03 Apr 2013


On 16 September this year, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew will turn 90. On exactly the same day, our School will hold a one-day conference on “The Big Ideas of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.” This conference will also commemorate the ninth anniversary of our School. Even though Mr. Lee has fully retired from public office, interest in his ideas continues to grow — in Singapore and globally. Earlier this year, a new book on Mr. Lee was released by Graham Allison, the legendary former dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Robert Blackwill, a former American ambassador to India. The book contains excerpts from interviews and selections of Mr. Lee’s writings. It has been a bestseller in Singapore and on Amazon. The book has some remarkable endorsements, including one from President George H.W. Bush, who says: “In my long life in public service, I have encountered many bright, able people. None is more impressive than Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.” While this book only focuses on his contributions in the international arena, the School’s one-day conference will focus on his contributions in many different dimensions. Hence, there will be panels on the state and its well-being, rule of law, geopolitics, and governance and implementation. We are truly blessed that a very distinguished group of Singaporeans have agreed to come and speak at the conference. They are Prof. S. Jayakumar, Chan Sek Keong, Joe Pillay, Janadas Devan, Heng Swee Keat, Bilahari Kausikan, Chan Heng Chee, Peter Ho and Yong Ying-I.

To ensure that the insights and ideas gathered at the conference are not lost, the School has also decided to produce a volume on the proceedings of this conference. Prof. Rahul Sagar of Princeton University has kindly agreed to fly to Singapore for the conference and edit this volume. Given the success of previous volumes on Mr. Lee, there is no doubt that there will be a lot of interest in this volume. We will also share some key insights through other publications of the School, including Global-is-Asian.


The range of articles covered in this edition also illustrates the diversity of research being undertaken in the School. We are carrying out an in-depth research on the China-India relationship and we have recently launched a bi-monthly newsletter on Kishore Mahbubani DEAN’S MESSAGE Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s Big Ideas by Kishore Mahbubani key developments in the Sino-Indian relationship. The discussion on the values and attitudes of public-sector mandarins and private-sector business executives is clearly an important one at this stage as the whole world is striving to rebalance the respective roles of the public and private-sectors. With the end of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, the time has come to strengthen the public recognition of the vital contributions made by the public-sector. Vivid proof of the difference that a good publicsector can make was provided in a remarkable essay written by Gillian Tett in the Financial Times on 8 June 2013. She highlighted that even though Singapore spends only 4% of its GDP on health care, it has delivered better results than America’s health care system which consumes 18% of America’s GDP.

In short, when this conference on Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s big ideas is held in September, it is our hope that it will lead to new insights that explain how such remarkable public-sector success stories have emerged in Singapore. Do keep up your subscription to Global-is-Asian (http://bit.ly/15i3ZHR). Future issues may contain unique insights that may not be available elsewhere.

Kishore Mahbubani is Dean of the LKY School of Public Policy, NUS, and author of The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World.