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Lee Kuan Yew’s vision remains significant in modern-day Singapore

The former PM's governing principles are still highly relevant in today's Singapore




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The first and longest-serving Prime Minister of Singapore, ’s leadership altered Singapore from a third world nation into a flourishing urban city in just thirty years.

However, a lot of circumstances have already changed in the tiny-state brought about by shifting geopolitical balance of power, distractions triggered by digital technology, the rise of populism and the repercussions of globalisation.

With the changes that have taken place, should Mr. Lee’s governing principles vanish too? Should they be modified or should they stay because the essentials that outline Singapore have not really changed?

Is Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s philosophy and calculated ideas still relevant in today’s Singapore?

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  • Singapore becoming a strategic partner of the United States in Asia; U.S. and Singaporean militaries conduct regular exercises together, and the U.S. Navy uses Singaporean naval facilities to support its operations in Southeast Asia;
  • Amidst the current US-China crisis, Singapore continues to forge ties and enhance existing relationships with both countries, trying its best not to take sides, remain neutral at the same time positioning itself well so that it can stay resilient when the negative repercussions come pouring down;
  • Beyond the United States and China, Singapore also maintains close diplomatic and economic ties with its Southeast Asian neighbors as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As a former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth and participates in the Five Power Defense Arrangements, in which it complements on military matters with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom;
  • As Britain begins a new era, both countries forged a partnership to expand and intensify their ties for the future;
  • While Singapore-Germany defense ties are not new, there have been efforts by both sides to further develop relations, which in the defense realm include high-level visits and exchanges, policy dialogues, technological collaboration, and military exercises.

Public flats vs. Housing problem

 Mr. Lee set up the HDB in 1960, and launched an ambitious building programme

  • Today, Singapore is internationally recognised for its quality and affordable public housing and high home-ownership rates. This was not the case in Singapore’s early years, when most people lived in over-crowded and unhygienic slums.


He wanted to shape a noteworthy country of distinct people with diverse cultures, languages and religions.

  • Until today, Singapore continues to be a stronghold for liberal mobilities and cultural tolerance. This is one of the most important reasons why Singapore has been able to lure and interest not just the gifted and the highly-skilled, but also those seeking to escape economic privation and prejudice because of their gender, race, or religious affiliation.
  • The tiny state has been exceedingly effective in enticing highly educated Asians who see Singapore as a happy middle ground between East and West.
  • As what the current prime minister said, “Being Singaporean has never been a matter of subtraction, but of addition; not of becoming less, but more; not of limitation and contraction, but of openness and expansion.”

Bringing in MNCs

He wanted to bring in foreign multinational companies when most people believed they would exploit workers for their own profit. 

  • With the continued presence of MNCs in the country, jobs have been created, markets have been generated, technology and organisation have been brought in. All these benefited Singaporeans. LKY’s decision that went against conventional wisdom for newly independent former colonies in the 1960s, is a strong driving force in the nation’s economy today.

The most important reason for Singapore’s singular experience has always been Lee Kuan Yew. Incorruptible, he kept government unusually clean. Unlike many other independence leaders, Mr. Lee designed a system that would outlast him. /TISG

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