Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Istana
In the evening of 20th April, Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore, hosted a very special group of people--these were innovators and entrepreneurs from various parts of the world who had assembled there at the invitation of Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The occasion was the first ever conference by the Founders Forum in Singapore.
"The tech industry is one of the bright spots in the world," he said, setting the mood for the evening. "There is a sense of adventure, there is the confidence that anything is possible. There is the excitement that the next bright idea can change the world. I am sure all of you feel that, and live that, and that is why you are here this evening."
He highlighted how the IT revolution and the Internet are causing immense changes to how we live - altering lifestyles, habits, social norms, how people communicate and learn about the world – not just through books, newspaper or television but through Wikipedia, Twitter, Snapchat, and the next start-up tomorrow, which are much more dynamic and can better keep up with the changing world.
"All these IT can only be a good thing for Singapore because we are well placed to take advantage of the technology and make a quantum leap forward," he said. "Why? I give you three reasons. Firstly, the ethos of our society is rational, technological and forward looking. We have always looked ahead, tried to look over the horizon to keep our economy open, and to use technology to overcome our physical constraints. We are investing in R&D, over the past ten years we have invested SGD30billion, we have grown research institutes that work with companies to develop new solutions. We have pushed for e-Government – we introduced electronic tax-filing back in 1998, since ages ago, before anyone else did it, and today, 97% of tax payers file their taxes online. Because we have kept our tax code simple, you do not need to buy Quicken, Intuit or any of such things. Also, because we have automate the collection of information and populate the table for you, you do not need to work quite so hard – it is a little harder to cheat and so 3 in 5 taxpayers do not even bother about filing taxes. They just take in on trust that our Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore has done their sums right. So e-Government works in Singapore. There are other services too, for example, you can set up a company in 15 minutes, online. You can choose schools for your children, book sports facilities, apply for passports or visas online. Everyone takes it as the natural course of events and the way things are and that is how things work in Singapore. It is not only more convenient, but also more productive and efficient. It distinguishes us from many other cities in the world. So that is the first reason, the ethos of society, we are rationalistic, we are technologically drive and forward looking."
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