Albert Winsemius

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Albert Winsemius
Albert Winsemius (1971).jpg
Albert Winsemius (1971)
United Nations Survey Mission to Singapore
In office
Succeeded by Post abolished
Personal details
Born (1910-02-26)February 26, 1910
Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Died December 4, 1996(1996-12-04) (aged 86)
The Hague, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Spouse(s) Aly Winsemius-Schreiber[1]
Children 2 daughters, 1 son
Profession Economics

Albert Winsemius (1910–1996), a Dutch economist, was Singapore's long-time economic advisor from 1961 to 1984. He led the United Nations Survey Mission to Singapore,[2] and was to play a major role in the formulation of Singapore's national economic development strategy.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1910 to a cheese wholesaler, he worked as a cheese maker in the cheese industry. Later, at the age of 26, Winsemius decided he needed a university education, and applied to Leyden University to do law as he thought that it was the easiest subject. However, he discovered he had to pass an examination in Latin, and skipped it, and thus failed to meet the entry criteria. He then applied for Delft University but was rejected because he was found lacking in his secondary school mathematics. Finally, he applied to Rotterdam University. At the time, in order to make ends meet, Winsemius had a job in The Hague, Netherlands, and so he told the dean of Rotterdam University that he would not be able to attend lectures. Despite having his own reservations, the dean allowed Winsemius to enrol in the school.[3]


Albert Winsemius was married to Aly Winsemius-Schreiber. He had two daughters, a son and eight grandchildren. One of his daughters, Ankie Averink (Ankie Aeyelts Averink-Winsemius), worked for the United Nations. She was once called upon to decipher his handwriting for the survey report that he did on Singapore in 1961. He is survived by his wife, 2 daughters, a son and 8 grandchildren.[3]

Winsemius' son is the former Dutch Minister Professor Dr Pieter Winsemius.[4]


One of his first jobs upon graduation just before the advent of World War II, was to be the price controller for the Netherlands. His main role was to freeze prices during food shortages. He remained in the job until 1943. After the war, he worked at the Ministry of Finance as the country's director-general of industrial development. There, his role was to repair the economy, which had been damaged by the war. From time to time, he also carried out assignments on behalf of the World Bank. Thus, he began to build his growing reputation as an expert in the field of Developmental Economics.

In 1960, Dr Winsemius led the United Nations team to examine Singapore’s potential in industrialization. At that time, Singapore had just attained self-government and was facing high unemployment and growing population. He presented a 10-year development plan to transform Singapore from an entrepot trade port into a centre of manufacturing and industrialization.

His first emphasis was on creating jobs and attracting foreign investment. Labour-intensive industries, such as the production of shirts and pajamas, were expanded. He also encouraged the large-scale public housing programme, believing that it would bolster the country's image, thus attractive to investors. One of his earliest pieces of advice was not to remove the statue of Stamford Raffles as it was a symbol of public acceptance of the British heritage and could alleviate concerns that investors have toward a new socialist government. With his help, Singapore attracted big oil companies like Shell and Esso to establish refineries here.

During his term as Chief Economic Advisor from 1961 to 1984, Dr Winsemius worked closely with Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and later with Goh Chok Tong. He visited the country two or three times a year to review economic performance indicators and to discuss macro-economic strategy with government planners.[5]

In the 1970s, Singapore was upgrading its industrial capacity to use higher technological methods, including electronics. He personally went to persuade large Dutch electronics companies like Philips to set up production plants in Singapore. He also proposed that Singapore could be developed as a financial centre, as well as an international centre for air traffic and sea transport. Over the next twenty years, these predictions proved to be accurate.

In 1983, Dr Winsemius retired as Singapore's economic advisor, at the age of 74. He was then quoted saying, "I leave with a saddened heart. It (Singapore) has become part of my life, more or less. It can do without me. It could do without me years ago. But it became part of my life. So I will shed a few tears, imaginary tears." Singapore was a country he regarded almost as home.


Dr Winsemius died in the Netherlands on December 4, 1996 of pneumonia.[6] In a letter of condolences to his family, Lee Kuan Yew wrote: "It was Singapore's good fortune that he (Dr Albert Winsemius) took a deep and personal interest in Singapore's development. Singapore and I personally are indebted to him for the time, energy and development he gave to Singapore. I am proud to have known him and to have been his friend."

When asked about his life as an economist, Dr Winsemius once said, "There is quite a lot of satisfaction, perhaps not like that of, say, an architect who can look at something and say, 'I made it'. But there is that satisfaction in knowing that you have contributed to the well being of people you don't know..."


In 1997, Nanyang Technological University established the Albert Winsemius Professorship as a lasting tribute to Dr Albert Winsemius for his significant contributions to the economic development of Singapore.[7]

For his contributions to Singapore's economic development,[8] he was conferred several honours. In 1967, President Yusof bin Ishak awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1970, he was conferred an honorary degree by the National University of Singapore. In 1976, he received the National Trades Union Congress' May Day Gold Medal of Honour.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ong, Christopher. "Albert Winsemius". Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board Singapore. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Leipziger, Danny (1997). Lessons from East Asia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 240. ISBN 0-472-08722-3. 
  3. ^ a b National Library Board, Singapore. "Albert Winsemius". 
  4. ^ "SDWA and NUSDeltares receive Winsemius Awards". NUS News. National University of Singapore. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Chua, Lee Hoong. "Death of Dr Albert Winsemius". Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Tan, Rachel. "Proven wrong - by a fish". Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Fact Sheet on the Albert Winsemius Professorship" (PDF). 
  8. ^ Tamboer, Kees. "Albert Winsemius, 'founding father' of Singapore". Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Singapore's trusted guide". Retrieved 9 January 2015. 

External links[edit]