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Singapore is approaching an end of an era as the health of its founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, continues to deteriorate. As of Wednesday, Lee remained critically ill with pneumonia in intensive care. Lee, 91, has remained active as an iconic political figure in Singapore and abroad. He held the office of prime minister for three decades, stepped down in 1990, and then continued to advise Singapore leaders through 2011.
Lee is largely credited as the driving force that transformed the city state into the financial powerhouse it is today. He became Singapore's first prime minister in 1959, shortly after the Southeast Asian island gained independence from the UK. At that time, Singapore was largely an undeveloped, swampy trading post-a far cry from what it looks like today. Under Lee's leadership, Singapore became a state with lax business regulations and low taxes. At the same time, civil liberties came under fire. Political dissent and media critics were effectively silenced. Singapore's younger generation, with more exposure to the outside world than their parents, is beginning to question this: at what cost does this economic prosperity come? Is it worth it?
Still, Lee (and by extension, Singapore) has become very important in international diplomacy. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. has long depended on Lee to offer perspective on events throughout Asia. This may be starting to change. In recent years, the opposition party has been steadily gaining seats in parliament. The next round of elections is scheduled for next year.
Singapore: Little Tiger With A Big Military Roar (International Business Times)
"While Asian giants China and India rapidly build up their already huge military arsenals, the tiny, prosperous Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore has been quietly ramping up defense expenditures at a rate disproportionate to its size and population."
Singapore and Malaysia (UN)
"Agreement relating to the separation of Singapore from Malaysia as an independent and sovereign State."
Shopping Spree (The Economist)
"THE tiny island-state of Singapore, home to just over 5m people, has a well-deserved reputation as a quiet, clean-cut hub for banking, lawyering and golf. "