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Lee Kuan Yew (Hanzi: 李光耀, Pinyin: Lǐ Guāngyào), or Lee Kwan-Yew, (born September 16, 1923) is the current Senior Minister of Singapore. He was the Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. He was born in Singapore, and received his university education from the University of Cambridge in Britain. He returned to Singapore in 1949 to work as a lawyer.
In 1954, Lee and a group of fellow English-educated, middle-class men formed the socialist People's Action Party (PAP), to agitate for self-government for Singapore and an end to British colonialism . Five years later, in 1959, Lee was elected as the first Prime Minister of Singapore, replacing the former Chief Minister of Singapore, David Saul Marshall. He was regularly re-elected until November 1990, when he stepped down and assumed the post of senior minister in the government cabinet, which he holds to this day. While Goh Chok Tong currently holds the reins of power, Lee's son Lee Hsien Loong has been designated as his successor.
During the three decades in which Lee was in office, Singapore grew from a Third World country into a financial and economical powerhouse, despite its lack of natural resources and small population. He is widely respected by the people of Singapore, and has often been mistakenly credited as the architect of its prosperity, a role played by his Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Goh Keng Swee, who was in charge of the economy. Nevertheless, this economic success of an embryonic nation of immigrants was built upon its political unity which is the difficult accomplishment of Lee's leadership. Without a shared culture, forging unity required firm policies for which he has been criticized as an authoritarian.