Singapore is undergoing a rare transition in leadership, the third since independence in 1965.

More frequent have been the accolades directed at its economy, to the point where they have entered the folklore of modern capitalism: the "poverty to prosperity" narrative, stability in a region prone to upheaval, the lure as a hub for transport and finance.

Laudable as the attributes are, they did not just happen magically — and they are wrapped with significant caveats.