As Singapore celebrates its 50th year of independence this year, the country has kept its mission "substantially intact", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"That is quite an achievement," he said. But Singapore needs to get its economy to the next level as other countries in Asia snap at its heels.
"If we don't get to the next level, then we will have malaise and the angst, and even disillusionment, which you see in many developed countries," said PM Lee in an interview with Time magazine earlier this month.
A transcript of the interview was given to the Singapore media yesterday.
Freedom of expression was another talking point in the interview, and PM Lee was asked how he reconciled his awareness of young people's aspirations with the recent conviction of 16-year-old Amos Yee for a video containing offensive remarks, and legal action taken against blogger Roy Ngerng for a defamatory blog post.
PM Lee said there is "always a balance between freedom and the rule of law". "Freedom is never totally unlimited," he said, adding that it operates within certain constraints.
He stressed that giving offence to "another religious or ethnic group... language or religion" is a serious matter in a multiracial and multi-religious society such as Singapore's. "Even in the recent couple of years, we have seen many cases where one Internet post injudiciously can overnight cause a humongous row."
He said it is easier to cause and take offence with the Internet. And it is necessary to "learn where the limits are".
Referring to the defamation case against Mr Ngerng, PM Lee said: "You have freedom of speech, you can criticise the Government as much as you like on policy, on substance, on competence."
But it is a serious matter to make a defamatory allegation that the Prime Minister is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the pension funds of Singaporeans, he added. "If it's true, the Prime Minister should be charged and jailed. If it's not true, the matter must be clarified and the best way to do that is by settling in court."
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