Lee Kuan Yew Brought Us Up the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

LKY Maslow

25 Mar Lee Kuan Yew Brought Us Up the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

There were many tributes written about Lee Kuan Yew by now. I will add a little twist to it by using the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to show what he has done for Singaporeans. Let’s start with the most basic needs and we work up the pyramid. The article is covering short snippets of his contributions and not meant to be an exhaustive list or a detailed discussion of his achievements.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

1. Physiological Needs

His contributions in improving our physiological needs was the most obvious. We had no water so he bought some from Malaysia. We also needed proper shelter so he built HDB flats and helped us own them.

He wanted a clean environment as we needed healthy bodies to work for the country. He knew he needed to go further to inculcate every Singaporean about the importance of cleanliness. He led by example sweeping the streets.

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LKY Sweeping Streets

And I still remember the frog mascot from the clean and green movement when I was in Primary School.

Clean and Green

From https://seeingsingapore.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/captain-green-2/

2. Safety Needs

One of the biggest worries when Singapore gained independence was the withdrawal of British military forces. He had to build up a credible defence force quickly. Otherwise we would have be defeated easily.

Internally, he advocated racial harmony so that we could live peacefully with one another.

In short, he gave us safety with the five pillars of defence.

Total Defence

3. Social Needs

He established neighbourhoods and social spaces for people to come together. Institutionalised the People’s Association to plan and run community centres.


Some would probably challenge that his efforts in social needs would be lesser compared to other aspects. I would argue that he could only create an environment for love to take place and there were just so much he could do. It is our responsibility to make love.

4. Esteem Needs

He emphasised on bilingualism in Singapore education, whereby every Singaporean learned English and Mother Tongue language in schools. English was the international language of the world which we could not afford not to learn.

Fast forward to today, we have Singaporeans studying and working around the world. And it is true it gives me the sense of pride holding the red passport.

Proud Red Passport

And the bigger thing was meritocracy. Regardless of your race, religion or family background, you can have the opportunity to succeed based on merits. We are given the avenue to achieve and show our self-esteem.

5. Self-Acutalizing Needs

We have the first 4 level of needs pretty much settled so we are in a privileged position to think about the meaning of life. We won’t have this luxury if we need to worry about putting food on the table the next day. We can afford to think far ahead because three meals are no longer a worry.

As a result, the current generation of Singaporeans have been talking about finding purpose in life. And Jane’s story is one good example. Lee Kuan Yew has propelled us up to the top of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs by the third generation. Amazing work.


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