|Lee and Tunku - a short-lived celebration|
Singapore wasn’t created by MM Lee in 1965. It was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963 and was booted out in 1965. If there was anyone who created the state of Singapore, it was Malaysia’s prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman since he was the one who booted Singapore out and thereby ‘created’ the state of Singapore.
Dear Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
I refer to the 24 Sept 2010 Straits Times report of the statements made by Mr Alexander Gorin during the visit of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to Ukraine.
Mr Gorin reportedly said that MM Lee is a thinker, philosopher and practitioner who created a state and guided it from Third World to First. There are many misconceptions in his statement that needs clarification. Mr Gorin needs to understand that:
1. Singapore wasn’t created by MM Lee in 1965. It was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. It was Raffles who saw the potential of our strategic maritime location. Raffles proved to be correct and Singapore quickly became an important international port of call which led to a thriving entrepot trade.
2. Singapore has been thriving for nearly 150 years before MM Lee took over in 1959. Even at independence in 1965, our per capita GDP was already the fourth highest in Asia behind Japan, Hong Kong and Brunei.
3. Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963 and was booted out in 1965. If there was anyone who created the state of Singapore, it was Malaysia’s prime minister Tungku Abdul Rahman since he was the one who booted Singapore out and thereby ‘created’ the state of Singapore.
4. The supposed Singapore success formula of foreign investment led export industrialisation wasn’t the brainchild of MM Lee. It was the brainchild of Dr Albert Winsemius, a Dutch economist sent by the United Nations to Singapore in 1960 to help Singapore industrialise. Singapore went from Third World to First following Dr Winsemius’ plan rather than MM Lee’s.
5. Between 1961 and 1965, Singapore did not pursue export industrialisation but pursued import substitution instead. Only with our separation from Malaysia in 1965 which rendered import substitution untenable did Singapore finally embark on Dr Winsemius’ formula. Thus, MM Lee didn’t act on Dr Winsemius’ recommendations immediately and only adopted it when faced with no other choice. It seems therefore that our split from Malaysia in 1965 was the key factor that led Singapore to adopt export industrialisation rather than some conscious decision by MM Lee.
6. Singapore is not the only success story but is just one of four East Asian economic miracles alongside Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. You will not find a similar statesman extraordinaire responsible for the other three economic miracles. This shows that you don’t need a statesman extraordinaire for a country to succeed. If we were to ask ourselves what is so special about these four economies, there is only one obvious answer, they are all East Asian societies. Not only that, China too has been rising rapidly over the last twenty years. The Singapore success is very much an East Asian success rather than the success of any one man. - Temasek Review