Singapore’s founding father refers to those who put great effort in Singapore’s development after independence in terms of political, military and economy. I focus on their tangible, significant contribution. ‘Contributed most’ actually means the most important contribution which is constructive in sustaining Singapore’s development. I do not agree with the statement that Singapore’s founding fathers contributed most to its economy. Instead, they contributed most to Singapore’s politics.
Founding fathers Goh Keng Swee and Devan Nair helped Singapore lowered the unemployment rate and at the same time make the labour force more effective. Just after independence, Singapore was suffering from a high unemployment rate up to about 15%, and there were insufficient job opportunities to cater to the masses. Goh Keng Swee managed to transform Jurong from a small fishing village into a large and thriving industrial complex, equipped with efficient and modern infrastructure and facilities. Jurong Industrialisation in the first place created more jobs for the local people as factories were set up. This sharply decreased the unemployment rate.
Furthermore, it relieved the pressure of the new government as more people got a job and could live on themselves. The government could spend less money on aiding at the poor. Also, due to the low cost of workers, there was an influx of foreign companies and investments into Jurong as Industrialisation had provided a platform for investments and cheap labour force were available. The investments gave raise to Singapore’s economy and further solve the unemployment problem since more jobs opportunities were created. Lastly, Singaporeans could directly purchase products manufactured in Jurong, which was cheaper than those imported in most cases. This stabilise the home market as products would be more affordable.
During that period, labour force was also suffering from a low standard of welfare. Some of the workers were literally starving to death. Such labour force did not have high effectiveness in working, losing its competitiveness. As a result, foreign investments would barely chose Singapore. To deal with the problem, Devan Nair founded National Trade Union Congress which lowered prices of living for the citizens and made daily necessities more affordable. Such actions effectively solved the problem of widespread food shortage.
Furthermore, NTUC’s low price was served as a competition to other businesses, which forced them to lower prices in general terms. This stabilized the market and prevented the inflation of food prices from occurring again. Moreover, NTUC supported the marketing of local products, maximizing profits of local businesses, hence supported the new industries. By industrializing Jurong and setting up the National Trade Union Congress, job opportunities were created, welfare of labour force was improved and home market stabilized, hence to a large extent improve the sustainability of economy.
In this aspect, our founding father Rajaratnam and Toh Chin Chye helped Singapore gain more connection from the outside world. After separating from Malaysia, Singapore was politically isolated. Dr Toh Chin Chye succeeded in applying Singapore for a seat in the United Nations. After separation from Malaysia, Singapore virtually did not have any strong diplomatic relationships with other countries. Dr Toh realized Singapore’s survivability was greatly depended on its stronger allies, so he decided to apply Singapore for the United Nations.
In September 1965, Singapore delegation led by him went to New York, winning unanimous approval from the UN General Assembly for entry of UN. He also went to Europe, Asia and the Middle East, where he strove to win friends for the country. First, this helped Singapore to gain security in which there would be support from other countries if Singapore ever came under attack. As Singapore was had obtained diplomatic relationships with other countries, it was not longer a threat that Singapore might not get sufficient daily necessities on their own and people suffering from abject living conditions.
Instead of travelling far away from Singapore, Dr. Rajaratnam focused on countries surrounding Singapore. He contributed to the formation and development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). From Singapore’s perspective, the ASEAN helped Singapore build good relationships with our neighbouring countries and provided opportunities for Singapore to promote trade. First, within the ASEAN, there were treaties like Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which formulated a system to deal with regional conflicts. Through these treaties, member countries of the ASEAN were able to solve disputes without unnecessary wars and nuclear attacks, allowing countries to come to peaceful terms.
As infant Singapore could not afford the destruction of war, such treaties safeguarded Singapore’s security in the region and to some extent avoided the outbreak of a war. Furthermore, ASEAN provided a platform for different countries to negotiate and resolve disputes peacefully, Singapore, by virtue of it, built good relationships between the neighbouring countries. Second, Singapore could not survive economically without other countries’ resources. By entering the ASEAN, Singapore gained accessibility to cheap resources like water. As a result, Singapore lowered its costs of manufacturing industries and cheaper product and necessities was available to Singaporeans, relieving pressure on sustaining life.
Goh Keng Swee, by setting up a strong defense force, solved the problem of risk of being defeated quickly. Due to Singapore’s geographical location, we were vulnerable to attacks by neighboring countries, which are larger and militarily stronger. Singapore needs a strong defense force against potential foreign aggressions. During that critical period, Goh Keng Swee built up Singapore Armed Force rapidly. In order to protect Singapore, Dr. Goh implemented the People’s Defence Force and spearheaded the National Service.
Through fielding an army with a combat strength of 250,000 consisting of men between the age of 18 and 35, Singapore will no longer be at risk of being defeated unconsciously. During military service, soldiers can capture combat skills systematically, hence if a war breaks out, all of them can go into battle when required. This ensures the combat effectiveness and sustainability of the defense force. Also ,there is an inculcation of patriotism in soldiers, enabling them to unify for our nation and stand together as one so that in war times we can fight in unison. Building up defence force stabilise the society as Singapore became less vulnerable and could focus on the development of other aspects. From the observation above, the military reform was critical in Singapore’s development.
Although Singapore is now recognized as its magnificent economic achievements, economic contribution is not the most important contribution compared to other aspects. On the other hand, Singapore’s founding fathers contributed most to its politics. By gaining diplomatic relationships with other countries, Singapore could join with militarily strong allies to protect Singapore. Without their support, Singapore would still be easily conquered despite the implementation of National Service due to the big difference in population.
Also, foreign investments could enter Singapore freely after the bilateral relationship was set up. More jobs could be created to improve Singapore’s economy. Furthermore, by signing trade agreements and other agreements, Singapore’s trade income would increase and the tax for goods to be sold abroad would be lowered. Without those benefits, Singapore’s economy might have been stagnated and would have not been flourished now.Hence, political contribution is what Singapore’s founding fathers contributed most.
In conclusion, Singapore’s founding fathers contributed most to its politics. As other contribution in other aspects would not succeed without the foundamental base of political achievements, political contribution is the most important and to the greater extent help Singapore sustain its development.