Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Visiting Singapore and Brunei

The last leg of my book tour was Singapore. I’m now going to Brunei for a private visit. I want to thank His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah for his generous donation to the Clinton library. I’m only staying in Bandar Seri Begawan for a few hours, before I return home to the States.

I arrived in Singapore yesterday afternoon. I played golf with the former prime minister of Singapore Mr. Goh Chok Tong at the famous Orchid Country Club. At the beginning of the game I told Mr. Goh that my game wasn’t too good, since I hadn’t played for quite a while, because of my operation.

I didn’t have to say anything. Mr. Goh is a horrible golf player. Every time he hit the ball and it ended somewhere in the distance far to the left or right of the green, his caddy just put down another ball. I was stunned, but since they never moved a muscle in their face indicating it was a joke, I never mentioned it. We played for about an hour. I used one ball. Mr. Goh must’ve used at least 7 balls.

After this experience I met the current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong. We talked about the tsunami and the relief efforts. Later I met his father and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. He is a personal idol of mine.

He is the one, who turned a small backward island state into the economic powerhouse it is now. We talked about the economy and globalization. I didn’t say much. I listened to his opinions about the future of Asia and China. He thinks and he has been proven right many times in the past, that Asia will be the dominant economic force in the next few decades. He advised me to invest my money in Asia and especially Singapore.

I don’t know. I’m one of those people, who rather earn a small amount of interest as long as I can sleep at night, without worrying about my retirement. I’ve lived on the border of poverty for most of my adult life. Government pay is very low. Some might say, it’s more than I make.

That might be true, but being a governor you have to live up to a certain status. You can’t meet investors or lawmakers with holes in your suit or wearing K-mart tennis shoes. The reason I’m not a big fan of tax havens and foreign investments is a story Stanley Ho told me in Hong Kong.

We were flying over Hong Kong in his helicopter and he pointed at a house. He told me that house used to belong to Michael Hutchence. He was the lead singer for a band called INXS. I knew him very well. He performed at the White House several times, when we had parties. He died in an unfortunate accident in Australia several years ago.

He was married and he had a child. When they searched for his money after he died, they couldn’t find any. Michael’s lawyer told them INXS was a big band and business hadn’t been all that good.

According to Stanley this was nonsense. Michael had lived in Hong Kong since he was a little kid. What he and his lawyer did was, they stashed his money away in Hong Kong to avoid paying taxes in Australia, Britain and America. In the end, his lawyer took the money and Michael’s wife, devastated took her own life, leaving the daughter destitute.

No, my money won’t leave the US. I might never get rich, but at least I can sleep at night knowing I don’t have to worry about my retirement.

I would like to thank the people in Singapore for turning out in such great numbers to have their books signed. It means a lot to me. I hope I will be able to visit Singapore again some time, although I don't think I'll be playing golf here again. Thank you for a wonderful time.