Singapore lost a pioneer Old Guard Cabinet minister and long-time corporate chief.
Lim Kim san was 89, and died just four months short of turning 90, on the 20th of July 2006
Born in 1916 in Singapore, Mr Lim was the eldest of six children and an eldest son of a merchant. Lim Kim San grew up in an extended family, in a house situated in the middle of a rubber estate along River Valley Road. He was first educated in Oldham Hall School, the Anglo-Chinese Continuation School, then Anglo-Chinese School.
The Great Depression was after he left Anglo Chinese school in year 1933. His hope of going to England to pursue a Law degree failed as his father's business suffered badly and he could not afford to send his son abroad. Lim Kim San did not wish to go to Raffles College, then the only tertiary institution in Singapore. Therefore, he had to join the workforce at the Straits Steamship Company as a clerk.
When Raffles College finally started its department of Economics, Lim Kim San enrolled and continued his education. It was then that he first met future Cabinet colleagues such as Goh Keng Swee and Hon Sui Sen.
Upon graduating with a diploma in Arts in year 1939, Lim Kim San did not wish to be a teacher, and his results did not give him the opportunity to join the colonial civil service. So, he worked as a pump attendant for half a year in a petrol station at Finlayson Green, which was owned by his father. He then worked in a sago-processing factory owned by his father-in-law. This early working experience honed his business acumen and contributed to his keen judgement of character after.
When World War II erupted and Japanese occupied Singapore, Lim Kim San escaped to Sumatra at the start of the Japanese Occupation in year 1942, but returned to Singapore a week later. He was twice arrested by the Kempeitai and tortured. Mr Lim was one of many tortured on suspicion of being pro-communist and pro-British. A long time after the war, Mr Lim said that those who survived the horror and the brutality of the Japanese occupation "will never forget them". Mr Lim also said that the experience, while traumatic and humiliating, politicised his generation and made them vow to "never let our fate be decided by others."
After the war
After the war ended, Mr Lim was, in his own words, a young man "in a hurry to make a living" to make up for the wasted years. He made his first million when he came up with a machine to produce sago pearls cheaply. He then went on to become a director of 2 merchant banks.
In 1959, Lim Kim San was approached by Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye and Lee Kuan Yew to contest the upcoming elections on a People's Action Party (PAP) ticket. Lim Kim San demurred, citing his business commitments, but he drew on his overdraft to fund the PAP campaign.
When the PAP won the elections and formed the government , due to rapidly increasing population at that time, where people were living in over-crowded conditions which were often unsafe, un-sanitized and without any amenities. Lim Kim San agreed to serve in the Public Service Commission and chair the Housing Development Board (HDB). He volunteered his service to the HDB for four years - setting policies, managing planners, architects and contractors all the while refusing a salary till he became a Cabinet Minister in 1963.
Lim was known for his organizing and planning abilities. He forwent a detailed planning stage and instead chose a "rough and ready" approach to work fast using rough estimates of the housing requirement. In the first two year of this crash program, over 25,000 units were built, more than what was built in the previous decade. Standardized architectural designs were used. Lim made the important decision to use private contractors rather than employing construction workers directly. This reduced the burden of HDB which would then supervise these contractors to ensure standards. Overall cost was kept low by using a large pool of contractors and different sources of building materials.
He had the trust of the Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and worked closely with Goh Keng Swee the Minister for Finance. He was thus able to keep the housing program well-funded.
Success on project
In the Five Years Housing Program, HDB achieved its goal of completing 51,000 units of low-cost housing by 1965. The largest project completed was Queenstown, a satellite town of more than 17,500 apartments housing close to 150,000 people. In this and other neighborhoods, the theme was to create a mostly self-sufficient neighbourhood or town to reduce the need to have to go out of the neighbourhood for routine needs. To suit this, amenities were provided including community centers, markets and shopping centers, health clinics, children’s playgrounds, sports facilities, and schools. This proposal (presently extended with the concept of a regional center led by Lim Kim San, is generally accredited to have significantly contributed to the lower rate of congestion and burden on the central business district than before.
In May 1961, the Bukit Ho Swee Fire some 16,000 people became homeless. Lim directed their relocation and the reconstruction. In just over four years, over 8,000 low-cost flats were built on that site and those who lost their home were able to return.
In June 1962, Mr. Lim was awarded the State's highest honor, the Darjah Utama Temasek (Order of Temasek). In September 1963, he stood for election to the Singapore Legislative Assembly from the Cairnhill constituency, winning by a large majority. In October that same year, he was appointed as Minister for National Development. After Singapore's independence in 1965, he served as Minister for Finance for 2 years and then became the Minister for the Interior and Defense for 3 years. Subsequent to that between 1971 and 1978, he was the chairman of the Public Utilities Board (PUB). He then chaired the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) from 1979 to 1994.He will be remembered as one of the founding fathers of modern Singapore Lim Kim San
In September 1963, Lim Kim San was persuaded to stand for elections in Cairnhill. He won and was pressed into service as Minister for National Development when two PAP ministers lost their seats.
From 1965 till his retirement in year 1981, Lim Kim San held important Cabinet posts. Besides the National Development portfolio, he has been Minister in-charge of Defence, Communications, Environment and Education. He even continued to serve as Minister without Portfolio after he suffered a heart attack in year 1976.
As a senior civil servant, he has headed the Monetary Authority of Singapore and chaired important statutory boards, including the Public Service Commission, Public Utilities Boards (PUB) and Port of Singapore Authority (PSA).
His contribution to Singapore's infrastructure is far reaching: initiating its land reclamation programme, building reservoirs and successfully negotiating a third water pipeline from Johore.
Lim Kim San continues to actively contribute to the PAP, Singapore and its business after his retirement. A keen judge of character, his services have been called on to identify and screen new blood for the PAP. Since 1988, he has been Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings which publishes all of Singapore's newspapers. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Advisors to the Elected President.
Lim Kim San's business acumen, practical approach and his instinct about people set him apart from the ideologues of Singapore's old guard. His talent is clearly in business organisation, team building and people management. In that perspective, his enduring contribution to Singapore can be measured by his role as a technocrat and businessman rather than a politician.
AFTER HE PASSED AWAY
A widower, he left five surviving children and 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, who knew him as a devoted family man.
Lim Kim San (Lin Jin Shan)
Lim Kim San (林金山)
Born: November 1916
Birth Place: Singapore
Died in: 2006
Achievement: Public Housing programme in Singapore
Done by: Rachel tan zheng jia
Class : 2E