What me, British economist?

July 15, 2009

Time was when a British education had a cachet, especially among Britain’s far-flung colonial territories.

But could the prestige of even a Cambridge or Oxford degree be a little dulled in these parlous days for the British economy, now labouring under massive public debt and a decade-high unemployment rate?

That appears to be the case in the former British colony of Singapore, whose rapid economic development since independence in 1965 has seen it accumulate hundreds of billions of dollars in reserves and attain a GDP per capita on par with Italy.

The city-state’s newest opposition politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam has complained that the Singapore press — often accused giving more favorable coverage to the ruling party — has been referring to him as a “British-trained economist”.

Jeyaretnam, like many members of Singapore’s political establishment — including the country’s first prime minister and current prime minister — went to Cambridge.

“I wonder why I have never read in the Singapore press, British-trained mathematician prime minister Lee Hsien Loong or British trained-lawyer, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew,” Jeyaretnam said in a speech to the Singapore Foreign Correspondents Association earlier this month.

“Naturally I suspect that the mainstream media want to light up a subliminal marker in the people’s minds that a) I’m a foreigner and b) that my economics is suspiciously left-wing because it’s from a country associated with economic failure and the welfare state.”

Ouch.

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People like Jeyaretnam is needed in Singapore. Will he last for long though?

Posted by Jae P | Report as abusive