November 26, 2016
When the Japanese surrendered Singapore back to the British in 1945, hope was re-kindled in the island. The people could now put the past three years behind them and look forward to a new chapter and a new beginning.
Rebuilding a nation
The horrific war had left the island stripped off essential infrastructure, especially the harbour facilities at its prestigious port. The first priority for the British Military Administration was to rebuild the nation and bestow some of its past glory.
The fact that the Allied troops could not protect Singapore had diminished the people’s respect for the colonial power. The one sentiment that echoed over the landscape was of self-governance. A political reality that would take more than a decade to accomplish.
Push for independence
The year was 1959 and the island nation was bubbling with patriotic fervour. Singapore had been rebuilding itself by exporting tin and rubber to the rest of the world. The citizens were now confident that they could rule their own land. The cries for complete self-governance had reached a crescendo.
Lee Kuan Yew and his People’s Action Party (PAP) rode on the wave of public sentiment and ushered Singapore into a new age of self-rule. The next four years were spent in strengthening the island nation’s economy and pride that was severely wounded by the Japanese occupation during World War II. Significant investments were made to promote industrialization and to provide cheap, quality housing to the citizens. Tax incentives were also announced to encourage foreign investment.
As Singapore grew in confidence, the PAP leaders felt that a merger with Malaya was the way forward. By bolstering ties with a neighbour they shared historical and cultural ties with, the city-state could empower its economy and create a solution for unemployment. The political party also recognized that the island-nation was not blessed with natural resources like the rest of the Malay peninsula.
In 1963, Malaysia was formed with the two nations at the heart of the merger.
Right from the offset the union faced teething problems. There was distrust between the people and the political parties of the two nations. Fingers were pointed and the mood became vitriolic, leading to riots.
Less than two years later, on 9th August 1965, the island-nation left the union to form its very own independent state. This was the moment when modern Singapore was born.
Rise of a superpower
The island-nation took quick steps to integrate itself into the fabric of the modern world. After joining the United Nations on 21st September, 1965, all efforts were directed towards industrialization and the services sector. These efforts jumpstarted the economy providing the citizens of a new, independent nation the comfort of financial security.
Singapore’s unstoppable growth as a modern economic power continued in the decade of the 80s and the 90s with an emphasis on new industrial technologies, manufacturing of high value goods, and oil refineries. In the new millennium, the city-state has evolved to become a global hub of knowledge and innovation, spearheading forefront research and technologies.
Besides cementing its place as an economic force, Singapore’s blend of history and cultures also renders this new age city as a unique cultural hotspot and foodie nation.