Singapore Table of Contents
Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister of Singapore, 1989-90
AFTER TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE, Singapore enjoyed a reputation for political stability and honest, effective government. Probably the world's only ex-colony to have independence forced upon it, Singapore responded to its unanticipated expulsion from Malaysia in August 1965 by concentrating on economic development and by fostering a sense of nationhood. Though the survival of the miniature state was in doubt for a time, it not only survived but also managed to achieve the highest standard of living in Southeast Asia. The country also enjoyed a rare political continuity; its ruling party and prime minister triumphed in every election from 1959 to 1988. Singapore's government had an international reputation for effective administration and for ingenious and successful economic policies. It was also known for its authoritarian style of governance and limited tolerance for opposition or criticism, qualities the government deemed necessary to ensure survival in a hostile world and which its domestic and foreign critics claimed indicated a refusal to consider the opinions of its citizens or anyone outside the closed circle of the aging leadership. In the early 1990s, the leadership would face the issues of political succession and of modifying the relationship between the state and the increasingly prosperous and well-educated society it had created.
Data as of December 1989