Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew has died.
Lee Kuan Yew, the statesman who transformed Singapore from a small port city into a wealthy global hub, has died at the age of 91.
Mr Lee served as the city-state’s prime minister for 31 years, and continued to work in government until 2011.
Highly respected as the architect of Singapore’s prosperity, Mr Lee was also criticised for his iron grip on power.
Under him freedom of speech was tightly restricted and political opponents were targeted by the courts. . .
A charismatic and unapologetic figure, Mr Lee co-founded the People’s Action Party, which has governed Singapore since 1959, and was its first prime minister.
The Cambridge-educated lawyer led Singapore through merger with, and then separation from, Malaysia – something that he described as a “moment of anguish”.
Speaking at a press conference after the split in 1965, he pledged to build a meritocratic, multi-racial nation.
But tiny Singapore – with no natural resources – needed a new economic model.
“We knew that if we were just like our neighbours, we would die,” Mr Lee told the New York Times in 2007.
“Because we’ve got nothing to offer against what they have to offer. So we had to produce something which is different and better than what they have.”
Through investment in schooling, Mr Lee set about creating a highly-educated work force fluent in English.
He reached out to foreign investors to turn Singapore into a manufacturing hub, introducing incentives to attract foreign firms.
The city-state grew wealthy and later developed into a major financial centre. But building a nation came with tight controls – and one of Mr Lee’s legacies was a clampdown on the press.
These restrictions remain today. . .
The investment in education and welcome to foreign investment both paid big dividends.
His methods can be questioned but there is no doubt that he transformed Singapore, taking it from a poor island with few resources to an economic powerhouse.