Vietnam needs a leader like Lee Kuan Yew

23/03/2015


When historians chronicle Asia's modern resurgence, they will focus on the rise of the region’s biggest economies: China, Japan, India. But if there's such a thing as "Asian capitalism," its spark, smartest proponent and most controversial symbol was the founder of the region's smallest country: Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father and first prime minister of Singapore who transformed Singapore from a small port city into a wealthy global hub, died Monday at age 91.
Lee Kuan Yew was born in 16 September 1923. He was a Singaporean politician. He was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, governing for three decades. He has been described as the 'founding father' and 'architect' of modern Singapore.
As the co-founder and first Secretary-General of the People's Action Party (PAP), he led the party to eight victories from 1959 to 1990, and oversaw the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965 and its subsequent transformation from a relatively underdeveloped colonial outpost with no natural resources into a "First World" Asian Tiger. He was one of the most influential political figures in Asia.
During three decades in which Lee held office, Singapore grew from being a developing country to one of the most developed nations in Asia, despite its small population, limited land space and lack of natural resources. Between 1960 and 2011, Singapore's per capita gross domestic product surged more than 100-fold. It now tops $55,000. The city stands as one of the most advanced economies on earth, a preternaturally clean and green oasis famed for strong institutions and wide-open markets in a region still burdened by graft, cronyism and snarled bureaucracies.
Lee's great insight was to recognize that Singapore, after being kicked out of the Malaysian Federation in 1965, needed to look beyond its then-hostile neighborhood and export higher-end goods to the advanced economies of the West and Japan. Along with the other so-called Asian Tigers, Singapore concentrated on getting the economic fundamentals right -- encouraging savings and investment, keeping inflation and taxes low and currencies stable, and emphasizing high-quality education.
Lee often stated that Singapore's only natural resources are its people and their strong work ethic. He is widely respected by many Singaporeans, particularly the older generation, who remember his inspiring leadership during independence and the separation from Malaysia. Indeed, for many people in Singapore and other countries, Lee is inextricably linked with their perceptions of Singapore.
Lee was also widely praised by other world leaders. Henry Kissinger once said that Lee was "One of the asymmetries of history". Richard Nixon remarked that if Lee lived in another time and place, he would have attained the world stature of a Churchill, a Disraeli, or a Gladstone. Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush called Lee a "remarkable leader and statesman" and "one of the brightest and most effective world leaders that I have ever known" respectively during the launch of his book, "Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going". Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher praised “his way of penetrating the fog of propaganda and expressing with unique clarity the issues of our time and the way to tackle them." Her successor, Tony Blair, said of Lee: he is "the smartest leader I ever met."
World leaders remembered Lee Kuan Yew as a political “giant” who crafted Singapore into a regional economic powerhouse and helped drive the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a condolence statement and said Lee "helped Singapore to transition from a developing country to one of the most developed in the world, transforming it into a thriving international business hub."
U.S. President Barack Obama said discussions with Lee in 2009 were “hugely important” in helping him formulate the U.S.’s policy of rebalancing to the Asia Pacific region. “He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one the great strategists of Asian affairs.”
Vietnamese leaders extended condolences to their Singaporean counterparts over the death of the former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on March 23. General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong sent condolences to Secretary-General of the People’s Action Party Lee Hsien Loong, while State President Truong Tan Sang conveyed his sympathy to President Tony Tan Keng Yam. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung passed his condolences to Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the loss. The same day, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh also expressed his sympathies to Singaporean Foreign Minister K Shanmugam.
In Singapore, a steady stream of people arrived at the hospital and the Istana, the prime minister's office, to offer their condolences. As the long wait for the inevitable continued, the floral tributes piled up right outside the city-state's main hospital, often laid by tearful, older Singaporeans who truly see this sharp-tongued, tough-minded man as a father figure.
For all of its impressive successes, this is still a country with Lee Kuan Yew's imprint visible everywhere. He was unapologetic about the repressive measures he used to impose order, and unapologetic about believing his prescriptions alone were the right ones. No-one is quite sure what direction Singapore will now take without him.
But, maybe according to some so-called human rights activists, Singapore's success has come at significant cost to human rights. Lee tolerated no dissent and jailed regime critics without trial, and despite their wealth, Singaporeans do not enjoy a free press, freedom of speech, or freedom of assembly. Critics have also accused Lee of nepotism. In addition to his son Lee Hsieng Loong, Singapore's current prime minister, other children and close family members occupy powerful positions within the country. Members of Singapore's Malay and Indian populations have accused Lee, who was of Chinese descent, of failing to share political and economic spoils with other ethnic groups.
His leadership was sometimes criticized for suppressing freedom, but the formula succeeded. Singapore became an international business and financial center admired for its efficiency and low level of corruption. 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.
In the 2010 interview with The Times, though, he took a reflective, valedictory tone. “I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose,” he said. “I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.”
He said he was not a religious man and that he dealt with setbacks by simply telling himself, “Well, life is just like that.” Yes, we need a leader like him to make Vietnam like Singapore!
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All comments [ 11 ]


Quân Hoàng 23/3/15 22:01

Lee personally shaped Singapore in a way that few people have any nation. His place in history is assured, as a leader and as one of the modern world’s foremost statesmen.

Huy Quốc 23/3/15 22:03

I respect his effective leadership of his wonderful, resilient and innovative country in ways that lifted living standards without indulging a culture of corruption.

Hoàng Lân 23/3/15 22:06

Yes, Vietnam desperately needs a leader like him, make us proud!

Vân Nhàn 23/3/15 22:07

Lee was a “giant of our region” who 50 years ago led a “vulnerable, fledgling nation to independence.

Hùng Quân 23/3/15 22:08

Thanks to his leadership, Singapore is now one of the world’s most prosperous nations, a financial powerhouse, and one of the world’s easiest places to do business.

Lê Tín 23/3/15 22:10

We've had an Uncle Ho in wars, now we need another Uncle Ho in this developing age.

Quốc Cường 23/3/15 22:12

He was well known for his insights and foresight but what struck me most was his unwavering determination to see Singapore succeed. Vietnamese leaders should be like that.

Huy Lâm 23/3/15 22:15

Singapore is a model, a best example for Vietnam to learn and follows.

Quốc Kiên 23/3/15 22:24

yes, Singapore is one ruling party, intolerant to human rights, being criticized by many democracy activists, but ironically it's still an undeniable developed country.

Phạm Hiếu 23/3/15 22:25

Lee was feared for his authoritarian tactics but insisted that strict limits on speech and public protest were necessary to maintain stability in the multi-ethnic and multireligious country.

lOlLipOP xoxo 27/10/15 20:40

I totally agree with you guys! We desperately need a leader like Lee Kuan Yew. He was an amazing person. I truly respect him. Lee Kuan Yea R.I.P you were amazing in every possible way. By the way, I do believe discipline is the way forward. Our Asian cultures don't share the same values as Western cultures so you should not use their criteria to judge Lee Kuan Yew. He led a poor and backward country with no natural resources into an international economic hub. He built an ocean out of a puddle. He was an inspiration to us all and showed that nothing is impossible. If Singapore could become an economic hub them Vietnam can too. We just need more discipline, hardwork, honesty and goal orientated culture. Less partying, showing up, corruption, content-with-the-way-things-are laidback way of life.

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