Capitalism is amoral, says Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in an interview with the Bangkok Post.
He says this when the interviewer reminds him: “You mentioned that the world financial system requires a review.The French President (Niclolas Sarkozy) has called for a completely new start, and making capitalism more moral.”
The prime minister responds: “If you take a totally philosophical approach, you could say that capitalism is amoral and you need something that is more moral than capitalism. Human beings have been looking for that throughout history. So that's going to be a continuing quest.”
See the full transcript of the long, wide-ranging interview.
The prime minister adds: "I think what is practical is to strengthen the institutions of the IMF
and World Bank. And to strengthen the rules governing financial
institutions, particularly Basel II arrangements, the Basel II capital
adequacy requirements, so that you have a better sense of the risks
which are being run by the banks."
Human rights in Singapore
The interviewer also raises the issue of human rights in the 10 Asean countries and says: “Our member countries are at different levels of development as far as human rights bodies are concerned. But how should we proceed in this area under the (Asean) Charter?”
The prime minister responds: "Well there is a commitment within the Charter to establish an Asean Human Rights… But there's a practical approach.
“Our approach in Singapore is that we go for the substance of the human rights rather than the form. In other words that we make sure that people are fed, people are clothed, that they have good schools, they have equal opportunities, that they have access to government services which are clean efficient and not corrupt. And they can therefore fulfil their human spirit to the full.”
He agrees with what the Western media has been saying — that there has to be a rebalancing of consumption patterns, especially in Asia.
“I think that the US recession will last this year, maybe a bit longer,” he says. “But concern is what happens after the US recession; whether there is a strong recovery or whether in fact the difficulties will take several more years to work out, the financial institutions, their problems.The macro-economic imbalances, the over-consumption in America. Rebalancing other parts of consumption to other parts of the world, especially in Asia.”
On the Singapore economy, he says:
“A quarter of our economy is manufacturing. So when our exports go down by one third, all our exports go overseas. So our whole economy is down, which means eight per cent…
“I think our transportation sector is going to be affected because the port is part of the import-export trade. The national airline is affected. They have had to mothball some of the fleet. Our financial sector is affected like everybody else. The only thing that is growing, because we have a lot of projects under way, is construction. We are going to build roads, trains, the subway, and integrated resorts — the casinos. Those are coming. And therefore I expect projective minus-two to minus-five per cent growth this year, which is the worst we have had for a very, very long time.
“But at the same time we are putting in capabilities for the long-term. Investing in the long-term. Infrastructure, as I mentioned. Education. We are launching a new university. We are putting investment in research and development. We are bringing in new investment projects in Singapore because even now multi-nationals (come) which have a long-term horizon. They have started projects which take three to five years before coming to fruition. And if they have a good operation in Singapore they can build on that and enhance their Singapore capabilities. And some of them are doing it even now, despite the market conditions. And I think it's important that we look beyond the horizon and not just stay under the shelter from the storm.”