Few gave tiny Singapore much chance of survival when it was granted independence in 1965. How is it, then, that today the former British colonial trading post is a thriving Asian metropolis with not only the world's number one airline, best airport, and busiest port of trade, but also the world's fourth–highest per capita real income?
The story of that transformation is told here by Singapore's charismatic, controversial founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Rising from a legacy of divisive colonialism, the devastation of the Second World War, and general poverty and disorder following the withdrawal of foreign forces, Singapore now is hailed as a city of the future. This miraculous history is dramatically recounted by the man who not only lived through it all but who fearlessly forged ahead and brought about most of these changes.
Delving deep into his own meticulous notes, as well as previously unpublished government papers and official records, Lee details the extraordinary efforts it took for an island city–state in Southeast Asia to survive at that time.
Lee explains how he and his cabinet colleagues finished off the communist threat to the fledgling state's security and began the arduous process of nation building: forging basic infrastructural roads through a land that still consisted primarily of swamps, creating an army from a hitherto racially and ideologically divided population, stamping out the last vestiges of colonial–era corruption, providing mass public housing, and establishing a national airline and airport.
In this illuminating account, Lee writes frankly about his trenchant approach to political opponents and his often unorthodox views on human rights, democracy, and inherited intelligence, aiming always "to be correct, not politically correct." Nothing in Singapore escaped his watchful eye: whether choosing shrubs for the greening of the country, restoring the romance of the historic Raffles Hotel, or openly, unabashedly persuading young men to marry women as well educated as themselves. Today's safe, tidy Singapore bears Lee's unmistakable stamp, for which he is unapologetic: "If this is a nanny state, I am proud to have fostered one."
Lee Kuan Yew, GCMG, CH, SPMJ, informally known by his initials LKY, was the first Prime Minister of Singapore. He was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, governing for more than three decades from 1959 to 1990, including through Singapore's independence from Malaysia in 1965. After Lee chose to step down as Prime Minister in 1990, Lee's successor, Goh Chok Tong, appointed him as Senior Minister, a post he held until 2004, when his elder son, Lee Hsien Loong, became the nation's third prime minister. The elder Lee then assumed the advisory post of Minister Mentor until he left the Cabinet in 2011. In total, Lee held successive ministerial positions for 56 years. He continued to serve his Tanjong Pagar constituency for nearly 60 years as an elected Member of Parliament until his death in 2015.
Lee is recognised as the founding father of independent Singapore, with the country being described as transitioning from the "third world to the first world in a single generation" under his leadership.