Dear Mr President Obama,
I refer to your recent compliment to our Minister Mentor, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. You said Mr Lee 'helped to trigger the Asian economic miracle.' But just how momentous or important has his 'trigger' been?
The Asian economic miracle began with the miracles of the four East Asian dragons of Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Since all started industrialisation around the same time, how do we know if it was Singapore that helped 'trigger the Asian miracle' and not Hong Kong, Taiwan or Korea instead?
History has shown that the success behind the Asian miracle rested with export oriented industrialisation. Countries that embarked on import substitution industrialisation failed to prosper. Yet, when Mr Lee first took over the reins of government in 1959, it was precisely the route of import substitution that he took. It was only in 1965 when Singapore was separated from its Malaysian hinterland that import substitution became untenable, forcing Singapore to embark on the route of export oriented industrialisation. So if there had been a 'trigger' for the Asian miracle, it must have been lady luck.
Moreover, Singapore's plans for industrialisation came largely from one man - the Dutch economist Dr Albert Winsemius who was also instrumental in bringing the first multinationals like Shell and Philips onto the shores of Singapore. So if we have to name one person who 'helped trigger the Asian miracle', it would have been Dr Winsemius rather than Mr Lee.
Finally, this 'trigger' is not an Asian secret but an open recipe to all countries around the world. So why didn't the 'trigger' lead to a worldwide 'miracle'? Even in Asia, the 'miracle' didn't spread evenly across the continent. Countries like the Philippines and Indonesia continue to languish behind in progress. So clearly, it takes much more than just 'triggers' for 'miracles' to happen. Therefore it makes little sense to speak of 'triggers for miracles' as though it happens at the snap of our fingers.