The adjectives “outstanding”, “exceptional” and “talented” are some of the most overused descriptions of brilliant people. But in the case of Lee Kuan Yew, they barely begin to describe just how special the first leader of Singapore was. My earliest memories of Lee Kuan Yew date back to my time at St. Michael’s Primary School in the late 1960s. Little did I realise in those days – as a young boy who spent more hours than I should have playing hantam bola in the school field – that I was slowly being moulded and shaped by one of the world’s…
The adjectives “outstanding”, “exceptional” and “talented” are some of the most overused descriptions of brilliant people. But in the case of Lee Kuan Yew, they barely begin to describe just how special the first leader of Singapore was.
My earliest memories of Lee Kuan Yew date back to my time at St. Michael’s Primary School in the late 1960s. Little did I realise in those days – as a young boy who spent more hours than I should have playing hantam bola in the school field – that I was slowly being moulded and shaped by one of the world’s greatest visionaries.
Foresight and vision
Lee Kuan Yew had foresight. He recognised from the outset that Singapore had a bright future. He also realised, though, that the newly-independent country had limitations.
But he knew that none of those deficiencies were insurmountable. Consequently he set out to build a nation of fit and healthy people, who were ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead. And there were challenges aplenty in a part of the world that was embroiled in conflict, turmoil and instability.
Those of us of a certain age will remember the many campaigns that were rolled out on a regular basis. We had campaigns that encouraged the eating of wheat. We had campaigns that promoted the regular brushing of teeth. We even had campaigns that discouraged excessively long hair and campaigns that fostered the learning of Mandarin.
It all makes sense now
At the time, none of it seemed to make much sense. But 50 years later, everything that the master-architect of Singapore’s future did for us, makes perfect sense.
Perhaps the single most important thing that Lee Kuan Yew did was to encourage Singaporeans to throw open their doors to people from faraway places. He knew that the country had to welcome immigrants, if it was ever to grow.
Singapore had to expand by continually attracting people of every calibre, who would create employment, bring in much-need capital and labour and, most importantly, pass on their intellectual properties and skills.
It is thanks to Lee Kuan Yew’s vision that Singapore is as welcoming to immigrants today as it was 50 years ago. They are attracted not only by the rigorous rule of law, the favourable tax rates and the faultless infrastructure but also by Singapore’s high literacy rates.
Determined, resolute and tenacious
None of this would have been possible without the determination, resolve and tenacity of one man, who would never accept mediocrity and who would never take no for an answer.
But it is the integration of foreign and home-grown talent that has allowed the country to enjoy decades of economic growth. It has helped to raise the living standards of everyone who lives and works here. The economic value of every person in Singapore today is as high as that of the US.
Singapore might not be largest economy in Asia but it punches well above its weight. It has one of the highest savings rates; it has one of the lowest unemployment rates and it has built up one of the biggest foreign reserves in the world.
Anything is possible
Economic growth does not happen by chance.
Singapore’s economic success has been achieved through prudent planning, persistent nurturing and, most importantly, through the socio-economic vision of one man, Lee Kuan Yew, 50 years ago.
The single most important lesson that I have learnt from Lee Kuan Yew is that anything is possible, if you have the vision and resolution to achieve your dreams.
Always focus on the long-term and never allow short-term setbacks deter you from reaching your objective. There is an investing lesson in there somewhere. But now is neither the time nor place to talk about that.
Today we mourn the passing of a great man of great vision, whose only dream was to build a great country. He has succeeded.
Our job is to carry on the great work. Rest in peace, Lee Kuan Yew.