From third world to first – it was the title of Lee Kuan Yew’s memoires, and hinted at his determination to turn this tiny island nation into the prosperous country it is today. At its birth, Singapore had no natural resources save for its location and its people.
We are out on our own…that the world owed us nothing. That if we didn’t get up and do something for ourselves and make ourselves relevant and useful to the world, then we’ll just go back to be a fishing village of 150 souls, which is what the place could support in its natural state.
Singapore’s economy has grown at an almost dizzying pace. It’s a manufacturing center, a financial hub, there are high tech industries here. It has one of the world’s largest ports. It’s a remarkably diverse economy for such a small country and business leaders here in Singapore say that Lee Kuan Yew deserves much of the credit.
Very often when I travel now, people tell me that Singapore punches above its weight. When you punch above your weight; that means you have taken your place in the world of business, in the world of education, hopefully culture…so we are talking about two different worlds in a matter of one and a half generations.
Singapore is famous for its strict rules and Le Kuan Yew made no apologies for this approach. Discipline can have a very real economic impact though; doing business here is easy and corruption is minimal and that is very important if you want to attract foreign investors.
Primarily the whole idea was to find jobs for Singaporeans as quickly as possible – not enough domestic sources of investment, we need foreign investment to come in, set a framework which is attractive for businesses to come into Singapore. Therefore [the] easiest way: remove and eradicate corruption itself.
If the west was critical of Lee Kwan Yew’s uncompromising qualities, it was always far more positive about his economic record. Timothy McDonald, BBC News, Singapore.