Lee Kuan Yew, the man who founded modern-day Singapore and died last week at age 91, led that economic transformation. One of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, Lee was an autocrat whose tiny island-state became one of the richest places in the world, and a role model for other governments in Asia and beyond.
The government is exploring expanding its wealth tax system — in addition to existing levies on property and cars — as establishment figures including the central bank chief and the finance minister publicly sound the alarm about disparities. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has signaled tax changes are likely to be announced in the city-state’s annual budget on Feb. 18.
The cracks in Singapore’s economic model — widening wealth inequality and challenges in buying inexpensive housing — have appeared in many large cities around the world. Covid-19 has only compounded those problems, decimating livelihoods everywhere and pushing as many as 150 million people globally into extreme poverty, according to World Bank estimates. Meanwhile, the collective fortune of the world’s 500 richest people surged by more than $1 trillion.