Remembering Mr. Lee Kwan Yew

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As the world mourns the death of Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister and the founder of modern-day Singapore, CDIA remembers him as the driving force behind Singapore’s stature as one of the world’s most livable cities.

Urban planners regard Singapore as a model city. It was the first city in the world to introduce road congestion pricing, wherein motorists pay a premium for using busy downtown roads at peak hours. Singapore made driving expensive but provided its commuters with world-class mass transit that is safe, clean, and cheap. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, the lowest rate of drug abuse, and is consistently rated one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

On the housing front, Mr. Lee embarked on a mass home-building exercise with the construction of low-cost apartments in high-rise buildings. Today, more than 80 percent of Singaporeans live in government-built flats, with 95 percent owning their homes.

“There must be a sense of equity, that everybody owns a part of the city,” Lee said in an August 2012 interview with the Centre for Liveable Cities, one of CDIA’s partners.

To become less reliant on neighboring countries for its water supply, Singapore became a pioneer in harvesting urban stormwater on a large scale for its water supply. Today, the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize honors outstanding contributions in solving global water problems.

Another prestigious award, the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, seeks to recognize the achievements of outstanding individuals and organizations who have contributed urban initiatives, policies or projects which epitomize foresight, good governance, or innovation in overcoming the challenges faced by cities.

To facilitate the sharing of best practices in urban solutions, the Prize emphasizes practical and cost-effective solutions and ideas for the benefit of cities around the world, to promote excellent thought-leadership and exchange of ideas among cities, with the ultimate goal of spurring further innovations in sustainable urban development.

Mr. Lee put great emphasis on the development of Singapore’s infrastructure and education system, which now rank among the best in the world. Under his leadership, the adoption of strategic land use, transport and environmental policies and programs have helped Singapore to develop into a liveable city with a high quality living environment with rapid economic growth. Farewell, and thank you Mr. Lee Kwan Yew.

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