22 October 2011
My reply to Minster Khaw on his comment "Bhutan is not the 'Shangri-la on earth'"
Bhutan is not the 'Shangri-la on earth', says Khaw
Posted: 19 October 2011 1839 hrs
Khaw Boon Wan speaking in Parliament
SINGAPORE: The measure of happiness has been a topic of debate in Parliament over the last few days, and constant references to Bhutan have been made as well.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan joined the debate, saying he visited the small nation a few years ago and the romanticised version of the ancient kingdom did not fit the reality he saw there.
In his speech in Parliament on Wednesday, he said Bhutan is not the "Shangri-la on earth" that some make it out to be.
Mr Khaw 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. They have studied us because Singapore is also a tiny nation, living next to big neighbours.
"We have successfully transited from third world to first, and managed to create a functioning and harmonious society for our people. In their minds, Singapore could well be the Shangri-la and they want Bhutan to emulate Singapore."
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Tan Chuan-Jin weighed in on the discussion on what some perceive to be the government's obsession with economic growth at all costs.
He said the pursuit of GDP should not be an end but a means to an end.
Mr Tan said the main preoccupation at weekly Cabinet meetings has been to provide for Singaporeans and Singapore.
He added that the government is not perfect and there are things that it can do better and it will do its utmost.
"Life cannot be whittled down into an efficient equation, however effective it may be. Not everything is an economic digit; some of the most important things in life cannot be quantified. At the end of it all, it is about us as Singaporeans, and the future we want to build for our children. And we as the government must have the courage to play our role to lead and do the right things," said Mr Tan.
- CNA /ls