He had just the right mix of qualities to deliver a modern state that is the envy of the world in education, healthcare and economic competitiveness. He was able to successfully combine a welfare state with market liberalism.
By the very force of his character, vision and, it has to be said, ruthlessness, he created a country that has the third highest per capita income in the world. Yet this is a tiny island of only 277sqm, less than ten times the size of Waiheke Island, where a population greater than all New Zealand resides in relative luxury, despite not having the natural advantages usually associated with economic success.
Here are extracts from his New York Times obituary.
Even among people who knew little of Singapore, Mr. Lee was famous for his national self-improvement campaigns, which urged people to do such things as smile, speak good English and flush the toilet, but never to spit, chew gum or throw garbage off balconies.
“They laughed, at us,” he said in the second volume of his memoirs, “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story 1965-2000.” “But I was confident that we would have the last laugh. We would have been a grosser, ruder, cruder society had we not made these efforts.”
What Singapore got was centralized, efficient policy making unencumbered by what Mr. Lee called the “heat and dust” of political clashes, and social campaigns.
The nation, reflected the man: efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking and pragmatic.
“We are ideology-free,” Mr. Lee said in an interview with The New York Times in 2007, stating what had become, in effect, Singapore’s ideology. “Does it work? If it works, let’s try it. If it’s fine, let’s continue it. If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one.”
“I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose,” he said.
He said he was not a religious man and that he dealt with setbacks by simply telling himself, “Well, life is just like that.”,
Lee Kuan Yew's new culture the 'Singapore model' is benevolent dictatorship, something the NYT describes thus:
His “Singapore model,” sometimes criticized as soft authoritarianism, included centralized power, clean government and economic liberalism along with suppression of political opposition and strict limits on free speech and public assembly, which created a climate of caution and self-censorship. The model has been admired and studied by leaders in Asia, including in China, and beyond as well as being the subject of countless academic case studies.
Since Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 — an event Mr. Lee called his “moment of anguish” — he had seen himself in a never-ending struggle to overcome the nation’s lack of natural resources, a potentially hostile international environment and a volatile ethnic mix of Chinese, Malays and Indians.
“To understand Singapore and why it is what it is, you’ve got to start off with the fact that it’s not supposed to exist and cannot exist,” he said in the 2007 interview. “To begin with, we don’t have the ingredients of a nation, the elementary factors: a homogeneous population, common language, common culture and common destiny. So, history is a long time. I’ve done my bit.