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Dr Goh Keng Swee- A Tribute to Singapore’s Fireman


Dr Goh Keng Swee passed away today. He was 91 years old.

As a former history teacher, I remember teaching about him to a new generation of Singaporeans who have not even heard of him.

I labelled him as Lee Kuan Yew’s fireman. When Mr Lee found big problems in an area, more often than not, Dr Goh was the one chosen to solve it.

He was the Defence Minister who pushed for conscription and strengthened the Singpore Armed Forces while the Indonesian Confrontation was doing on. He left an inedible mark on all Singaporean males who have undergo this rite of passage to reach manhood.

While Mr Lee was a wreck after the separation from Malaysia, Dr Goh was instrumental in  orchestrating the succession of Singapore from the federation in August 1965.

When the economy needed help, he was again the chief architect. He had the guts to choose a swamp land at Jurong. People scoffed at him and called him mad. 15,000 acres of swampland was transformed to a gleaming industrial park of mammoth scale (at least for a country the size of Singapore)

As Singapore first Finance Minister, he was the point man who called for attracting MNCs to Singapore to drive our growth, create jobs and transfer skills. He started the Economic Development Board, the Port of Singapore Authority, Jurong Town Corporation and the Central Provident Fund. I think he also started the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), the Singapore Zoo and Sentosa.

I think you can appreciate his enormous footprint on the Singapore landscape.

While there are controversial (to me anyway) policies he implemented later in 1979 to introduce streaming as Education Minister and later his stance in the bus versus MRT debate, where he argued for bus while the other camp led by another Singapore stalwart Mr Ong Teng Cheong argued for MRT.

Singapore will miss the likes of men of caliber like Dr Goh.



1. Wikipedia on Goh Keng Swee

2. Channel News Asia on Dr Goh.

3. Wikipedia on Ong Teng Cheong.

4. Carving Mythology, Building Nation

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