From A Slum Colony to One of The Richest Countries in the World- The Journey of Singapore



A few decades ago, Singapore was one of the largest slums colonies in the world, with very high unemployment rates and frequent communal riots.

Let's start at the beginning, how was Singapore pushed to poverty and misery


The WWII

At the peak of WWII, The Japanese troops were sweeping through Southeast Asia and East China. Until then Singapore was a major colony for the Britishers, due to its geographical advantage. It was at the heart of all the trade routes that connected south-east Asia with Europe. Singapore had prospered with the help of flourishing trade under the Britishers. So conquering Singapore was essential for extending Japanese influence in the region. Initially, the Japanese army was underestimated, and it was thought that the Japanese army would be no match to the far more advanced British army. But what followed was entirely different. Less than ten thousand Japanese soldiers conquered Singapore and captured nearly Sixty-four thousand soldiers of the Allied forces.

The Japanese troops killed the captured prisoners of war, along with about fifty to seventy thousand civilians. Later in the war, America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug 6 and 9. By then Hitler was dead, the Soviets had swept across Italy and Japan was left with no option but to surrender. Therefore the British rule was reestablished in Singapore on September 12, 1945. But Singapore was no longer the same prosperous colony that the Britishers had lost to the Japanese. The country was in ruins. Infrastructure damaged and many people killed, Singapore had entirely changed. The electricity and water supply lines were destroyed and the harbors were torn down to nothing. This let the economy of Singapore starve. Food became scarce and rice became a luxury. This is when the nationalist movement in Singapore began. And the Britishers too started realizing that in the post-WWII era colonization would not be a viable option for them. As a result, the first National elections in Singapore were held in 1959 under British rule itself. The People's Action Party rose to power under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. Little did the people know that this party would redefine the future of Singapore and make it a world-class example to look up to. Singapore had very less resources to make any drastic change, so they sought help from Malaysia and joined the Malaysian Federation on September 16, 1963, which made Singapore one of the fourteen states of Malaysia. The Singaporeans were given access to the free markets of Malaysia and were given employment opportunities. In return, Malaysia was given access to the ports of Singapore and the taxes collected. But soon the Malaysian govt started discriminating and gave privileges to the Malayans and increased taxes to the Singaporeans. It followed this with a series of rules and regulations that favored the Malayan community. This resulted in communal riots and many people were injured. Soon in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the Federation due to ideological differences between The People's Action Party and the Malaysian government. This was a huge blow to future plans of Lee Kuan Yew. The Britishers too started to withdraw from Singapore. The British army gave employment to a major section of the population and the withdrawal meant more unemployment. After being expelled from the federation Singapore faced a series of challenges - Economic crisis, no more protection from the British Royal Army and Navy, Unemployment, and a huge reduction in GDP(up to 20%) as the Britishers gradually reduced their influence on the Singaporean economy.




But Lee Kuan Yew didn't lose hope. After lengthy deliberations, he convinced the Britishers to stay till 1975. He bought ten more years for the country. He had bought ten more years for the country so that he could build an army from scratch to replace the British Royal Army, had to create jobs to replace that which were created by the British, and scale-up infrastructure. To build an army in a short period, Lee Kuan Yew made national service in the army mandatory for all youngsters in the country. He also knew that Singapore could provide the cheapest labor to international investors. So he adopted a free market system and embraced capitalization. He gave land at discounted prices to FIIs and also gave incentives to make production more affordable. He had to make every piece of land available in Singapore productive as land is a very finite resource for the Singaporeans, city planning was done keeping this in mind. Though the British decided to leave Singapore in 1971, 4 years earlier than expected Lee Kuan Yew had already created as many jobs to substitute the employment provided by the British Royal Army and Navy. He understood that the electronics industry would be the gamechanger like the textile industry was in the pre-WWII era. The Singaporean Govt took loans from the World Bank to invest specifically in infrastructure projects. They knew that the only leverage they had was the geographical advantage of being at the heart of global trade routes. So funds were utilized to scale up port infrastructure as fast as possible. The import duties were reduced to a large extent on major commodities. The Jurong Port was built. Today The Jurong port generates a revenue of more than 150 million dollars every single year. The Jurong town corporation was established. The town corporation made the city more beautiful to attract tourists from all around the world. The Singapore river which was once a dump yard full of garbage was cleaned, and today it's one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world. Most Singaporeans at the time were homeless, and Singapore was one of the largest slum colonies in the world. To remedy this the government made it a priority to build homes for everyone. The Housing Development Board was established which built apartments for every citizen. the slums usually occupied a lot of space that could be utilized for other economic activities. So the Housing Development Board built apartments with many stories to occupy more people in the same piece of land. They made it mandatory for all citizens below the age of 55 to contribute twenty percent of their savings to the Central Provident Fund or the CPF. The money gathered was utilized for housing and other developmental projects. The apartments built were given at subsidized rates to the poor. Lee Kuan Yew believed that communal segregation was the major reason behind communal riots. so in the housing projects, special attention was paid to integrate different ethnicities into the same community in the housing projects. This also made sure that no political leader could misuse the political disputes between communities to their own advantage during the elections.


The effect of capitalism and socialism in two different countries with similar conditions(size, resources, population, etc)


Today Singapore has the highest standards in terms of health care facilities, public township housing, Education facilities, and many more. It has one of the highest life expectancies which stands at 83.5 years. People from all around the world prefer Singapore for the treatment of serious ailments. This was the story of a slum community that went on to become a land of sky scrappers, of a poverty-stricken place that went on to become one of the economic and trading powerhouses in Southeast Asia, of a place with one of the highest unemployment rates that went on to become a country with one of the highest per capita income, of a vulnerable piece of island that went on to become a prominent nation on the world map, this is the story of Singapore. These were the standards set by Lee Kuan Yew for his people. This is the story of the people of Singapore and their leader Lee Kuan Yew. BY RISHI D V #Journal #Documentary #History



84 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All