By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond
At an SDP rally in Bt Batok on May Day, Dr Paul Tambyah refuted PM Lee’s assertion that the Israelis were smarter than Singaporeans (https://theindependent.sg.sg/are-
Dr Tambyah was referring to comments made by PM Lee at a dialogue organised by IPS and LKY School of Public Policy last year.
During the dialogue, the moderator suggested that countries like the USA and Israel thrive in areas like innovation, science, research and technology because of their culture of a lack of respect for authority, of a deliberate almost upending of hierarchy, of challenging authority and of self-confidence.
He asked PM Lee (and in pointing to PM’s defamation law suit against blogger Roy Ngerng) if it was because Singapore did not have such a culture of disrespect. Mr Lee replied that it is important for Singapore to have a “certain natural aristocracy” because Singapore as a society will lose out if everything comes down to the lowest common denominator, and that the Republic should encourage a system where people are respected because they have earned that.
He elaborated, “You may think that then Israelis do this because they are rude to one another, but I think the Israelis also do this because they are very smart. And I think they are smarter than us. I don’t have evidence, but I know that if you look at Nobel Prize winners, many are Jewish…”
Dr Tambyah objected to PM’s view that the Israelis were better than Singaporeans.
“At a forum organized by the Institute of Policy Studies, I publicly disagreed with the PM on his comment that Israelis are smarter than Singaporeans. I pointed out that I think that Singaporeans are smarter than Israelis, at least we know how to live in peace with our neighbours,” he said.
Dr Tambyah raised the issue to point out that politicians should criticise the speech, the action, the policy and the values they represent but should not attack the man. “I did not call the PM unpatriotic for putting down Singaporeans,” he quipped.
Singaporeans do have higher IQs than Israelis
In any case, PM Lee may like to know that studies carried out by Dr Richard Lynn, a British Professor of Psychology, and Dr Tatu Vanhanen, a Finnish Professor of Political Science, have confirmed that Singaporeans do have higher IQs than the Israelis.
In fact, we came out first in the world with an average IQ of 108 (https://iq-research.org/en/
The two researchers were trying to show that differences in national income are correlated with differences in the average national IQ. They further argue that differences in average national IQs constitute one important factor, but not the only one, contributing to differences in national wealth and rates of economic growth.
Why can’t Singaporeans thrive like others?
So the question remains that if Singaporeans are so smart, why can’t Singapore thrives like the USA and Israel in innovation, science, research and technology?
In the view of this writer, the culture of lack of respect for authority may be one factor but more importantly, it is the over dominance of the Singapore government in our economy as well as in every aspects of Singaporeans’ lives.
First, let’s start with our human capital – our scholars with strings of ‘A’s. Many of our top brains obtain scholarships to top universities in the world like Cambridge, Oxford, MIT, Harvard etc. When they are back in Singapore, they are quickly absorbed into our civil service and armed forces. And that’s when our smart scholars start to go downhill.
After numerous years they are in the establishment, they become robots and do not, or more appropriately, dare not think out of the box. Why? With the million dollar salary, would one like to rock the boat? Subconsciously, they are forced to tow the line no matter how ridiculous their bosses’ thinking are. Remember the incident when Lim Boon Heng had to go around explaining to non-graduate mothers that they couldn’t have more babies?
The million dollar remuneration also acts as an opiate and made these mandarins complacent. It’s no wonder we have a permanent secretary who earned more than 2 times the salary of President Obama, could afford to take 1 month off to learn cooking in France. Even more amazingly, he felt it was alright to brag about it publicly on our national newspaper!
One theory is that perhaps the PAP government is afraid that smart people may one day go against them in elections and hence, they would like to subsume as many smart people as possible into their fold, dangle them with million dollar salary so as to make them compliant (i.e, Pavlovian conditioning).
Over dominance of GLCs and Govt Institutions in economy
Next, what we have in Singapore is an over-dominance of our GLCs and Govt Institutions in our Singapore economy. Such over-dominance would stall the growth of SMEs and small innovators in Singapore.
Not only local firms worry about such dominance, even foreign firms complain too.
Some years ago, the US Ambassador made a public comment about the over-dominance of GLCs in Singapore economy (‘Unfair Dominance of GLCs a worry for US firms’, BT 26 Feb 2003).
BT reported, “First, it was small and medium-size local firms that felt squeezed out. Now, foreign firms are complaining about government-linked companies and their perceived dominance of the economy.”
“According to United States Ambassador Franklin Lavin, it’s an issue for American firms trying to get into the government procurement business, and must be tackled under the upcoming free trade agreement (FTA) between Singapore and the US.”
“Indeed, the ‘G’ – for government-linked – word featured prominently in a discussion on the US-Singapore FTA (USSFTA) yesterday, organised jointly by the Institute of Policy Studies, the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the Foreign Correspondents Association.”
“Mr Lavin said the dominance of GLCs has given rise to a view among US companies that they do not compete on a level playing field in the area of local government procurement.”
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