(Bloomberg) — World leaders remembered Lee Kuan Yew as a
political “giant” who crafted Singapore into a regional
economic powerhouse and helped drive the creation of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Lee, who died Monday at 91, was Singapore’s first elected
prime minister, a Cambridge University-trained lawyer who led
the nation after independence from Great Britain, from 1959 to

U.S. President Barack Obama said discussions with Lee in
2009 were “hugely important” in helping him formulate the
U.S.’s policy of rebalancing to the Asia Pacific region.

“Lee’s views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic
management were respected by many around the world, and no small
number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought
his advice on governance and development,” Obama said in a
White House statement.

“He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for
generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one
the great strategists of Asian affairs.”

Lee was hospitalized Feb. 5 to treat severe pneumonia,
where he was sedated and put on mechanical ventilation. As
leader, he crafted a legacy of encouraging foreign investment,
averting corruption and emphasizing discipline, efficiency and
interracial harmony. His elder son, Lee Hsien Loong, has been
prime minister since 2004.

Stability, Prosperity

“The nation he leaves behind is an influential force for
stability and prosperity and a friend to the United States,”
former U.S. President George W. Bush said in a statement of the
elder Lee. Bush’s father, ex-U.S. president George H. W. Bush,
said he was proud to have called Lee a friend.

“I respected his effective leadership of his wonderful,
resilient and innovative country in ways that lifted living
standards without indulging a culture of corruption,” he said.

Singapore has been ranked by the World Bank as the easiest
place to do business for at least eight years, and has Asia’s
highest GDP per capita.

Lee “personally shaped Singapore in a way that few people
have any nation,” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said in a
statement. “His place in history is assured, as a leader and as
one of the modern world’s foremost statesmen.”

Leaders from Australia and New Zealand noted Lee’s
contribution to the development of modern Singapore.

Regional Giant

Lee was a “giant of our region” who 50 years ago led a
“vulnerable, fledgling nation to independence,” Australian
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday in a statement.

“Thanks to his leadership, Singapore is now one of the
world’s most prosperous nations, a financial powerhouse, and one
of the world’s easiest places to do business,” Abbott said.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key cited Lee’s work to set
up the 10-member Asean, “which has offered cohesion and
stability in a diverse region.”

“He was well known for his insights and foresight but what
struck me most was his unwavering determination to see Singapore

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon described Lee
as a “legendary figure in Asia,” who was widely respected for
his leadership.

“He helped Singapore to transition from a developing
country to one of the most developed in the world, transforming
it into a thriving international business hub,” he said in a
statement on the UN website.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Shamim Adam in Kuala Lumpur at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Rosalind Mathieson at
Linus Chua