It is now a rich country in which most of the population lives in municipal housing while their children attend excellent state schools. There is a further crucial difference from the colonial past; Singapore now holds elections to choose its leaders. This was not the case until near the end of British rule, when the colony was allowed a measure of self-government.
But the Singapore story also shows us the price societies pay when their rulers make use of the tools colonial authorities left behind. Under British rule, detention without trial was used to stifle the threat of communism while a licensing system kept the press contained. As many Singaporean dissidents have argued, Singapore has embraced this illiberal colonial tradition to create a tightly controlled modern state.
The consequences are a country that, while wealthy, has a chilling climate for free speech and no independent trade unions. While Singapore does hold elections, there is little space for opposition politics – human rights groups say defamation laws have frequently been used to silence opposition voices.
I’ll share my thoughts later on.