Often, people feel disillusioned by politics through their lack of trust in politicians who shape the political landscape of their respective countries. However, should all politicians be tarnished with the same brush? Are there actually individual politicians who can revolutionise the system for the better? Should all trust be lost?
For many people, revolutionary political icons such as Martin Luther King who successfully make a difference in society do so on the sidelines of the political system. They actively change the narrative without engaging in party politics. This often makes people believe that mainstream politics cannot be revolutionary. The big names in politics that rise to power in the political system are often linked to notoriety. Indeed, Hitler and Hussein were notorious in their regimes, changing the dynamic of their country for the worse through the use of their countries’ political system.
However, last year, the world lost a political icon who used the political system to elevate his country and society to an extraordinary level. His name was Lee Kuan Yew and he was the Prime Minister for Singapore. To date, he was world’s longest serving Prime Minister. Unfortunately, his work and achievements have slipped under the radar and his name is not commonly known outside of Singapore. Nevertheless, for those who know about him, his reputation remains unparalleled.
Upon Singapore’s independence from Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew developed Singapore to become a ‘first world oasis in a third world region’. Since its independence, its economy has grown over 9% each year, resulting in the Singapore Dollar to be over 2 and half times stronger than Malaysia’s Ringgit.
These remarkable figures were only possible due to Lee Kuan Yew. Within the first 10 years of Singapore’s independence, he invested strongly in infrastructure, had developing a new airport, shipping port, public housing system, saving school for citizens, education program and defense force. His focus on economic reformation began at its core. He integrated schools for people with different backgrounds, promoting English as the first language. He enforced a change in habits to change society, promoting a ‘Keep Singapore Clean’ campaign in 1968, which is still prevalent today. In 1983 he formed the ‘Great Marriage Debate’, encouraging men to marry women graduates to reduce Singapore’s decreasing birth rate and issued tax rebates with schooling priorities for graduate mothers with 4 children, eliminating the 2 child limit that was enforced in the 60s.
His political vision was one based on meritocracy, creating a fair society not a welfare society. Hard work was recognized and rewarded. Wealth was redistributed by asset enhancement, not subsidies by consumption. He stated that ‘each person has their own rice bowl and if you break it, that’s your bad luck, so look after it’. This created a firm society that worked together to create economic boom.
Many criticize Lee Kuan Yew for the societal issues that Singapore experiences today. Indeed, Singapore suffers from a society that is soaked in altruistic wealth seekers with limited scope for benefiting society. However, Lee Kuan Yew cannot be single handedly blamed for Singapore’s current state – Lee stepped down 25 years ago after 30 years in office. Singapore’s last 25 years without Lee Kuan Yew has faced great changes and to blame Lee Kuan Yew for these changes is painfully ignorant of his achievements.
Lee Kuan Yew is an undisputed prime example of an individual who can revolutionise an entire country by using the political system for the better. At a time when British politics is stale and lacking tumultuous vigor, we, at the British Chinese Project believe that there can be a political icon that can use the political system to revolutionise British politics, just like Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore. For this very reason, mainstream politics can change our society for the better and it is your vote that can make it happen.