Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed the tiny outpost of Singapore into one of Asia’s wealthiest and least corrupt countries as its founding father and first prime minister, died on March 23.
Mr. Lee was prime minister from 1959, when Singapore gained full self-government from the British, until 1990, when he stepped down. Late into his life he remained the dominant personality and driving force in what he called a First World oasis in a Third World region.
His leadership was criticized for suppressing freedom, but the formula succeeded. Singapore became an admired international business and financial center.
His “Singapore model” included centralized power, clean government and economic liberalism. But it was also criticized as a soft form of authoritarianism, suppressing political opposition, imposing strict limits on free speech and public assembly, and creating a climate of caution and self-censorship. The model has been studied by leaders elsewhere in Asia, including China, and is the subject of many academic case studies.
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