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Dr Goh Keng Swee: Architect of Singapores Economic, Defence and Education Policies

Source: MICA A portrait of Dr Goh, taken during a press conference in 1967

The passing of Dr Goh Keng Swee (1918- 2010), who laid the foundation stones of Singapores economy and defence forces, has left the nation without one of its most well respected citizens.

Dr Goh was among the most important members of Singapores founding generation of leaders. He pl ayed a critical role as Minister of Finance in the crucial early years 1959-65 and 1967-70 laying the groundwork for Singapores subsequent economic development.

Among Dr Gohs many achievements in helping to bring about this transformation was his role in establishing the Economic Development Board (EDB) in 1961, the Jurong Industrial Estate in 1962 (which he promoted in spite of severe public criticism, though it turned out to be the right move) and the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) in 1968. These institutions have made, and continue to make, vital contributions to Singapores economic success.

Source: MICA Dr Goh (far left) during a visit to the proposed site for Jurong Industrial Estate, 1960. The unpromising ground (below), and distance of Jurong from Singapores town and port led the projects detractors to term it Gohs Folly. However the Jurong Industrial Estate turned out to be a great success. By 1976, 650 factories were in operation in Jurong, which became central to independent Singapores industrialisation efforts.

Source: MICA

Source: MICA Dr Goh launching operations at the National Steel and Iron Mill, the first factory established at the Jurong Industrial Estate, 1962

Economy Dr Goh was also responsible for developing the economic strategy that is crucial to explaining Singapores economic takeoff. Between 1959 and 1965, he advocated an import-substitution strategy and positioned Singapore as a manufacturing centre supplying the common Malaysian market. Following Singapores independence in 1965, Dr Goh realized the futility of keeping to this plan and began promoting an export-oriented developmental strategy. By adopting this export-oriented strategy, he went against influential economic theories circulating in the 1960s and 1970s which asserted that state protectionism and heavy government expenditure was necessary to spur growth in emerging economies.

Dr Gohs convictions were proved correct and his thought remains a cornerstone of Singapores economic policy.

Source: MICA Dr Goh touring a lubricant blending plant established by Shell at Woodlands in 1963

Defence Following Singapores separation from Malaysia in August 1965, Dr Goh handed the Ministry of Finance over to h is successor Mr

Lim Kim San and took up the position of Minister of Defense. As Minister of Defense, Dr Goh was tasked to secure Singapores national borders from both internal and external threats. A government gazette released in October 1965 stated that his field of 4 responsibility included Security, Law and Order, Defense, National ServicePeoples Association, Vigilante Corps. Dr Gohs most immediate and important task as Defense Minister was to build up a credible Singapore armed forces, literally from scratch, in double quick time. Dr Goh was convinced that a strong Singapore army was necessary to secure the countrys independence:

Source: MICA Dr Goh visiting Singapore Vigilante Corps trainees at the Mandai training area, 1966 Dr Goh succeeded in this daunting challenge, and in the process laid the foundations of one of the most important and successful Singapore state institutions in a mere six years. Many ideas and institutions on which the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is built 6 were put in place during Dr Gohs tenure, for instance a conscript army and compulsory national service for young men. He believed that Singaporean citizens should participate directly as soldiers in their countrys defence to reinforce their sens e of responsibility to the national community and to strengthen their bonds with one another as countrymen. Dr Goh thought that this was especially important as Singapore as new nation populated by migrants of diverse origins and particularistic interests did not possess a strong national consciousness: When Dr Goh gave up his defence portfolio in 1979 he left Singapore with a well rounded citizen army containing commando 8 units, armored battalions and an air force the core of a modern army when previously Singapore had nothing.

Source: MICA Dr Goh inspecting newly trained soldiers from the first batch of national servicemen, 1967

Source: MICA Dr Goh touring the newly opened factory facilities of Avimo, a British weapons manufacturer, at Jurong

Industrial Estate, 1975

Education Dr Goh also made significant contributions to Singapore in the field of education. In 1978, the Education Study Team chaired by Dr Goh Keng Swee identified ways to screen out academically weaker students to prepare them for vocational careers. Streaming was recommended as a means of enabling students to learn, at their own pace, varying numbers of languages at different proficiency levels.This new policy was implemented in 1980. At Primary 4, students are streamed into Normal, Extended or Monolingual streams. Others Dr Goh was appointed Deputy Prime Minister between 1973 and 1979, and from 1980 to 1985 he was made First Deputy Prime Minister, the position from which he retired from public life in 1985. He was made Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) between 1980 and 1985, where he spearheaded major organisational and professional improvements. He also came up with the idea in 1981 that Singapores national reserves should be managed by a specialised and professional investment management body that led to the formation of Singapores Government Investment Corporation (GIC) in which he served as 11 Deputy Chairman between 1981-1994. Apart from these achievements, Dr Goh was responsible for initiating or founding a diverse mix of other Singapore institutions, reflecting his remarkably broad range of interests. He championed the establishment of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (setup in 1968), the Jurong Bird Park and the Singapore Zoological Gardens (opened in 1971 and 1973 respectively), and the Singapore Symphonic Orchestra (setup in 1978). He conceived the idea of transforming the island of Pulau Blakang Mati, which was renamed Sentosa in 1968, from a military base into a tourist and leisure resort an idea which has come to full fruition recently with the opening of the Sentosa Integrated Resort in 2010. He also laid the groundwork for the institution of the Singapore Totalisator Board which was established in 1988. Following his retirement, the government of the Peoples Republic of China sought out Dr Gohs expertise and appointed him as its economic adviser on coastal development and tourism in 1985. Dr Goh was the first foreigner to be appointed to such a role a testament to the international recognition he had garnered for his accomplishments.

Source: MICA A portrait of Dr Goh taken in 1984, when he was Singapores First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education. Dr Goh was not only an exceptional Minister. He was a humble and humane person, compassionate for the needs of the less fortunate and deeply interested in social issues. He had in fact started his career as a social researcher at the Social Welfare Department (SWD), which he had chosen to join at the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945, although the SWD was then a small organisation with little prestige in the civil service. As a young officer in the SWD he played a central role in organising the Peoples Kitchens during the British Military Administration (1945-46). The Peoples Kitchens provided very low-cost but nutritious meals which ensured that fewer people went hungry during those difficult years. Though a relatively junior officer at the time, his keenly analytical mind and wry wit were already evident. This is a passage taken from the preface of a Report on Urban Incomes and Housing which Dr Goh prepared in 1956 when he was Assistant Director of Social Welfare (Social Research) at the SWD:

Source: Goh Keng Swee Foundation This booklet was prepared by the Goh Keng Swee Foundation in memory of Dr Goh in May 2010. The Foundation was setup in 2008 by Dr Gohs widow, Dr Phua Swee Liang, to aid the disadvantaged.

Major accomplishments Appointed Minister for Finance in 1959, he introduced an industrialisation programme with the aim of creating jobs for Singaporeans. Jurong, a swampy wasteland at the time, was transformed into Singapore's first industrial estate. To jumpstart the areas development, he offered incentives and drew in foreign investments. He also initiated the setting up of the Economic Development Board (EDB), which was established in August 1961 with the purpose of furthering the economic development of Singapore by attracting foreign investments. When Singapore attained independence on 9 August 1965, he became the first defence minister and saw an urgent need for a strong defence force. To quickly build up the Singapore Armed Forces, he implemented compulsory national service for all male Singaporeans above 18 years old. During his term as Minister of Education, the importance of curriculum development in the education system prompted him to set up the Curriculum Development Institute. To arrest the high dropout rates, he introduced streaming in 1980 to allow students to learn at their own pace within their own capabilities. He also introduced religious education but this was later dropped from the school curriculum. When he was appointed chairman of MAS and the Board of Commissioner of Currency in 1980, he took measures to promote Singapore as an international financial centre. To this end, in 1984, amendments were made to three major financial regulations, namely the Banking Act, the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act and the Finance Companies Act. During the 1985 recession, he acted swiftly to stop the downward slide of the Singapore dollar. In the early years of Chinas economic reform programme, the Chinese central government sought his expertise and appointed him as its economic adviser on coastal development and tourism in 1985. He was the first foreigner to be appointed to such a role. In 1985, the Singapore government awarded him the prestigious Order of Temasek (First Class) for his contributions in the nations development. To honour him, the financial community set up the Goh Keng Swee Scholarship Fund in 1992, while the National University of Singapore established the Goh Keng Swee Professorship and Master's Scholarship in Economics in 1996. To preserve his legacy, Gohs wife Phua Swee Liang set up the Goh Keng Swee Foundation in 2008 to help the disadvantaged. Timeline May 1959 Sep 1963 : Vice-chairman of PAP. 30 May 1959 3 Dec 1984 : Legislative assemblyman and later member of parliament for Kreta Ayer. 5 Jun 1959 8 Aug 1965 : Minister for Finance. 9 Aug 1965 23 Sep 1965 : Minister of Defence and Security. 24 Sep 1965 16 Aug 1967 : Minister of the Interior and Defence. 17 Aug 1967 10 Aug 1970 : Minister for Finance. 11 Aug 1970 11 Feb 1979 : Minister of Defence. 1 Mar 1973 31 May 1980 : Deputy Prime Minister. 12 Feb 1979 31 May 1980 : Minister of Education. 1 Jun 1980 Dec 1984 : First Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of MAS.

1 Jun 1981 Dec 1984 : Minister of Education. 1981 1994 : Deputy chairman, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation. 1983 1992 : Chairman, Board of Governors, Institute of East Asian Philosophies (later renamed Institute of East Asian Political Economy or IEAPE). Dec 1984 : Retired from politics. 1985 1992 : Deputy chairman, MAS. 1988 1994 : Chairman, Singapore Totalisator Board. 1991 : Director, Gateway Technologies Services Pte Ltd. 1992 1995 : Executive chairman and chairman of Board of Governors, IEAPE. Chairman, East Asian Consultancy (S) Pte Ltd. 1994 : Chairman, N. M. Rothschild & Sons (S) Ltd. 1995 : Vice-chairman, Hong Leong Asia Ltd. 1996 1997 : Deputy chairman, IEAPE. Awards 1966 : Honorary Fellow of LSE. 1972 : Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Services. 1972 : Order of Sikatuna, Philippines. 1985 : Order of Temasek (First Class), Singapore. 1991 : First Distinguished Fellow, EDB Society, Singapore. 1992 : Honorary member of the Singapore International Monetary Exchange. 1993 : Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Hong Kong.