Lee Kuan Yew Built Singapore – Great Deed? This super efficient city-state will soon be empty. Singapore women have the lowest fertility rate in the world

WASHINGTON – Lee Kuan Yew, the architect of modern Singapore is dead. He ruled Singapore for 30 years as a semi-dictator. And he continued to influence policy for many years after he retired from active government.


Almost single-handedly Lee transformed a sleepy former British colony from inconsequential Asian port into a modern jewel. And this was done mostly by developing a first class, highly educated, super productive (mostly Chinese) work force, supported by a pro-business government.

Admired by all

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called Lee “one of the great men of our period. He established a competitive advantage based on the discipline and intelligence of his society.”

Asian values and capitalism

Lee’s mixture of Asian values, (strict discipline, reverence for education, filial piety, hard work), and free market capitalism produced an economic wonder. Singapore boomed. Its port blossomed. In time, the city-state added financial services to its manufacturing base. Given China’s pollution problems, many global multinational corporations are now moving their Asian headquarters to Singapore.

The regime built by Lee is a benevolent (or so we hope) fairly authoritarian state. Western style personal freedoms are not as important as in Europe or North America. In Singapore, the emphasis is on order and productivity, not on the protection of free expression.

Impressive results

That said, under Lee, tremendous progress took place. Singapore was ranked N. 9 in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index in 2014, and N. 1 in Asia. In comparison, Japan was only N. 17 in the world.

But no babies
So, here we have it. Shan-gri-la on the sea. Except for one thing. Soon enough this well crafted Paradise will be empty. Singapore has the lowest fertility rate per woman in the world —yes in the world. According to the CIA Fact Book, Singapore is number 224 out of 224 when it comes to women having babies. Dead last.
Now, this is odd. Here is a (mostly Chinese) harmonious and well run society. Almost everybody is doing well. The economy thrives. And yet people somehow decided that they do not want to bring children into this enviable environment.
Artificial Paradise?
And why not? I have no idea. But perhaps there is some missing ingredient in the sublime recipe concocted by Lee Kuan Yew.  Perhaps this Paradise, as well-engineered as it is, is so artificial that its people, while taking advantage of it, do not really love it.
Perhaps people in the end love what they have built based on their own ideas, and not what they have been forced to create, following someone else’s project.
Perhaps Lee Kuan Yew, this (almost) universally admired modern Philosopher King, did not really know what he was doing.
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