Lee Kuan Yew

There’s one word that comes to mind when I think of the Singapore government – smart. There aren’t many governments that anyone would describe as smart.

The person who made that possible, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, passed away today. He was the architect of the modern day Singapore.

Lee Kuan Yew’s regime was what many termed a benevolent dictatorship. He believed that democracy wasn’t conducive to the growth of a third world nation. So, he took it upon himself to develop a vision for Singapore in the 21st century. His vision was of a nation that became a trading hub, that compensated for its lack of natural resources with human capital, and where people could enjoy a standard of living comparable to the west. Unlike other politicians, he actually made sure all of this was achieved.

Some critics will point to the fact that Singapore’s size alone enabled such impact. Others will say his authoritarian policies rein in free will and free speech. There’s no end to these debates and I definitely don’t plan to add my point of view to the mix.

I was a beneficiary of smart policy making as a recipient of a scholarship from the Singapore government that attracted many ambitious students from across south east Asia. I enjoyed many wonderful years in Singapore and I was one of the many millions touched by Lee Kuan Yew’s extraordinary work. He approached nation building as a savvy CEO would approach building a Fortune 500 company. And, he was wildly successful in the process. He would also be the first to admit that his approach to nation building wouldn’t work for the modern day Singapore. He understood the importance of change and adaptation better than most.

In transforming Singapore – a task which many thought would be impossible when he took over – Lee Kuan Yew demonstrated to the world that great feats are possible with a vision, guts and a will to succeed and make things happen. He also reminded us that everything great we see around us was made possible by people just like us.

And, for that, I am grateful. Thank you PM Lee.