Lee Kuan Yew died Monday, March 22 at 3:08 AM in the Singapore General Hospital. Mr. Lee passed away peacefully after a long battle with pneumonia and left behind a city-state much richer and more stable than many would have predicted all those years ago when he first rose to power.
Lee Kuan Yew has been out of the political spotlight for some years, but his impact on Singapore cannot be overestimated. Once an impoverished port, Singapore now ranks among the richest countries in the world, and has established itself as one of Asia’s leading financial centers and high-tech manufacturing hubs.
Lee Kuan Yew Faced A Tall Task With Leading Small Singapore
Mr. Lee faced no small task when Singapore was forcibly kicked out of its union with its much larger neighbor, Malaysia. Tensions between the Malay-dominated Malaysia and the Chinese-dominated Singapore were high. The city-state’s own population was largely poor and undereducated, and there was little land for agriculture. Add in the rapid withdrawal of British support and a strong threat from local communists, and then Prime Minister Lee was faced with an unenviable task.
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Mr. Lee would transform Singapore by building up a export-oriented manufacturing sector and creating a business environment friendly for Western multi-national corporations looking to establish a home base in Asia. He would also pour resources into education and increasing his own citizen’s skill sets.
While Mr. Lee was domineering at times, few can doubt his commitment to improving the city-state. He tolerated no corruption and was quick to pursue charges against any government official caught abusing his or her post. And while Singapore is far from being a welfare state, Mr. Lee made a de facto commitment to provide employment for all.
Lee Kuan Yew – Singapore Now Ranks Among The World’s Best
By no small measure Mr. Lee transformed the small backwater port into a thriving and independent nation-state. Singapore’s education system regularly ranks in the top five, and the ciy-state also has one of the world’s most efficient and affordable healthcare systems. Pollution is also low, while home ownership is high thanks to the country’s massive public housing efforts.
Singapore now has one of the highest number of millionaires per capita in the world, and GDP per capital regularly ranks in the top five. Singapore also ranks at or near the top in regards to business friendliness and tax burden rankings. In nearly every other ranking, from infrastructure, to the academic reputation of country’s national university, Singapore comes in near the top.
And while Mr. Lee may have been aided by the country’s small size, it’s hard to deny that he did anything but a remarkable job in regards to the aforementioned indicators.
Singapore’s success, however, has not come without costs. The Singaporean government has frequently been accused of being a nanny-state that goes too far in its interferences in the every day choices of citizens. Dissent is not tolerated, and the media is heavily controlled and censored. And while the country is nearly free of serious crime, it has also criminalized a wide range of seemingly trivial things, such as forgetting to flush the toilet.
Inequality also remains an issue. While Singapore’s GDP per capita ranks in the top five in the world, the city-state barely managed to crack the top twenty when it comes to median household incomes. And while poverty is almost unheard of, the city does have to contend with a large population of working poor.
Regardless, while Singapore will have to continue to adapt and evolve to current and future challenges, Lee Kuan Yew did an incredible job of transforming the city-state into one of the most vibrant metropolitan areas in the world.