chian and Tan Tock Seng – they did charity all their lives. They do count when you want to name a hospital after them …They put their heart and soul in and deserve the name” – ex-MP Dr. Tan Cheng Bock resigning from the board to protest the renaming of Jurong Hospital to Ng Teng Fong Hospital.

“What is this 35,000 jobs in the casino? Nothing. You just spend five years, S$10 billion, you create 30,000 jobs for teachers. These are noble jobs, good and meaningful jobs, to invest in the future of children. Not the casino jobs (of) dealers and croupiers,” – Former government scholar, top civil servant and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Tan Jee Say launching several critiques against economic policies of a “government that has lost its way and moral compass”.

“Singaporeans are not inherently more honest than our neighbours because we come from the same roots. However, our strict rules against corruption and strong enforcement keep everyone honest – and will also keep our immigrants honest.” – Law Minister K Shanmugam on how Singapore would  maintain its high standards of integrity and ethics in light of our open immigration policy (source).

“The People’s Action Party’s tactic is to put all the scholars into the civil service because it believes the way to retain political power forever is to have a monopoly on talent. But in my view, that’s a very short term view. It is the law of nature that all things must atrophy. Unless SM allows serious political challenges to emerge from the alternative elite out there, the incumbent elite will just coast along. At the first sign of a grassroots revolt, they will probably collapse just like the incumbent Progressive Party to the left-wing PAP onslaught in the late 1950s. I think our leaders have to accept that Singapore is larger than the PAP.”  – Ngaim Tong Dow, Ex top Civil Servant , 2006

“人们应有自制能力,政府不应干涉太多 (People must have self control, government should not interfere too much)” - MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Lee Bee Wah on the issue of whether government should ban automated lottery machine, also quoted his friend saying that the over regulation leads to the unhealthy mentality: “the Hong Kong businessman when making a loss in business, will only blame himself; the Singaporean businessman when making a loss in business will put the blame on the government.” (Shin Min Daily News, 25Sep10)

“We should do less as a government and you do more for yourself, which means you should exercise responsibility and self-cencoryourself.” – Goh Chok Tong opined he favoured self-cencorship on the internet, views should be expressed in “temperate language”. (Mar 13, 2011)

“Chin Siong was introduced to me by Lee Kuan Yew. Kuan Yew came to visit me in my little office underneath the stairs and said, “Meet the future Prime Minister of Singapore!” I looked at Lim Chin Siong and I laughed. LKY said, “Don’t laugh!” He is the finest Chinese orator in Singapore and he will be our next Prime Minister!” – David Marshall (Source: Lim Chin Siong-The Man Who Almost Became Prime Minister)

More reports here. See also Famous (Or Rather Infamous) Quotes From Lee Kuan Yew and Infamous Quotes from Other Singapore Leaders .

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My favourite quote today

Tommy Koh on Singapore's awakening on Foreign Talents: "First, Singapore discovered that some so-called foreign talent was not really very talented. Second, there was the discovery that, in some cases, when a foreign chief executive officer was hired, he or she discriminated against Singaporeans when hiring staff."