From: Parliament Q&A on 17 Aug 1999

Mr Low Thia Khiang: May I seek clarification from the Senior Minister? Is the Senior Minister implying that even with the PAP, the dominant party, continuing as Government, he has no confidence and that the PAP may one day produce a government that will squander the reserves, thereby you need the checks and the circuit breakers?

Mr Lee Kuan Yew: I fully concede that. I cannot tell Mr Low Thia Khiang what his grandson will be. I know what he is. I do not know what his son will be, never mind his grandson. A society goes through many phases. Those who missed the hardships of the Japanese Occupation will not understand my generation. Those who were born after the PAP formed the Government may believe that better roads, schools, hospitals, facilities come as the natural order of things. I do not blame them. Therefore, this setback which we had, which could become much more serious, was a reminder of how things could go dreadfully wrong. One day President Suharto was supreme; in 1997 he mismanaged a crisis. In May 1998 the country began to unravel. It is a natural sequence of the passing of the generations. He had to face a generation of Indonesians that no longer shared with him – the fight against the Japanese, against the Dutch – but a generation that had increasing frustrations and anger at what they saw was mismanagement of their resources.

Can I say that my successors will be as fortunate in passing on the baton to their successors? Can Mao Zedong predict that Deng Xiaoping would inherit his mantle because he castigated him and rusticated him three times? Can Deng Xiaoping predict that Zhao Ziyang would fail him? Or that Jiang Zemin would stay for so long? Can Jiang Zemin be certain that his next president will be as wise and astute? Nobody could foresee what happened. Therefore, we try our best to have institutions in place. They are not perfect. In the end, they may all fail. Then your and my grandsons will be the worse for it.

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