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Business News/ News / World/  Milestones in the life of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

Milestones in the life of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

The following is a timeline of milestones in the life of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first elected Prime Minister

A file photo provided by The Straits Times, shows Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, during an interview. Photo: AFPPremium
A file photo provided by The Straits Times, shows Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, during an interview. Photo: AFP

Singapore: The following is a timeline of milestones in the life of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first elected Prime Minister. Lee died at 3:18am on Monday in the city-state. He was 91.

16 September 1923: Born in British-ruled Singapore.

1936-42: Studies at Raffles Institution, Raffles College.

1942: Japanese capture Singapore during World War II.

1945: British return to Singapore.

1946-50: Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and University of Cambridge. Called to the Bar at Middle Temple.

1947: Secretly marries Kwa Geok Choo in England. Kwa, a Queen’s scholarship winner, was also studying law at Cambridge.

1950: Marries Kwa again after returning to Singapore.

1950-59: Practices law, becomes legal adviser to trade unions. Is frustrated by limited voice for Singaporeans in Legislative Council. Sees need for effective political movement as an alternative to Malayan Communist Party and other groups.

1954: Inaugurates People’s Action Party.

1955: Becomes leader of the opposition after being elected to legislative assembly.

1957: Is part of team that wins agreement on self-government for Singapore.

1959: Leads PAP to victory in general election, becomes prime minister of self-governing state of Singapore at 35.

1960: Sets up Singapore’s Housing and Development Board to replace slums and squatter settlements with apartments. Today, more than 80% of the resident population live in government-subsidized housing.

1963: Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah become Malaysia, gaining independence from the British.

1965: Singapore separates from Malaysia. Lee tears up after announcing the split.

Establishes ministry of the interior and defence to build up the army. At independence, Singapore had only two infantry battalions of 50 officers and about 1,000 men and two ships. There was no air force. Today, Singapore’s military expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) is higher than that of China, Japan and the UK, according to World Bank data.

1967: National Service starts. Then defence minister Goh Keng Swee said the government’s decision to introduce compulsory conscription of male youths was aimed at establishing a credible defence force and creating a national identity. The move allowed Singapore to build up defence forces without placing a heavy burden on the country’s financial and manpower resources.

1968: The Development Bank of Singapore is incorporated. Today, DBS Group Holdings Ltd is Southeast Asia’s biggest bank.

1972: Singapore Airlines is established, the result of a split of Malaysia-Singapore Airlines into two entities. Malaysian Airline System Bhd was the other. Singapore Airlines Ltd is now one of Asia’s five largest carriers by market value.

The government encourages smaller families with a “Please Stop at Two" campaign to slow population growth after a postwar boom. The policy was reversed in 1987, with incentives to encourage Singaporean parents to have more children. The country is now grappling with an aging population after fertility rates plunged below the replacement level of 2.1.

1974: State-owned investment company Temasek Holdings Pte is incorporated to hold and manage government investments and assets on a commercial basis. Temasek’s assets rose to a record S$223 billion ($162 billion) for the 12 months ended 31 March 2014. The company’s current chief executive officer (CEO) is Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew’s son.

1978: Lee meets Deng Xiaoping in Singapore shortly before Deng becomes China’s top leader. In a 2011 speech, Lee said Singapore had been a “revelation" to Deng, who saw how an island without resources was able to grow by inviting multinational corporations to invest. After the visit, Deng opened up seaports as special economic zones and invited investments and trade, Lee said.

1981: Changi Airport opens its Terminal 1. Today, it has three terminals with plans for two more and is one of the world’s busiest international airports.

Singapore sets up sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte to invest Singapore’s growing reserves. It is the world’s sixth biggest today, with an estimated $315 billion under management, according to the London-based Sovereign Wealth Center. Lee was chairman of GIC’s first board of directors.

1998: Singapore Technologies Industrial Corp. and Sembawang Corp. announce their intention to merge and form Sembcorp Industries Ltd, which has become the largest utility in Southeast Asia and owner of the world’s second-biggest builder of oil rigs.

1990: Goh Chok Tong succeeds Lee as Prime Minister. Lee becomes Senior Minister.

2004: Lee becomes Minister Mentor as his son Lee Hsien Loong becomes Singapore’s third Prime Minister.

2005: The younger Lee’s administration scraps a four-decade ban on casinos, clearing the way for multibillion dollar integrated resorts by Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Genting Singapore Plc. Shortly before the decision, The Straits Times cites Lee Kuan Yew as saying the city-state may suffer economically should it keep the ban as neighbouring countries open up to casinos, even though he was “emotionally and intellectually" against gambling.

2010: Singapore’s economic growth rises to record 15% after casinos open.

Lee’s wife Kwa passes away on 2 October at age 89, following a long illness. In his eulogy, Lee said that “without her, I would be a different man, with a different life."

2011: Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going is published in January. The book, a collection of interviews with Lee on his key ideas, followed memoirs published in 1998 and 2000.

Lee and Goh resign from the Cabinet after the PAP, led by Lee’s son Lee Hsien Loong, wins the general election with the smallest share of the popular vote since independence. The elder Lee had been a cabinet member for more than five decades.

November 2014: Lee Kuan Yew attends annual tree-planting event in rare public appearance, keeping up a decades-old tradition.

5 February 2015: Lee Kuan Yew is hospitalized for severe pneumonia.

Sources: Singapore government and company Websites; Lee’s memoir The Singapore Story. Bloomberg

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Published: 23 Mar 2015, 08:26 AM IST
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