Few years back, an Indian expatriate in Singapore was describing about the change occurred in that country over the last fifty years in a vernacular daily. In the article, he mentioned that the present day Singapore Airport was full of straying pigs fifty years back and is now one of the busiest airports in the world. All that change was due to the authoritarian and decisive intervention made by the government under Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Yew was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and ruled the country for almost three decades.
Mr Yew died on Monday at the age of 91, leaving a remarkable period of sophisticated administration that made Singapore flying to utmost progress from backwardness. His helm at the South East Asian nation has made its citizens one of the highest well living people in the world along with Switzerland, Sweden etc. About this march to progress, Mr Yew has written a book titled ‘From Third World to the First’.
Rarely in history, there occurs such a quick transition even though the nation is small. Such was the credential of Yew, who was an ethnic Chinese. He was a visionary, a tenacious and uncompromising leader.
If Singapore has transformed from a sleepy port city into a thriving global metropolis that itself within a single generation, it is due to the administrative skill of this politician turned lawyer.
At the early period of his rule, Yew invited companies and investors to Singapore by designing a new model of development. “We had to create a new kind of economy,” he wrote, “try new methods and schemes never tried before anywhere else in the world because there was no other country like Singapore.”
The result of his innovative economic policies was the rise of Singapore as a wonder state. Lee who openly courted and boasted the Eastern values of confucious origin, protected the rising Singapore from the eyes of the calculative Chinese. At the same time he reamined at the US side at a time when the US-China rivalry was yet to born. Later, the Chinese also imitated many economics tactics followed by Yew in Singapore.
About Yew’s demise, the US President Obama has remarked “Lee’s views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic management were respected by many around the world, and no small number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought his advice on governance and development.”
UK’s David Cameron has observed “He made his country into one of the great success stories of our modern world.”
For all leaders of the developing world who wish to transform their country towards progress, Lee Kuan Yew will remain the first person of the third world.