Lee Kuan Yew | The Singapore Story

Lee Kuan Yew, often referred to with his initials LKY, was the first prime minister of Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, making him the longest-serving PM in history.

LKY’s Contribution to Singapore’s Economic Rise

At the time Singapore was obtaining its separation from Malaysia on 9th August 1965, the city-state was a very small nation faced by problems such as housing shortages, unemployment, insufficient natural resources, most notably land and petroleum. For a country to proceed with this fast development, an able leader is very relevant.

Under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, her founding prime minister who ruled the nation for four decades, the country was able to shift its economic status from a third-world to a first-world nation.



One of the factors which were critical in Singapore’s success is efficient administration. LKY’s rule was authoritarian. He had a firm grip of power and even amidst criticism. This brought economical orderliness in Singapore where the nation got known for its attractiveness to foreign investments.

He also maintained hold of the domestic finance where he prevented the internationalization of the nation’s dollar and also limited the foreign bank’s operations. He also championed the free trade which attracted multinational giants for instance General Electric. 

Opportunistic Leader

LKY also made advantage of the global financial upheavals. For example, in the year 1971, when America managed to de-link the dollar from gold, he grasped the opportunity and successfully established Singapore as a regional foreign exchange center.

The administration was also very keen on ending corruption. Strict punishments befell all the people who were found to have violated the law, for example, the guidelines on constructions. Eventually, there were no haphazard buildings in the cities.

To ensure economic stability, it is necessary to meet the needs of the natives. LKY made sure that he provided employment opportunities and better housing to the natives. He established the Housing Development Board as well as the Economic Development Board for this purpose. They spearheaded the development in the nation’s living conditions.

The people moved from the ghettos to the current townships. The development of the industries guaranteed job opportunities for the locals. Eventually, the GDP per capita of the nation rose from $500 in the year 1965 to 14,500 in 1991. The small seaside became a global financial giant.

Charles Munger on Lee Kuan Yew

Legendary value investor Charles Munger has commented a number of times on his admiration of Lee Kuan Yew, for example during a talk at the University of Michigan in 2010:  





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