Parliamentary Speech (19 October 2011)


Mr Speaker, Sir, before I touch on the President’s speech, I like to add to the references on Bhutan, as well as correct misconceptions that had surfaced in this House. I happen to visit Bhutan just before this year’s General Elections and am now involved in a non-profit education project for the country.

Mr Cedric Foo joked that Bhutanese are happy because they have only 2 elected opposition members. Bhutan’s concept of happiness was implemented by the 4th King in the 1970s, long before they had parliamentary democracy in 2008. On my flight into Bhutan, I picked up this In-Flight magazine of Druk Air, their national airline. This page listed the 4 most important persons in Bhutan: His Majesty the King, the Chief Abbot, the Prime Minister and … the Leader of the Opposition. Speaking with Bhutanese, I was amazed at the respect they accorded to the Opposition, as well as to the democracy process.

Just as Minister Khaw said that developing Bhutan wants to learn from Singapore, there are useful lessons from Bhutan. The concept of Gross National Happiness is not some fuzzy feel-good about individual happiness as some members alluded to, but about collective happiness and long term sustainability. It does measure economic indicators, like all other countries. It also measures three other important areas: Preservation of Culture, Preservation of the Environment and Good Governance. Bhutan chose to do so because it wanted to leave something for future generations, rather than mine natural resources for short term gains or destroy the culture that made them unique. We have seen measures to prop up the economy, like liberal immigration and the casinos, which may bring immediate benefits but can lead to long term problems. Are Singaporeans happy with headline-grabbing economic growth when it is their jobs that have been impacted; when they struggle with high cost of living; or if family members face chronic gambling problems?

Sir, I will now move on to my main speech. I thank the President for reminding us to do our very best for our country and to make it the best home for all Singaporeans. I grew up in an independent Singapore. I have seen the changes we went through. Doing my best for Singapore is an aspiration that I share. Singapore is my home and my family.

The President touched on many issues. I will focus on education and the economy.

First, I like to declare that I have vested interest in the education space as an owner of several private companies offering education services, mostly to schools.


Sir, the President said that we should have “a truly special Singapore, where our children can grow to be the best that they can be.”

The main form of our current mainstream education started with the bold 1979 Goh report by the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Minister for Education. It was to address the challenges of the day. Streaming was introduced. Singapore went for mass production to raise the overall level of students’ performance.

Schools were differentiated progressively from 1988. From 1992, they were ranked yearly by MOE and the ranking were published. Next, MOE published schools’ actual versus expected performances. Ranking was later replaced with banding schools of similar range of students’ academic performances together. Today, while schools are appraised in non-academic areas, they are still banded by academic results.

The changes have raised overall education levels, but they also created excessive anxieties for parents and students, and widened public’s perception of quality between top and lower ranked schools.

An educator friend blogged that she had asked parents in workshops to draw their impression of our education system. One drew prison bars! There were similar drawings by other parents expressing helplessness at being trapped in the system. They felt helpless over the many high stake examinations; and pressure to get children into good schools, failing which they deem the future of their children would be compromised.

In a recent 938Live radio talkshow, a caller whose daughter was taking PSLE this year described how her family relationship became strained while preparing for the exams. A friend shared that his daughter in a top school cries frequently just before exams. I feel terrible hearing of children having their confidence crushed and growing up in fear of education. A former civil servant I met online wrote that he had migrated to Finland because he did not want to subject his son to the unhealthy system here. He wanted his son to simply love learning.

Today there is over reliance on academic performance as a benchmark of success and meritocracy, a phenomenon I call hyper-meritocracy. Hyper-meritocracy has seen parents who could afford it, pack children’s schedule with tuition.  A good paper qualification is seen as a guarantee to a successful career. The safe thing to do in Singapore is to score in exams, get a scholarship and land a secure good-paying job. This has led to a dearth of risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit in Singapore.

I share Mr Teo Ser Luck’s observation that risk aversion will be a key challenge for him to promote entrepreneurship. The problem of lack of entrepreneurs begins in schools, where students are conditioned not to take risks and do not learn to handle ambiguity. In this aspect, I am happy to work with Mr Teo as I have been working with young entrepreneurs and students for quite some time now.

Sir, I am happy to note that MOE is looking into Character and Value-based education. Character and values are important guiding principles for life and must be imparted to students. However, schools are supposed to already have civics and moral education for years. MOE’s 21st Century Skills framework, already included character and values development. Schools, preoccupied with measurable indicators of success such as school ranking and academic grades, are known to have replaced civics periods with mainstream subjects. This sends wrong signals to children that values are not important.

Schools pile homework on students and drill them for major exams. I know of a top school which had three full-scale prelim exams in addition to mock exams using prelim papers of other schools, in order to prepare students for this year’s ‘O’ levels. Principals feel pressured into delivering academic results over other forms of holistic development.

We have had education policies with good intents before, but their effects were often muted because we did not address our examination culture.

At the heart of the issue is what good education should be about. Do we sieve out academic performers through a series of examinations so that we can concentrate them together? Is this so because we believe we need to identify the top 5% of each cohort who will run our country and our top companies in the future?

Today, we face a totally different world where what we know can quickly become obsolete. Nimbleness to change is essential for survival. We do not just churn out workers for the multinationals. We are competing against the world for investments, businesses and jobs. We need our people to be innovative and adaptable.

Mr Speaker, I hope two areas can be addressed:

1. Critically examine our intense examination culture. Can we cut down on streaming and do we need to start streaming so early?

 Finland, a country with about the same population size as Singapore, went the opposite direction with their education reforms, equalizing resources in schools and spreading talents across the system. They stream students only at 15 years old. Finnish students do well in international assessment benchmark. Notably, it has the shortest school hours in OECD countries and the narrowest gap between the high and low scorers, indicating education equity. Students hardly go for tuition. I feel it is useful to study their approach.

2. Broaden learning and seriously infuse character and values development.

Already schools are reluctant to offer subjects that are important to broaden students’ thinking, such as literature and history, as these subjects are difficult to score well in. Yet they are important for students to appreciate diversity, handle ambiguity and to develop critical thinking.

We should further broaden learning to include political education so that students can grow up with a wider spectrum of thoughts. Perhaps, they can then develop the Digital Quotient that Dr Lam Pin Min spoke about and can become responsible participants in our evolving parliamentary democracy.

Today, we appear more educated. However, I am not sure if we are more learned and more innovative, or we are simply more exam-smart.

I like to share a story with this House. Recently, I met a Singaporean couple who run an international school in Bangkok. They shared the experience of their daughter.  Jazlina retained a place in a Singapore school under overseas leave of absence. She returned in primary 6, took her PSLE and was admitted into an autonomous school. She spent her secondary two in Singapore.

Jazlina is a bright and self-motivated girl who had thrived in school while in Thailand. But under our system, she felt constrained trying to conform to a rigid regime expecting standard answers. With a class size of over 40 students, her mother had to put her through tuition to keep pace with the class. Jazlina started to lose self-confidence and told her mother that ‘maybe I am not so smart after all’. At secondary three, she was streamed into a subject combination that was not her passion. After fighting the system for a few more months, the family put her back into their own school in Thailand.

Jazlina blossomed again. She now represents Thailand in international debating competitions, where she has won prizes. At this year’s iGCSE exams, Jazlina aced all her subjects and scored 100% in two subjects, including for the subject of her passion which she was not selected to take in Singapore.

Her mother shared that had they not brought her back into a more nurturing environment, her confidence would have plunged further. She felt that Singapore’s system was not bringing out the best in Jazlina, but was instead drowning her.

Mr Speaker, Sir, the President’s call for our children to ‘grow to be the best that they can be’ is a great ideal. Like Mr Lawrence Wong, I believe that education should light up fires in children. We have to deal with many like Jazlina, who are talented and passionate, but constrained by the system. Instead of being obsessed with picking out winners, education should make winners out of the ordinary.

We may have done well in the past. Based on that, we entrench our processes further without critically considering the changing environment or the negative effects. It has been 32 years since the Goh Report. I believe it is time to make bolder evaluation of our mainstream education.


Sir, next, I like to talk about the economy. I feel the government has become small in areas it should be big in, and big in areas it should be small in.

In the last decade, Singapore has adopted a free market approach for many government services. Some areas like the provision of public housing, public transportation and health care, which are essential social responsibilities of the government, have gone this route too.

My colleague, Gerald Giam had touched extensively on the under-capacity of hospital beds, public transport and housing as a result of this policy. We outsource critical areas to the private sector and hence we had issues such as DBSS which had caused unhappiness due to public housing being pushed to unaffordable levels.

The government chose to play a smaller role in the provision of essential services. It passed these responsibilities to the free market. With a free market mindset, the government was not prepared to take risks. As a result, Singaporeans bore the cost of the under-provision.

On the other hand, in areas that the government should play a smaller role, it has instead grown bigger.

As our economy developed through the years, instead of letting private enterprises take more initiative in the economy, our government’s share of the economy has grown through its participation in Government Linked Companies or GLCs. This is in contrast to countries like South Korea and Taiwan whose governments also had helped pioneered some key businesses but progressively withdrew to let the private sector drive growth thereafter.

The NTUC group is a large cooperative with a stated US$3.5 billion annual turnover from its website. GLCs and cooperatives like NTUC inevitably compete with local enterprises, making the domestic market even smaller for them.

A Straits Times Forum writer wrote last week to share his experience as an entry-level entrepreneur in Chinatown Complex. In May this year, NEA engaged professional valuers to appraise the value of the complex. Rent went up by 71 to 100% as a result.

Keeping rental cost manageable is important to the survival of small enterprises. In the past few years, JTC divested many of its properties to Real Estate Investment Trusts. I noted that rental cost of former JTC spaces have gone up as a result, an observation shared by SME leaders in an article in the Straits Times today. Hence, SMEs today struggle with high rental cost on top of challenging manpower cost.

SMEs sometimes also suffer in tenders due to risk aversion by government officers who may shun smaller companies even if the solutions offered have met specifications at lower costs. To promote the growth of SMEs, the government could look at ways to allow GLCs to participate only in tenders above certain minimum values. Or GLCs and cooperatives should withdraw totally from non-essential market segments if SMEs are capable of fulfilling local demands.

I believe there’s merit in encouraging SMEs to develop themselves further with a mindset of professionalism, precision and perfection. In some developed economies like Germany and Switzerland, there are vibrant cottage industries comprising long established family-run businesses. They have generations of know-how that have allowed their products to be sought after despite competition from lower cost countries.

SMEs create jobs. Those that have succeeded locally could end up as global winners. In Singapore, we also have our cottage industries. I am happy to note that we have long established food brands like Tee Yih Jia, Sin Hwa Dee, Polar Puffs and others that have been able to scale globally. It is imperative that Singapore provides the conditions to develop more of such local enterprises.

As we move forward to strengthen our economy, I hope the government can consider right-sizing itself in the appropriate areas. I like to see it being big in providing essential social services. I like to see it become small in running domestic businesses and leave the space to grow our SMEs.

With that, Mr Speaker, I support the motion of thanks.


23 comments on “Parliamentary Speech (19 October 2011)

  1. JJ,

    You have touched on a few vital points in your speech It’s pity that this wasn’t published in the press. Despite the casinos and the growth of wealth management business, I still feel that Singapore is still trapped in this middle-income country trap, trying to look for new sources of sustainable growth to drive the economy further. Making the situation worst, is as a country or society, it is still very stifling, conformist, which in my view, we need lots of innovation and creativity-related economic activities to drive growth ahead. For sure, our society will never have a Steve Jobs-type of person, because if such a person exists, the whole conformist culture will crush him/her just like the way PAP tries to crush every opposition. If situation remains the same, I think we will be condemned to be a 3rd-rate type of country, will be just another boring, soul-less, direction-less, modern city.

    For a start, your maiden speech was good, Keep it up!

  2. Nice! We have to ask ourselves this question – does the end of year exam really measure the student’s ability to learn well in this 21st Century where you can google almost everything for information? Have we explored other ways to measure their learning? How many students, parents and teachers are stressed out by the current system? Incorporating a “happiness” index as part of KPI for a school may be a small way for us to be aware of whether our students, parents and teachers are happy with the current situation in schools:)

    • Ah, the great happiness debate. Still ongoing in parliament after 3 days. Wonder how many more will refer to Bhutan and happiness by end of parliament tomorrow 🙂

  3. JJ,

    Well done. Keep it up. This will show the GAHMEN that only ONLY their MANDARINS can do critical thinking. Once again keep it up.

  4. Great Speech Joong. I am encouraged by your prsence in parliament. Do not forget that many Singaporeans are standing behind you. God Bless you!

  5. Hi JJ,

    Good speech! Basically, the PAP Govt has moved too far right in its policies in recent years. Time to get them to move back to the left (ie, more state help to the population), which I think it’s a difficult task due to ingrained habits and practices. As they say, it’s hard to move an elephant.

    In other first world countries, they’ve pluralism in their parliaments, typically resulting in 2 party-group system. One typically leans towards the left and the other to the right in terms of policies. No one policy is right or wrong. It varies from time to time and the voters will have to decide what’s best for them at that point of time. This means when the incumbent party is carrying its policies too far left or too far right, causing many undesirable side effects to the society, the voters will swing their votes to choose the other party…

  6. Got this from Wikianswers listing the major difference between Democrats and Republicans in the US:

    “Democrats are generally more liberal. They believe in a larger federal government, and often implement tax plans to try to help the less privileged. They tend to believe the government must look for the greater good above the individual person in terms of welfare and do what is necessary to make the populace more “equal”. They assert that the values our country holds must evolve over time, and, therefore, tend to support such controversial choices as Pro Choice and gay marriage.

    Republicans are generally more conservative. They believe that the answers do not lay with the government generally, but rather with the people. They want less government interference and tend to believe more strongly in property rights and less strongly in well-fare rights, holding economic equity above equality. Many republicans are religious and tend to hold to the morals characterizing the Founding Fathers, which results in general disapproval of abortions and, for some, gay marriage.”

    If you look at our PAP, we get the worst of both worlds! PAP generally doesn’t believe in welfare for the people and neither does it believe in less Govt interference in our economy…

  7. Broadening school curriculum to include political education sounded attractive to me. We can no longer dismiss this generation’s electorate as “politically apathetic”. The furore stirred up by this year’s elections seem promising, and something that I hope future generations can latch onto.

    But on second thoughts, who will be the ones conducting this education? Insofar as education in Singapore is under the ambit of the MOE, I have doubts as to how “political” this proposed “political education” can really be, and how far it may go beyond NE which the schools have now.

  8. Not Bad!!!

    pretty impressive speech.

    btw it is a misconception that history is difficult to score, atleast during my time which is more than 25 years ago lol, but I doubt the format has changed since.

    just need to study the pattern of questions, anticipate what the questions for the next exam will be and then write the model answers to those questions (if possible a few times), viola, good grades.

    I know that is obscene and pretty much reiterates what you said abt our education and exam system lol

  9. Lawrence Wong does not have the locus to ask you for the basis of what you said of GLCs and government linked co-ops encroaching on SMEs. Every SME owner like ourselves can testify to that. Since the report of the economic review committee of 2002, the situation has not improved for the SMEs but instead has got worse. Lawrence should show us what concrete measures that the govt took after the ERC and what were the results of these measures.

    Lawrence seemed to take SME owners for fools! It would assist his fledgling political career if he can learn some humility and ernestness and not to upset all SME owners while trying to score cheap points against the Workers’ Party. The arrogance really does not go down well with the people, especially in this climate.

  10. @Dennis, well-said. Lawrence Wong had neither worked in an SME before nor was directly involved in setting up or managing an SME business as far as most of us know. He was a civil servant all his life since graduation from university. What can we expect from a person of such a background in terms of fresh viewpoints on the challenges faced by SMEs in Singapore? His apparent “arrogance” just goes to show the consistent “superiority attitude” of PAP leaders whenever they are questioned by opposition MPs in areas which they are unfamiliar or unable to shed light. It is sad that our political leaders have to be often reminded of such attitude, especially during the General Elections.

  11. I applaud your speech. You speak the truth, the heartfelt emotions of the people. My wife was moved to tears. Finally a member of parliament who is in touch with how our educational system has robbed us of the joy of learning and parenting. I applaud your courage to speak out, who braves the rebuts and stood your ground in a calm demeanor. I am disappointed that few chose to listen to the meaning of your speech but are only interested to defend their positions and pick on technicalities. If only they can listen with heart and not with their minds and self interest.

  12. It is ironic that MOS Education, Lawrence Wong is in Finland now. No wonder he did not dare to criticise the Finnish system. Lawrence Wong was quoted in the Straits Times today on the topic of tertiary institution that there should be “multiple entry points with no dead ends”. I think he should think of applying the same principle to education of all sectors from primary to tertiary. The current education system is too skewered to schoolchildren who do well earlier on in school as well as smart exam takers. It is still too unforgiving to the late bloomers and those from less wealthy and privileged families where the parents do not studied in leading primary schools nor are they able to help tutor their kids (because of their lower education or because they have to work) and nor can they afford good tuition and supplementary classes. The system is also not equally supportive of students who thrive outside the traditional exam model eg those who have a creative streak. Many parents are still complaining of streaming in primary school and what is the MOE’s response even after last week’s parliamentary sitting where we see this topic having been raised again?


      The US embassy has reported back to US State Dept that only 23% of Singaporean students entering primary schools complete a degree at a local university subsidized by the Govt. In first world countries such as Japan, about 50% of students complete a university degree. The US embassy disclosed that Cheryl Chan, Assistant Director of the Planning Division at the Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE), had told them that it is a deliberate policy of the Govt to maintain the local university enrollment rate at 20-25%. The Govt does not plan to encourage more Singapore students to get a higher education because the Singapore’s labor market does not need everyone to get a four-year degree.

  13. Was wondering what you/ your party’s stand is on the present proposal to cap the number of graduates at 30% of each cohort? It would appear that China and India have not regarded employment outcomes in expanding and upgrading their graduates workforce (by the masses). And for their locals, the rationale is even if they cannot a job in their home country, at least a degree stands them in better stead to get a job overseas or start their own business/ upgrade their agricultural processes etc.

    Also at present one of the reasons given by employers hiring foreign gradates is that they cannot find locals with the right skills – could this be a result of under training/ under educating our workforce? Will our workforce suffer a competitive set back if we are up against a floodgate of graduates from overseas? Hence instead of saying there will be no good jobs for graduates if too many enter the workforce, could not lowering the expectations of graduates and pushing entrepreneurship be the way to go instead?

    • My personal take is that there are many singaporeans on private universities here and overseas doing higher studies. The aspiration for degree is definitely higher than 30%. This 30% cap is for those doing subsidized university degrees in the approved local universities. I will be monitoring the recommendations that will be made by the newly formed committee headed by MOS Lawrence Wong to see if we can make other suggestions to add to that. Don’t want to jump the gun right now.

      • University Education: Time for Govt to show it truly cares for Singaporeans
        by Kojak Bt on Friday, October 21, 2011 at 3:52pm

        The Council for Private Education, which tracks student numbers in private schools, recently released a figure showing that the total Singaporean enrollment in private schools for university education has reached 113,000. Many of the students are those who can’t get a place in our local universities, including many polytechnic students. This is in stark contrast to the 12,000 places set aside each year for Singaporeans at the local universities.

        These private schools actually partnered up with reputable brand-name overseas universities such as University of London, University of Sydney, University of Warwick, University at Buffalo, University of Western Australia and University of Newcastle, etc. Some of these universities were even the Alma maters of our Colombo Plan Scholars like the current National Development Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, who is a University of Newcastle engineering graduate.

        Singaporeans studying at these reputable overseas universities linked to private schools are in no way inferior to those studying at the local universities. University of London at SIM, for example, produced 117 students with first-class honours and 414 with second-class (upper) honours this year. The majority were Singaporeans. There is no doubt that these students would have done equally well if they had been given a chance to study at the local universities.

        So, why is the Govt not opening up more places in our local universities for more Singaporeans to study in? It would have saved much money for those students who studied at the private schools. The answer lies in a cable sent by the US embassy in Singapore to the US State Dept in 2007. This cable was recently exposed by Wikileaks (

        The US embassy has reported back to US State Dept that only 23% of Singaporean students entering primary schools complete a degree at a local university subsidized by the Govt. In first world countries such as Japan, about 50% of students complete a university degree. The US embassy disclosed that Cheryl Chan, Assistant Director of the Planning Division at the Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE), had told them that it is a deliberate policy of the Govt to maintain the local university enrollment rate at 20-25%. The Govt does not plan to encourage more Singapore students to get a higher education because the Singapore’s labor market does not need everyone to get a four-year degree.

        Clearly, such an archaic policy has failed miserably. It has not stopped Singaporean students who have been rejected by the local universities to obtain their degrees via private route. In fact, in the span of 5 years, higher education enrollment for Singaporeans at the private schools has increased more than 60% from 70,000 to the current 113,000.

        However, there appears to be a change in policy after the recent watershed general election which saw the ruling party securing the lowest % votes in the history of Singapore and the loss of a GRC resulting in the ouster of 2 full cabinet ministers. To appease the public, PM Lee even “retired” 3 other unpopular cabinet ministers who performed poorly in the general election.

        Officiating at a recent UniSIM graduation ceremony, Minister of State for Education, Lawrence Wong, said that the Ministry’s view is that more university places could be provided. A committee is now studying whether the private school route can be a viable alternative. It is considering whether the Govt should also provide financial support to students enrolled in private schools, much the same way it subsidizes students at the local universities. Note that currently, the Govt is already subsidizing students studying at one particular private school – UniSIM. UniSIM is presently the ONLY private university specially “endorsed” by the Govt. Its Chancellor is none other than the former President of NTU, Professor Cham Tao Soon and it has Mr S R Nathan, ex-President of Singapore, as its patron.

        Singaporean students studying for a degree at UniSIM enjoy a 55% tuition fee subsidy while those studying at the local universities receive more than 70%.

        In conclusion, if the Govt truly cares for Singaporeans, it should then quickly formulate policies to increase even more places in the local universities for Singaporeans and to give subsidies to Singaporean students studying at all private schools offering degrees from accredited overseas universities. Any Singaporeans who are qualified to study a degree from accredited universities in Singapore should be supported. If the Minister of State Lawrence Wong is merely paying lip service with no follow-up actions, he may just very well be the next Minister to be voted out in the next general election. The electorate of today is very different from those in the past nowadays.

  14. I agree with Kojak Bt. The government seems to be blatantly ignoring the aspirations of the large numbers of Singaporeans doing their degrees with the private institutions. A lot of Singaporeans succeed in getting their degrees through courses with the private institutions in spite of the ‘barriers to entry’ allowed by the government and many of them are holding a full time job and/or having to look after their children.

    What about those who have such aspirations but could not even afford to study in these private institutions (even on a part time basis while holding a full time job)?

    The government should be doing more to help all Singaporeans aspiring to improve themselves or to excel. Instead the government is contented to operate with artificial quotas.

    In other developed countries, the ratio of the graduate population relative to the general population is consistently and significantly larger than what we see in Singapore.

  15. I’ll like to share this email that my dad forwarded. I cannot verify the source but it’s a pretty interesting POV of a local in Bhutan.

    Remember how Khaw Boon Wan had disputed Yee Jenn Jong’s praise for Bhutan and its people during Yee’s maiden parliamentary speech?

    Read what a Bhutanese teacher wrote on his blog (*
    *To Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, What did you expect? * *Email This*
    *Share to Twitter*
    *Share to Facebook*
    *(This is in reply to National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan of Singapore on his **comments made on our country*
    * **)*
    Dear Mr. Khaw,
    I was not surprised when you said Bhutan is not the last Shangri-la on Earth, because I had a friend from your country who found Bhutan only “full of mountains and valleys”. When you visited Bhutan, what did you expect?
    Those flying mountains you saw in Avatar? or Every Bhutanese merrily dancing in designer clothes? Well, you must have at least expected fancier cars and taller buildings but we only have taller mountains (not flying
    ones) and thicker forest (truly natural).
    I am not surprised even when you said “Most of the time, I saw unhappy people, toiling in the field, worried about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products.” because I heard a proverb in school that goes, “Two men looked through the prison window, one saw the mud and other saw the horizon”. I am only surprised that you have spend “Most of your time” in Bhutan looking in the fields. I am amazed at your ability to figure out whether the people are happy or unhappy just by looking at them- O’ you even knew they were “worried about the next harvest”. No wonder you country export human resources.

    The Man who didn’t find happiness in Bhutan. *Source:channelnewsasia*

    I visited your wonderful country sometime ago, and it felt like a city from the future. The transportation system held me spell bound, Cleanliness of the street is so much that I didn’t find a fragment of dust on my shoes after walking for the hours, Every building and car looks new, and there is no question about the civic sense among the people. Four days after I landed in Bhutan I woke up and started sharing the stories of your wonderful country- yes it took me four days of sleeping to shake of the hangover of many sleepless nights in your 24X7 country. I read the amazing history of your country and thought to myself, if Bhutan’s to develop, Singapore can be our vision.

    But since you questioned the presence of happiness in Bhutan, let me answer by telling you few things that you overlooked when you visited my country.
    Those people you saw in the fields weren’t unhappy, if you have gone closer you would have heard them singing and enjoying the social lives, perhaps you won’t understand that. If you have spent a little longer time watching them, you would have seen a woman with basket on her back and holding arms with several children coming with steaming food- we don’t have McDonald or KFC. Then everybody will sit down to eat their lunch, laughing and joking, feeding babies, for over an hour- you wouldn’t have had so much time to sit and watch I know, times means money in your country. But we have luxury of time. People don’t worry “about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products.” In fact, we don’t do much commercial farming, we do most of them to keep with the tradition. And when the sun sets, doesn’t really matter what time, people leave for their homes where they have a large family waiting. Large family because we don’t chase away our children when they become 18 or children cast away their parents when they age.

    We don’t need Health Insurance to survive, nor have to go for Education Loan for educating our children. We don’t hang the drug users, we counsel them to hang on to their lives, we don’t have to have a job to survive, and when we fall sick even the furthest cousin comes to attend without having to update Facebook status.

    If you reread our history you will find that our wise kings have hidden us from the outside world so that we could remain the way we are today. If we start mining our mountains and lumbering our forests, we can become Singapore in a year but no matter what you do you can never become Bhutan.
    It is far too difficult. We shall be the last breath of oxygen on earth.

    Bhutan may not be the Last Shangri-la but we are happy.
    By PaSsu at *1:01

  16. GK comment on fish catching :- don’t know if Yee is a Christian. If he knows the Gospel, he will have use the example to insult the head-hunted ‘fish’. The greatest Servant-Leader recognized by the commercial world Jesus Christ rounded His troops by calling fishermen and telling them they are to catch men instead of fish. The elected leaders should be fishermen out to catch fish rather than to be fish to be caught. That is where the wrong concept starts Geoffrey Kung, founder of REVERSE Co-operative. Joo chiat Con resident

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