February 01, 2006
I met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (b. 1952; I share my birthday with him), the third and current Prime Minister of Singapore since 2004, in Singapore. Lee is the eldest son of Singapore’s founding father and the first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled the nation for three decades.
Singapore is a nation carved from the ideals and motivation of the first generation of migrants, who chose to make this island their home. The top leadership ensured that the nation belongs to all Singaporeans, regardless of ethnicity. From the outset, equal rights for every citizen has been the foundation of the national ideology.
The government of the new nation preferred English as the language for administration. In another bold step, meritocracy was made as the guiding principle for working in the government and people with connections were kept away from the new institutions. When I asked the reason behind the peace and prosperity of a small nation with so many ethnic diversity – Chinese, Indians, Malaysians, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, I was told that law enforcement and dispensing of justice is so impeccable and just that no one holds a grievance when punished for a fault.
I was also very impressed with the public housing system. Four of five Singaporean families live in a public house. It not only creates a charming uniformity but also provides world-class amenities to every family. Dr. Kalam called Singapore ‘small paradise’ on earth where tradition and modernity co-exist. For me, it was a perfect blend of capitalism and socialism like