Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why Lee Kuan Yew is great

I found a few comments by a fellow called browneyes in Hindustan Times article on the death of Lee Kuan Yew illuminating:

Lee Kuan Yew was one of the greatest people who has ever lived, in my opinion. There are so many Indians who dismiss Singapore, saying it is small, so it can be run so well. This is nonsense. Please show me one city in India that is the size of Singapore that is run one-hundredth as well as Singapore. In a diverse nation, he created a good level of harmony and eliminated communal violence altogether. In a time of socialism, he had the great good sense to be a better capitalist than the West itself.

He created the ONLY country in the world founded in the last 150 years, whose per-capita income is HIGHER than its former colonial master. A friend of mine forced me to read his book based on a single quote and I am glad I did. Yew said that when he was a child, he would see wealthy Britishers walk into luxury hotels and shops while he watched from outside because Singaporeans were too poor. He saw how Singaporeans were mistreated by other Singaporeans due to pervasive poverty. And, by the time he was done, he saw Singaporeans walk casually into shops and hotels where he could see British people checking prices to make sure they could afford them. Now that is called success and freedom.

The Singaporean Army realised long ago that they did not have enough land to train. So now they send their soldiers to Australia and to India to perform maneuvers in Rajasthan. I salute him. All Indians should read "From the Third World to the First." Read it.
Read the book, "From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000, Singapore and the Asian Economic Boom" - it describes an incident that touches on this. Singapore was very poor and India was developing its Socialist model under Nehru, which made very little economic sense but people were at it with a lot of idealism. Nehru thought he would help fellow commonwealth country Singapore out with some gyan. He sent a bureaucrat to look at Singapore's situation to help out. That chap wrote a big fat report which he gave to Lee Kuan Yew. Yew asked ke bhai ismen kya hai? The Indian bureaucrat gave an explanation which basically meant ke sab kuchh nationalize kar do. Yew said thank you, this is very useful. The babu became very happy, Nehruji heard it and became very happy. Yew simply took the report with a lot of respect, put it on a shelf and never looked at it again. Instead, he chose hardcore capitalism.

When Nehru was giving speeches about world peace and social justice and welcoming Communist China, Yew was in America persuading American businesses to move to Singapore and keeping close surveillance on ethnic Chinese in Singapore who seemed close to Communist China (because he feared a Chinese attempt at bringing Communism to Singapore). When India was banning books and magazines, he simply charged tax. Just for the record, Singapore is not only richer per capita than Britain, it also has a higher per capita than America too (2013 figures: America $53,000, Singapore $55,000). And if you meet and drink with Singaporeans, you realise very quickly that they cannot help but look down a little on America and Britain. It's not like they want to. They just do, because they are richer and better off. Japan is only about $30,000, so the average Singaporean is actually almost twice as rich as the average Japanese.

BTW very few people seem to know this but Yew actually tried to keep Singapore as a colony of Britain because he did some calculations and found that it was cheaper to be a self-governing colony (because Britain paid for defense and provided other perks). Britain insisted on making him independent, so he actually tried to lobby MPs in London to vote against giving Singapore independence. They said nothing doing, you HAVE to be independent. It's the opposite story of India in so many ways. Basically, he was just a whole lot smarter than Nehru and understood how the world really works. Modi has some Yew characteristics but talks too much and loves himself a little bit too much (that suit). Still, our best chance, I think.

 - browneyes

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