Sunday, May 15, 2011

End of the Benevolent Dictator

Lee Kuan Yew, the man who founded the modern state of Singapore, resigned from the cabinet this week.
Since independence in 1965, he has run the country as a truly modern, benevolent dictatorship. He wiped out corruption by paying his government ministers well and punishing corruption severely. He made sure the streets were clean by imposing heavy fines on litterers and getting his people to enforce the laws. He ensured that laws were obeyed by maintaining a visible and organized police force. I remember having to get a haircut before entering the country in 1975 and not being allowed to wear jeans. While these rules were tough on a kid in the 70's, the country sure looked neat and tidy then.

He ran a dictatorship by limiting the competitive parties to the point of jailing opponents. His son took over as Prime Minister in 2004. But lately he has been allowing more freedoms. And elections have been free and fair lately with his party's majority dropping from 75% in 2001 to 60% this month.

He built one of the richest countries in the world using his benevolent dictatorship form of government. Rather than using his dictatorship to plunder the country like Arab or Russian dictators, he has spent his time enriching his people.

Now, his reaction to the growing democracy movement that started in Egypt and spread to the rest of the world's repressive governments has been to resign his seat on the cabinet. Good for him! Let's see where the country ends up next.

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