понедельник, 23 мая 2011 г.

Lee Kuan Yew: “Everyone should learn English, and their native language is to become the second one”

Here comes the translation of the Forbes article by Anton Saraykin (SKOLKOVO MBA Graduate) about the Singaporean first Prime-Minister. The original text in Russian is available here
“My tactics was always in underestimating my future advances and achieve more than I had promised.” Lee Kuan Yew
On May, 16, the 87-year old creator of the Singaporean Miracle and one of the most outstanding politicians of the century announced his resignation from the post of the Singaporean Minister-Mentor. After 30 years of ruling his country as a Prime-Minister and 7 years of being the mentor for the Singaporean government, now Lee resigns in order to “give way to the young.” In these years he managed to convert the poor fishermen village of Singapore into the prosperous state with practically no corruption and one of the most wealthy and educated population in the world.

In the recent years Lee Kuan Yew was a frequent guest in Russia. It was several years ago when Ruben Vardanian, the SKOLKOVO business school President, had proposed to the Minister-Mentor the membership in the Advisory Board of a yet unbuilt school, and since then Lee Kuan Yew willingly comes to Moscow to give lectures, handle the student cards and share his advice with the SKOLKOVO students.

“Do you speak Chinese?” – He asked me during one of such meetings. Singapore made a huge leap in its development in the 50-s because of Lee’s aggressive strive to make the English language the principal one for his country. Now, when most of the population communicates frrely in English with each other, he is pointing out the neccessity of learning Chinese and so he introduces it in the schools. That is partly why I have chosen to work at the ChineseOnline.ru start-up project – the opinion of the Minister-Mentor is worth listening to.

Not only business school students have something to learn from Lee Kuan Yew – many of the politicians and statesmen do as well. He had deep sympathy for Russia and believes in its future success; though he anticipates “some patience will be needed”.

Inspite of his elderly age, Lee Kuan Yew keeps amazingly clear and imformed on the news from all over the world and Russia particularly. And by all means his outstanding sense of humour still makes any audience like him at once. I do hope his health lets him come to Moscow again and again.

Hereafter I will quote some extract from one of his meetings with the SKOLKOVO students.

- Who was the person to assert the most important influence over you?

- I wanted to become a successful lawyer. In order to become a successful lawyer in the country ruled by the British and where all the judges and procurators were British I had to become as British as they were – I learned English perfectly, studied in the best universitied and law schools. Upon my return home I went to work for a British law firm, some time later I began to work with labour unions, then I won the elections (which my boss lost). So he adviced me to leave the partner post – and thus I found myself unemployed.

After that I had nothing to do but create my own practice together with one of my close friends. I became much more competent, started to learn new technologies. It is important to present your business interestingly, otherwise you won’t be heard. You should always learn new things. Later I became a politician.

- You are one of the most successful corruption fighters. How manageable this task is, what do you think?
- Singapore is a unique state. It was extremely corrupted before we came to power. When the British ruled here they tended to share power with the local ministers and gave them more and more authority during the transaction period. This authority transfer began to be accompanied with bribes – presents, more presents, and finally money.

When we came to power we understood that the only way to survive was to end this. Our neighbours possess enormous resources – oil, gas, wood, they have large rivers and water power plants, whereas we are just a small island. How could we survive? We had to begin living on the new principles: you take bribes, and I won’t; your economy is not efficient, and ours is; it is unsafe to live in your country, and absolutely safe to live in ours (a woman may decide to go jogging at 3 a.m. and she will be completely safe). How did we manage to achieve this all? First of all, we made it clear for the people that the only way to survive is to go our own way.

We don’t have oil or gas resources but we do have the largest refining and petrochemical complex in the region. All the largest corporations work in Singapore. Why? Because of steadiness, investment safety, efficiency and reliability. Here is an example. When in 1973 all Arabic countries imposed an oil embargo because of the US support to Israel and stated that all the oil in the storage plants is no longer the property of the other people but their – I decided that in our prosperity’s sake we should not interfere into this conflict. So I called the oilmen and said: if you are going to make business as usual and consider the losses to be divided for everybody so that everybody receives only a part of what they received in the past – we are here to share your standpoint.

And they didn’t forget about it. Today, even during the recession, the ExxonMobil’s investments to Singapore are $12 bln (it was $6 bln before Exxon had absorbed Mobil). They are going to add more $4.5 bln and then the overall investments will amount to $16.5 bln.

Why do you think it happens? Because they are sure that we will never waive our responsibilities. It will take a long time for Russia to achieve that after what has happened to the Western oil companies here. I am not trying to judge who was right and who was wrong. I am just saying that when we sign a contract we always analyze the conditions accurately – and either we sign it or we don’t; and if we did we are obliged to follow its conditions, regardless of what they are.

You need to have trust. You need to understand that the deal may bring you losses but in the long run it will make you win.

- Is that true that you have used your authority to obtain the Prime-Minister chair for your son?

- I have been asked that question for 1001 times. I didn’t appoint my son, I appointed the Prime-Minister, my successor, who served at this post for 14 years. And it was he who decided to appoint my son as his deputy; I took no part in that decision. When he was the Minister of Defence my son was the Head of operations division, and the Minister was pleased with his work, so he asked him to qiut and become a politician.

I don’t want to overestimate my son’s achievements but will tell you the following. He decided to enter Cambridge University to study mathematics – the same college in which Isaac Newton had proven his theory of gravitation, the Thrinity College. I told him: wait, they have really high standards there; you need to pass the entry exams first. So he passed them and was enrolled for the second year. In two years he achieved what others need three years to. After his graduation exams one of his professors wrote to the Singaporean Student Associations which givs grants to the best students, that my son had received 16 highest grades more than anybody in his class. That was the first time n Cambridge’s history. So these are the endowments he has. He speaks English, Chinese, Malay, and he even knew Russian. He has been Prime-Minister for five years already, and no one doubts that he is appropriate for this post now.

- How do you manage leading people as good as, for instance, De Gaulle did? What is your secret?

- I never read what’s written. I always look in the people’s eyes. Everything that is written in the prepared speech, in the papers is always structurized. Though the most importatnt thing is to not to let the audience loose its attention to what you are saying. That’s why I always forget about my written text and look them in the eyes. If I see that they didn’t grasp some thought I repeat it in another way. It is likely that Lenin and other great speakers did the same.

I am not a grest speaker, but I keep learning. If you are a politician, the telecuer is definitely not the thing to help you make people interested in what you are saying. Speaking is fatuous when you are glued to the text written. You should always look at your audience and if you see that they have lost the thread – repeat what you have already said – this is what I do.

De Gaulle did the other thing – his every word was carefully adjusted. I don’t speak French but I have read his memoires and was present at his speeches – he was a really great orator. You could remember all his speech from the beginning till the end – every single word. He worked on his rhythm, intonations, emphasises in advance.

When I started my career in 1952 I had to speak several languages. Upon my return from Great Britain I began working for the labour unions free of charge. I helped then because I was already working on the idea of creating a political party based on them. I learned to speak the languages of common people - Malay and simplified English (not the one you can hear at BBC, - that is a language with no grammar rules, actually you speak Malay with the English words.) Then I began working with the unions who used Chinese. In the beginning I had to speak three-four languages at one time – that really takes all your energy.

Once I made a speech in three languages – English, Chinese and Malay. English is my main language, the easiest one for me to speak, so I use it most often. After working for some time in the radiobooth with a small window I had to lie down on the floor – I had no air to breathe with – and I really had to use all my energy. Why? For people to believe that I speak honestly and I myself do trust my every word and I will do what I promise to do.

My policy in education is to make everyone choose English as their main language. Otherwise how are you going to earn for life? How could you work with multinational corporations in the 1950-s? If I speak only Malay I am going to end up as a beggar. Everyone should learn English and their native language is to become the second one. Chinese is a good one now to become the second language.
My tactics was always in underestimating my future advances and achieve more than I had promised. That is how I tried to achieve people’s trust, and did it for 30 years.

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