How Did Singapore Became So Rich?

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If you ever wondered if it is possible to go from the third world to World class in a lifetime just follow Singapore’s story and steps.

This small city nation has started its journey in a rough way: kicked out from Malaysia in 1965 and left without the support of the British (Sung, 2006), it was struggling with survival. With a population suffering from malnutrition and no natural resources it had to rely solely on the geostrategic position which it had, following a long tradition of maritime commerce dating back to the 14th century (Huff, 1997), but that wasn’t enough.

Urgent action needed to be taken and a strong leader was needed. As stated in this article, leadership is a key to progress. Prime minister Lee Kuan Yew stepped into the role of the visionary, together with Goh Keng Swee as “the economic architect”. The team’s creed was MPH (meritocracy, pragmatism, and honesty)  (Mahbubani, 2015), a formula that meant only the skilled people were welcomed, best practices will be studied and implemented and there was no room for favoritism or corruption.

Using these guidelines, prime minister Lee implemented a growth strategy based on attracting foreign investors, enhancing the workers’ skills continuously as well as importing foreign brainpower and having zero tolerance for mediocrity, drugs or destabilizing situations.

The country opened up to multinationals not only in a fiscal way having low taxes but in a hospitable manner, building the most impressive airport to date (Sung, 2006).


Singapore has risen to wealth due to Lee’s authoritarian regime, which set a clear path; much like Steve Jobs did with Apple, not by being popular, but by imposing ever-higher standards and a no free lunch policy, much like Singaporean welfare system. Now Singapore has to take a final step: to overcome the dictatorship label and become a true democracy.

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