I'm not a Singaporean, I'm from Malaysia. Growing up, I would hear stories of how a lot of my friends would like to migrate to Singapore to find better job, for a
It's not a debate, and I'm not trying to stir one. Singapore is a more economically developed country than Malaysia, with 5x more GDP per capita than us.
I didn't give much thought about why that would be the case, because ever since I was young Singapore was perceived as the better country. As if it's the natural order of things.
Of course we know that wasn't the case. Our history class taught us that Singapore was once part of Malaysia, and there was a time Singapore Dollar was equivalent to Malaysian Ringgit, as opposed to 1SGD = 3 MYR now.
A recent discussion with my friends sparked my interest to learn more about the development of Singapore since its separation from Malaysia.
Which is what inspired this post.
Naturally the first thing that came to my mind was Lee Kuan Yew's memoir: From third world to first. I've heard of it but wasn't interested to read it until now.
I'm just into the first couple chapters, so here's some of the interesting things I learned so far.
Singapore was only part of Malaysia for 2 years
I had the perception that Singapore was part of Malaysia since the beginning and was only separated to become independent after the British colonies left South East Asia.
Turns out Singapore merged with Malaysia after the British left, but was expelled (voted out) after 2 years due to racial tension and political differences between the two state.
Defending Singapore from external threat
The top 3 concerns for Lee Kuan Yew at that time (after independence) was:
- Getting international recognition for Singapore's independence
- Defend Singapore real estate from external threat
- Start up the nation's economy
The first thing in order was to build a military force from scratch. They had no army at the time, and they were facing threats from Malaysia and Indonesia.
It took 8-10 years for Singapore to achieve credible defence capability with the help from Israel and the British government.
Equal law for all citizen regardless of race
Racial tension was high after the separation from Malaysia. So Lee Kuan Yew and his parliament set out to enforce fair government policies that would apply equally to all citizens regardless of race.
This kept Singaporeans united despite the challenges.