Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Travel Blogging III

Dateline: Singapore. Mr. Lee’s Magical City, the truck stop of the seas, is still an amazing place. The harbor contains more cargo ships than you believed existed in the world. The seaway alongside Singapore is the busiest in the world. And if you can believe it, this is a clean city in the tropics! Even the local Chinatown is clean, perhaps a record.

The gentleman responsible for this anomalous place is Lee Kwan Yew, the world’s best-ever urban planner and social engineer. He was Prime Minister here for 31 years and I am prepared to believe he could have done that without the limitations on civil rights that he imposed. Still, with one of the world’s highest population densities, a high degree of control is necessary to keep people from pestering each other.

The location is almost on the equator and the elevation is essentially sea level so the climate is hot and wet in the dry season, and hotter and wetter in the wet season. The city-state has no natural resources except its location on the most heavily traveled sea lane in the world. So Mr. Lee took a poor city and made it wealthy in 30 years; today it has a greater per capita Gross Domestic Product than the U.S. No wonder it is Singapore, not the U.S., that much of the non-western world hopes to emulate.