Allow your kids to have fun

One of the things that I often joked about when I started my parental journey was the fact that I would probably have to build an arsenal of guns to keep boys away from my little girl. I was once a horny little boy and becoming a father made me realise that the last thing, I’d want was for my daughter to deal with boys like me.

However, my assumption of basic parenting was from the pre-smartphone age. The Evil Teen who is now the Evil Young Lady lived her entire social life in cyberspace and instead of waiting up nights worrying that she was up to no good, I ended up praying for her to get out and meet people.

I wasn’t alone in this experience. My friends had the same battle with the kid and the smartphone. Whenever I got together with one of my best friends, the conversation would always centre around how our kids were glued to their phones and how they didn’t quite understand the costs of paying data.

Well, it seems that my friends and I can relax a little. On 31 August 2021, Singapore had a new richest man, which is Mr. Forrest Li, the Chairman and CEO of Sea Limited. The full report on Mr. Li’s accension to become Singapore’s richest can be found at: [LINK]

Sea Limited is Southeast Asia’s most valuable company and it is described as a “consumer internet company,” with businesses ranging from game development, publishing, ecommerce and fintech. For Singapore’s readers, the most visible part of Sea’s business is probably Shopee.

Mr. Li, unlike most of our local tycoons actually has a pretty compelling story. He was born in China, educated in the USA. Worked as an HR consultant and found that he loved playing games on the internet and so built his business around it.

As a parent with a kid tied to the phone, Mr. Li’s story gives me some hope. In my generation (Gen x), video games were what you did for fun and then grew out of. Mr. Li’s story gives Asia’s “career obsessed” parents some hope. Mr. Li has shown that the kid’s hobby might actually be a viable career path and God forbid, the foundation of a fortune.

However, the story of Mr. Li’s rise to the top is not just a story of giving parents hope that the kid locked up in the room playing games all day might actually have a career path. His story is precisely the success story that Singapore needs. He was a kid with a passion, who somehow found a way of making this passion pay. He’s created a business that is part of the “future” and capitalizing on changing trends (think of how ordering online and paying for things online is becoming a “normal” part of life.)

If you look at the list of richest Singaporeans, you’ll notice that Singapore approaches wealth creation or entrepreneurship creation in the same way that it approaches attempts to create sporting success. There will be a load of schemes throwing money at all sorts of programs to develop a grass roots movement for sporting success or entrepreneurship. Then someone who was parachuted into a prominent position will lose patience with the slow pace of things (people who are parachuted into cushy jobs are usually blind to the reality that the reality of sporting success or entrepreneurial success is usually dim and involves a long hard slog) and will go for the easy solution – buying people from elsewhere or in the case of billionaires, giving tax breaks. Just take a look at the latest Forbes List of Billionaires: [LINK]

Of the top ten, Mr. Li stands out for one very obvious reason. He is the only one who built a game changing business in Singapore. Li Xiting of Mindray, Zhang Yong of Haidilao and most famously Eduardo Severin of Facebook, built their businesses elsewhere and then settled in Singapore thanks for generous conditions offered by the government. The only other person in the top five you can be described as “self-made” is Goh Cheng Liang of Nippon Paint, who built business years ago. If you look at the top ten richest in Singapore, you’ll find that if they’re not imported from elsewhere, inherited their wealth. Of the native-born fortunes, only Goh Cheng Liang and Wee Cho Yaw of UOB belong to the generation that actually built the wealth.

The nature of the top ten fortunes would suggests that although Singapore is a wealthy nation, there’s actually very little genuine wealth creation. In simple terms, if you didn’t make elsewhere or didn’t get lucky in the genetic lottery, you’re not going to make it and the best you’ll ever be is a servant to those who already have it.

Mr. Li, and his gang of Ge Yang and David Chen at Sea, Dr Shi Xu of Nanofilm Technologies International (Dr. Shi has just replaced Professor Inderjit Singh as Chairman of NTUitive) and Tan Min-Liang of Razer are the odd balls on Singapore’s wealth list because they are actually creating wealth rather than investing it in one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world. In a list of 50, we only have five genuine creators of wealth.

When you consider how the economic landscape has changed, this is not a good sign. Singapore cannot repeat the old model of doing things cheaper than the West (China and India have more people willing to work cheap than we have people). Sure, we can rely on being the stable regional headquarters but once countries in the region get their act together (reduce corruption etc), that may no longer be so viable. We need bright sparks who can create wealth.

The government always gets orgasmic whenever we get billionaire decides to become Singaporean. Think of how excited we got when Sir James Dyson paid millions for a home. However, what does that actually do for the rest of us, other than to remind us that real estate is very expensive?

We need people who can think. They don’t have to be native born, but they have to be able to work with Singapore. I go back to my previous posting about Mr. Calvin Cheng’s intellectual laziness in his dismissal of a liberal arts education in Singapore. Liberal arts, don’t train you directly but they prepare you to think. Let’s take note that societies that create music and art also happen to be the societies that produce scientific innovation and entrepreneurship.

Mr. Li and the team at Sea Limited have done more than just give parents hope that their video games obsessed children might have a viable career. He’s also shown us that Singapore needs people who can think and create wealth from game changing activities rather than just sitting there and inheriting it.


Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.




6 Responses to “Allow your kids to have fun”

  • LongTong Ai Hum:

    You should let your kids eat a lot of hum. They will grow up intelligent like someone.

    GD Star Rating
  • Temusik Patriot:

    Hello? The one sitting on Top of these list is missing leh!!
    Where are the Lies??? Or Li better Known as Lees in the Lie Dynasty

    GD Star Rating
  • #08-193 Huang Ba Dan Always:

    People meet up and then play with their phones. Great company they are.

    GD Star Rating
  • MarBowling:

    Temusik Patriot:
    September 6, 2021 at 12:40 pm (Quote)
    Hello? The one sitting on Top of these list is missing leh!!
    Where are the Lies??? Or Li better Known as Lees in the Lie Dynasty

    Response: well said. Those in the TOP TEN Richest SinKaporeans have acquired their wealth either through inheritance or slog like hell before attaining their current wealthy status!

    However, NONE of these 10 is able to BEAT the LIES FamiLEE. NO NEED TO SLOG or SWEAT OR DEPEND ON INHERITANCE. Just obtain ABSOLUTE APPROVAL AND ENDORSEMENT FROM PARLEEMENT TO PAY HIMSELF WORLD HIGHEST OBSCENE $millions salary! Somemore, OWNSELF APPOINT OWNSELF and WIFEY to SQUAT as the Indian Chiefs of our 2 SWFs, DRAWING another SOURCES OF OBSCENE $Millions salary cum bonuses! Rumours purportedly said wifey salary cum bonuses is about $100 millions a year! Btw They have been squatting in their COSY POSITION for almost 18 LOONG Years!

    Wow, Husband and Wifey COMBINED annual income and wealth like that means their next 18 GENERATIONS FamiLEE members Don’t have much WORRIES. Cantonese saying Kenna Ta Pie Guek aka Both Legs Kenna Wreck until LIMP, also no worry or never mind!

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  • DeBarge:

    “The government always gets orgasmic whenever we get billionaire decides to become Singaporean. Think of how excited we got when Sir James Dyson paid millions for a home. However, what does that actually do for the rest of us, other than to remind us that real estate is very expensive?”

    The truth is it does nothing for most Singaporeans and it does a lot for a select few. The government uses such news as validation of their style of governance. They are that insecure and need affirmation like an anxious girlfriend.

    Speaking of lazy thinking, Lee Hsien Loong’s ejaculation is an interview that he would so happy to have more billionaires coming to Singapore because of the trickle down effect (I paraphrase), is the kind of sloppy thinking you would never find from his father. Billionaires are only loyal to their money. You have to give them stuff to bring them here. They don’t need to give them anything because you are so happy just that they come here. Sounds like a Blackpink fan.

    So to summarise, the government is not thinking about the Singaporean man in the street except when they get in the way of their plans. They can import anything they want including people, so why care about you ? They are building Utopia for them and Dsytopia for you.

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  • Shenkoji Buchikonya:

    In China especially corporations have created millions of good jobs and raised the standard of living of entire populations. Singapore with the weakest corporations have not seen what faceless, soul-less, greed-soaked corporations do when they get tons of money and therefore power. How they fake power outages, sell sugar water and claim it’s baby apple juice, keep wages almost sweatshop-low while managers get ridiculous pay they don’t really earn (their workers do).

    This pandemic has created a two tier economy with a large segment in the 2nd tier that has seen a rise of economic inequality, what I call the “minimum wage problem.” However our power hungry politicians will never give up their grandstanding power to address this (though they seems to). Their plan, in a nutshell, is to create a permanent aristocracy.

    Clown shows don’t normally hurt people. The present ‘cabinet’ was way more awful and consequential than a clown show

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