Lee Kuan Yew’s example in Singapore
Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed the city-state of Singapore from a swampy island backwater to an Asian Tiger economy can be considered the father of today's modern Singapore, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
Mr Lee was its prime minister for 31 years, from its independence as a colonial outpost for Britain in 1959 until 1990. After that he remained in public office and continued to be decisive in governing Singapore from behind the scenes.
And under his guidance Singapore developed into one of the world’s most successful countries and economies and a hub of stability and innovation.
Lee Kuan Yew died on March 23, 2015, aged 91.
Mr Lee was committed to Singapore’s development and the long-term wellbeing of its population. He was not entirely autocratic, but he knew how to convince and lead. He realised that predominance of the rule of law was key to healthy development, combined with a limited bureaucracy.
Individual freedom, protected by the rule of law was important, but individual freedom was limited when it damaged others. In this way, sanitary rules such as no spitting and banning chewing gum, were strict but sensible. This could only be achieved through liberal, limited and not over-burdening legislation.
Mr Lee did not believe in excessive party democracy, to the detriment of the rule of law, and he believed in an efficient penal code, including corporal punishment. It was these beliefs which led to him being criticised as an autocrat.
But his approval rating was high, and his government’s approval rate only dropped in 2011 when his party, the PAP, did worse than ever in a general election with only 60 per cent of the vote and 93 per cent of the seats – stunningly high compared with most Western countries.
Singapore is a successful model with an economy which has averaged nearly seven per cent growth a year for four decades.
It is an example of the importance of pragmatism in governance as opposed to Western schoolbook dogma of standardised governance and democracy which ignores cultural, local and society specifics.