By Aakriti Gupta
Elm Staff Writer
Singapore, an island in Asia that is home to over 5 million people, has the third highest per capita GDP in the world. This small country has come a long way since its independence 49 years ago. It is a young country that is the world’s fourth leading financial center and one of the leading exporters in the world, an impressive feat considering that it lacks a great amount of natural resources. The question arising is, “How did this small island achieve such great heights in less than 50 years of independence?” The answer is Lee Kuan Yew, known as the founding father of Singapore, who passed away last month on March 23. He was 91 years old.
Lee was a lawyer by profession and a political leader by passion. He was born into a wealthy Chinese family in Singapore, when Singapore was a British Colony and its economy was strictly agricultural. After getting his law degree from Cambridge University, he returned to Singapore to practice and eventually helped negotiate Singapore’s independence. Lee became the official prime minister of Singapore in 1959, a position he held until 1990, making him the longest serving prime minister in world history.
While holding office, Lee focused on building a strong, industrialized, export-oriented economy. He realized Singapore’s political autonomy depended on its economic survival. His strategy was driven by a vision to create a strong economy and help Singapore to make a place for itself as a leader in the global market. He understood the importance of the presence of multinational companies and foreign direct investment in Singapore and planned this course of action, encouraging both to make its way to Singapore.
Apart from the economy, he also instilled cultural values in the citizens of Singapore. He encourage hard work, honesty, a solid education system, and Singapore’s liberal intellectual climate. Lee was very much like Mahatma Gandhi on the pro non-violence front. Like Gandhi, he spoke against guns and violence and gave importance to the power of words. He encouraged the adoption of English as an offiical language, linking the scattered ethnic groups under one unified language.
After his death, Singapore went into a week of mourning. There was a state funeral held for him on March 29, that thousands of Singaporeans attended. Lee Hsien Loong, Lee’s son and the current prime minister of Singapore, spoke at the funeral. He said, “To those who seek Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s monument, Singaporeans can reply proudly: look around you.”
Having personally lived in Singapore for over a year this country is very close to my heart. It is a beautiful, green city-state with the perfect balance of skyscrapers and greenery. What I admire about the country the most is the presence of so much beauty, even without having any natural resources. It a place that is rich in culture and values. None of it would have been possible without the guidance of Lee, who led a nation and its people to a pinnacle of success.