Singapore—Progress Singapore Party (PSP) invited veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon to speak at its second PSP TALKS forum entitled “POLITICS AND PLANNING: THE FUTURE OF SINGAPORE”
Prof Tay thanked the party for the invitation, saying it is one of his favorite topics to talk about. He began his talk by saying “There is no such thing as planning without politics.”
He then went on to define what politics is, “the process by which it is decided who gets what, when, and how. In Singapore, I think we know who gets what, when, and how every time.”
The veteran architect explained that while he is political, he is not ‘party political’. He told the story of having been called in for a conversation with Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1968, when he was 28 years old, as PM Lee had read an essay he had written on housing, identity, and nation-building, which was built on the premise of preserving the kampung. He said that PM Lee gave him a grilling, as he disagreed with Prof Tay’s premise, believing that kampungs are backward.
Later on however, PM Lee invited Prof Tay to join the cabinet, saying he needed an architect. He refused, saying, “I only support sincere and competent people.”
The architect then went on to discuss what he perceives thr country’s problems are, including the old order vs the new order, genetics vs epigenetics, how meritocracy has devolved into elitism, the country’s old-style educational system, the obsolete town planning system, having a livable city vs an intelligent city, the old economy vs the AI economy, a strong state vs citizens’ dividends, ‘sheeple’ vs intelligent citizens, a service city vs becoming the Boston of Asia, globalization vs regional economy, and the ‘little red dot’ vs Simalindo (Singapore-Malaysia-Indonesia) as the core of the ASEAN.
The audience responded well to Prof Tay’s points, especially when he put down the idea that Singapore needs 10 million people. They applauded when he said, “The foreign talent we have is only a temporary phenomenon. Eventually, we will send them all home.”
One of his biggest points is a re-thinking of the educational system, which he likened to a mother or helper feeding a child, instead of them learning to feed themselves, no matter how much of a mess they make.
He said, “We invent nothing, we create nothing. The most fundamental thing we need to rethink is to become an education city itself. Singapore can become the Boston of Asia. Boston has 65 universities and institutions of higher learning.”
“Two percent of any society are exceptional,” he said explaining that this means there are 12 million exceptional people in Southeast Asia. “If we can bring 1 million of them to Singapore to live and learn with our exceptional people we will be the brain center in this part of the world.”
He also talked about the misunderstanding of how important ASEAN scholarships are. “Unless we are not able to make friends with our neighbors, we are not going to be able to optimize our future. It is well worth it to spend money on our neighbors, particularly the education of our neighbors …but not at the expense of our own students.”
One intriguing subject that Prof Tay talked about was the possibility of Singapore having five different elections for five local governments, since there are 5 CDSs. One would be governed by the Worker’s Party, one by the Singapore Democratic Party, and so on, and thus, the country would be able to see who can do it better. The best of these, he said, could form a central government, citing Switzerland and its cantons as an example, so that local governments could address local issues.
During the question and answer portion, a member of the audience thanked Prof Tay for his bold and inspiring vision for Singapore’s future and asked him how this would come to pass.
The veteran architect said, “I’m hoping that PSP will be the champion (of this), together with all other political parties. I think we are at a stage of SG political development where there is a new set of people, new ideas that are going to come together to challenge the existing orthodoxies. The existing doctrines are really out of date. It will go down. There is no way that it won’t go down. It must go down.”
A video of the talk can be viewed here. -/TISG