Hospitalized Lee Kuan Yew delivers speech on widening wealth gap

Other News Materials 14 September 2008 05:18 (UTC +04:00)

Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew managed to deliver a speech Saturday night while hospitalized for an abnormal heart rhythm.

Lee, who turns 85 on Tuesday, addressed 200 participants attending the Global UBS Philanthropy Forum via video link from Singapore General Hospital.

He apologized to the audience of social entrepreneurs and civil society representatives for not being with them.

"Unlike Kim Jong Il, who says he is well but has not appeared, I thought I'd better say hello to you and to your guests and apologize for not being able to join you," The Sunday Times quoted the minister mentor as saying.

Lee was referring to North Korea's reclusive leader, who missed his own country's 60th anniversary celebrations last week, reportedly because of a stroke.

Earlier Saturday, Lee experienced atrial flutter, an abnormal heart rhythm, according to his office. He is expected to resume his normal schedule within the next few days.

He emphasized the importance of successful individuals giving back to society and named as examples Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and legendary investor Warren Buffet.

Philanthropy is one of the keys to the health of US society, Lee said.

"Asia must go that way if we are to keep our societies in one piece," he told the group, according to the newspaper report.

"Unless the successful show that they have compassion, sympathy, empathy for the less successful, it will be difficult to keep the cohesiveness of society together."

Lee mentioned China and India, where rapid economic development has widened the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Lee is credited with transforming Singapore from a colonial backwater into a financial powerhouse and technological centre.

Critics have said that some of his methods were authoritarian, while Lee served as the country's first prime minister for 31 years.

He currently holds an advisory position, minister mentor, in the cabinet of Lee Hsien Loong, the senior Lee's 56-year-old son, dpa reported.