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George Yeo on Bonsai, Banyan and the Tao
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George Yeo's 1991 speech on pruning the banyan tree of the Singapore state, a political canopy under which nothing could grow, heralded an era of activism by civil society, which had hitherto been seen as a threat to the dominance of the PAP state.The ministerial speeches by Yeo — an indefatigable writer — are distinguished by his deep and clear thinking about the place of democracy in good governance. Yeo is what may be called a liberal conservative. An iconic product of Singapore's meritocratic but authoritarian system, he was a political conservative, believing in the need for discipline and stability above all in a city-state without the margin for error due to a lack of natural resources. Nevertheless, he was far-sighted enough to recognise that order and stability could survive only if the system were liberalised judiciously from within so as to attract and retain the idealism and energy of a younger and liberal citizenry.A thinker and strategist, Yeo led the Singapore team which negotiated Free Trade Agreements with the United States, Japan, Australia and other countries. Controversially, he proposed the idea of having Integrated Resorts, including casinos, in Singapore, although his late father had had a problem with gambling. A true-blue Singapore pragmatist, he believes that policy-making often involves a choice between evils.This book is a compilation of speeches selected from the entire range of what Yeo penned and delivered throughout his political life, covering from domestic issues, which have not lost their resonance today, to international realities — in Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and the United States — within which Singapore will have to survive and thrive.

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