Barack Obama: Singapore’s Racial Integration Has Contributed To Its Success

One of the reasons why Singapore has been so successful is because “it has been able to bring together people who may look different, but they all think of themselves as part of Singapore”, said US President Barack Obama yesterday (June 1).

“That has to be a strength, not a weakness, but that requires leadership and government being true to those principles,” said Mr Obama, who was speaking to 75 emerging leaders from countries in the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN). The group, aged 18-35, was the first to visit the United States as part of the Young South-east Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Fellowships announced by Mr Obama in November last year.

Mr Obama, answering a question from an attendee, was calling for an end to the discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar, when he noted that one of the reasons for Singapore’s success has been the Republic’s ability to integrate the different races.

“The one thing I know is that countries that divide themselves on racial or religious lines, they do not succeed,” he stressed. “Each country is different, but there are some rules if you look at development patterns around the world that are pretty consistent, and those are two pretty good rules. Don’t divide yourself on religious and ethnic lines and racial lines, and don’t discriminate against women. If you do those two things, you are not guaranteed success but at least you’re not guaranteed failure.”

Answering an attendee’s question about economic development in Myanmar, Mr Obama also pointed to Singapore. He noted that businesses know they can find a very skilled workforce here and the rules are “international standard rules, in terms of operations”.

Mr Obama noted that in the age of the Internet, when companies can be located anywhere, “the most important thing is to find some place where there’s security so there’s no conflict, where there’s rule of law and the people are highly skilled. And if you have those those things, then people will invest”.

The session lasted for more than an hour, where Mr Obama spoke on topics including America’s relationship with South-east Asia and Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment. He also spoke about his “special attachment” to the region.

“As a boy I lived in Jakarta; my mother spent years working in villages to help women improve their life. So South-east Asia helped to shape who I am and how I see the world,” he said.



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