World leaders need to rally together to show leadership in tackling corruption, just as the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had demonstrated in making Singapore so successful.
Combating graft and advocating transparency was the main focus of United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron when he spoke at the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School) on 28 July. On an official trip to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations and partnership between Singapore and the UK, Mr Cameron made a special visit to the School to deliver a speech as part of the LKY School Distinguished Speaker Series.
The British Premier noted that corruption adds 10 per cent to business costs globally, and by cutting the practice by just 10 per cent, the global economy could benefit by US$380 billion annually.
"Corruption is one of the greatest enemies of progress in our time. It is the cancer at the heart of so many of the world's problems, he said.
In response to sceptics who think fighting graft could disadvantage their economies, Mr Cameron is convinced that countering the problem should not have to damage business, jobs and growth, but instead could bring the opposite effect.
"As we have seen in Britain and as we have seen here in Singapore: where tackling corruption hasn't held back growth, it's actually boosted it, he stressed.
"The challenge I am laying down for every country today is to root out the rot of corruption, he exhorted. For those who say the practice is too deeply ingrained to defeat, Mr Cameron is confident it can be overcome. He singled out the late Mr Lee and paid tribute to Singapore's founding father who embodied the leadership in the tough battle.
The Prime Minister also illustrated the success of the Open Government Partnership initiated by Britain, which has seen 65 countries making over 2,000 commitments on transparency and openness.
Other encouraging examples to promote trade and transparency included the G8 agenda for sharing tax information across nations, and an international plan to prevent companies from artificially shifting their profits across borders to evade taxes.
Another key area Mr Cameron believes in is transparency of business ownership. To lift the shroud of secrecy exploited by criminals to hide their ill-gotten gains, Britain will from next year establish a publicly accessible central registry showing the real owners of British companies. He urged other countries to follow suit.
Mr Cameron also underscored that Britain wants to play a bigger role in ASEAN, particularly in business. He observed the region's rapid rise in becoming the seventh largest economy in the world and pointed out the trade opportunities provided by the vast market.
During the question-and-answer session, Mr Cameron was asked questions ranging from solving "legal corruption to rule-of-law on the anticorruption drive.
The event was attended by some 300 guests including Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance; Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs; UK business delegates; local officials and industry leaders; as well as NUS academic staff and students.
In his opening remarks, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan highlighted that NUS' roots in solid British educational foundations have enabled the University to build up its distinctive innovations in education. He pointed out the significance of holding the event at the Bukit Timah Campus, the site of both the Raffles College and the University of Malaya (Singapore), from which NUS evolved. Also noteworthy was Mr Lee's ties to Raffles College as a student, as well as his rare endorsement of allowing NUS' public policy school to be named after him.