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The end of Singapore`s founding father era

Posted March. 24, 2015 07:13,   


Singapore`s Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew couldn`t hide tears dropping down from his eyes in front of a TV camera in August 1965 when Singapore declared independence from Malaysia. In an autobiography, he wrote that Singapore was forced to leave without a justifiable reason and without a chance to resist. It was an independence after national and political conflicts but was actually an expulsion. Back then, Singapore was a poor fishing nation as it had to bring in resources from Malaysia due to lack of them, even water. Per capita GDP was only 511 U.S. dollars. Now, Singapore is Asia`s richest nation and the world`s eighth richest, with per capita GDP at 56,000 dollars.

The man who led a small island nation in Southeast Asia into a leading nation in the Third World has died at age 91. While leading Singapore for 31 years, Lee transformed the nation into the global financial and logistics hub, leading economic prosperity and social stability of the nation. His "Singapore model" represents an "authoritative capitalism" along with the "Park Chung-hee model" of South Korea. Through his autobiography, he said that Koreans are strong and have outstanding ability in overcoming adversity, but also mentioned uncompromising hard-line labor unions and the need to eradicate corruptions of high-ranking government officials, a sign that he had an insight into the Korean situation of today.

Lee made an efficient government and led the country`s rapid growth and social transparency. His leadership thus has many implications for the Park Geun-hye administration that is in the third year and is in all-out war against corruption. The founding father of Singapore created a corruption activity investigation bureau directly under his office and set an example of zero-tolerance against corruption of his close aides, and granted sufficient treatment of government officials so they can confront temptations.

In the 1990s, Singapore and South Korea were considered as Asia`s four dragons along with Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, while Singapore surpassed Japan in 2000, Korea is still stuck at the per capita income of the 20,000 dollar range. In 1994, Lee said no casinos as long as he lived, but in 2004, he led a global casino development. As such, Lee`s pragmatic line enabled him to flexibly adapt to the changes in global environment.

He left shadows behind, however. Lee rejected to the West`s free capitalism by adhering to the "Asian value," while restricting the public`s freedom through social control. Critics call for reform of the long rule of the People`s Action Party, led by Lee and his first son and current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Singaporeans are calling for expansion of freedom of media and reform of political parties. Singapore marks its 50th year of independence this year and criticism at home and abroad say Lee Kwan Yew`s death is a sign that one era has ended. The man who led Singapore into prosperity has passed away. Now the question is where the nation will head to in the new era.