Lim Boon Heng

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The Honourable
Lim Boon Heng
Member of Parliament
for Jurong GRC - Jurong Central ward
In office
3 November 2001 – 7 May 2011
Preceded by seat created
Succeeded by Ang Wei Neng
Member of Parliament
for Bukit Timah GRC - Ulu Pandan ward
In office
2 January 1997 – 3 November 2001
Preceded by himself (Ulu Pandan SMC)
Succeeded by Vivian Balakrishnan
Member of Parliament
for Ulu Pandan SMC
In office
31 August 1991 – 2 January 1997
Preceded by Dixie Tan
Succeeded by himself (Bukit Timah GRC - Ulu Pandan ward)
Member of Parliament
for Kebun Baru SMC
In office
23 December 1980 – 31 August 1991
Preceded by Seat created
Succeeded by Umar Abdul Hamid (Ang Mo Kio GRC - Kebun Baru ward)
Personal details
Born (1947-11-18) 18 November 1947 (age 69)
Nationality Singaporean
Political party People's Action Party
Spouse(s) Florence Chia
Children 2
Alma mater University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Lim Boon Heng (simplified Chinese: 林文兴; traditional Chinese: 林文興; pinyin: Lín Wén Xīng, born 18 November 1947) is a former Singaporean politician. A member of the governing People's Action Party, He was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1980 to 2011, and served in the Cabinet from 2001 to 2011 as a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office. He also served as the Chairman of the People's Action Party (PAP), Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Deputy Chairman of the People's Association.

Early life[edit]

Lim grew up in a small farm in Punggol, Singapore. He studied at Montfort Junior School (1955–1960) and Montfort Secondary School (1961–1966). In 1967, Lim was awarded a Colombo Plan Scholarship to study naval architecture at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Upon graduation in 1970, he joined Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) as a naval architect. In 1971, he was awarded a one-year NORAD (Norwegian) Fellowship for practical training in Oslo, leading to a diploma in international shipping inspection. Lim was assigned overseas twice to supervise the construction of NOL's new ships - Denmark (1972–1974) and Japan (1976–1977). He was promoted to Manager of Corporate Planning in 1978, while concurrently holding the post of Manager of Liner Services.

Political career[edit]

Lim entered politics in 1980 after he was approached by Goh Chok Tong, who had previously worked with him in NOL. Lim was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) for Kebun Baru (1980–1991). A keen believer in civil society, he floated the concept of town councils in 1984 and became the Chairman of the first town council in Ang Mo Kio West in 1986. He was MP for the GRCs of Ulu Pandan (1991–1997), Bukit Timah (1997–2001) and Jurong (2001-2011). Lim was Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Labour (1987–1991) and Deputy Speaker of Parliament (1989–1991).

Lim was made a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office in 1993 October. He was appointed Senior Minister of State in 1991 and later became the Second Minister in 1993. In 1996, he was the Treasurer of the PAP Central Executive Committee and went on to become the Chairman of the PAP Central Executive Committee in 2004. In 2007, Lim was appointed Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Ageing to oversee issues related to Singapore's rapidly ageing population.

Lim was Chairman of the National Productivity Board (1991–2003), later known as the Productivity and Standards Board and subsequently the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING Singapore). Lim was also Chairman of the Skills Development Council (1999–2002).

Lim was twice Chairman of the Cost Review Committee to look into cost of living in Singapore (CRC1993 and CRC1996).

Lim was announced at a community event in Jurong GRC that he would be retiring from politics at the 2011 general election.

Trade union career[edit]

Lim has a distinguished career with the trade union in Singapore. He spent 26 years working with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) - the last 13 as its Secretary-General. He rose from Deputy Director (1981–1983) to Assistant Secretary-General (1983–1987) and Deputy Secretary-General (1987–1991). Thereafter, he had a two-year stint at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (1991–1993). Upon his return to the NTUC, he was elected Secretary-General and served for another four terms until he stepped down in 2006 December to make way for Lim Swee Say.

Lim is Chairman of NTUC Eldercare since 2000 and Deputy Chairman of Singapore Labour Foundation since 1997. Following his retirement from NTUC, Lim helps to oversee the labour movement's network of nine cooperatives. He is currently Chairman of the Social Enterprises Development Council.

Right from the start, Lim was involved in industrial relations. He often shared with union leaders the importance of "enlarging the cake, not merely fighting for a bigger slice of a small cake". Hence, it is the unionist's responsibility to help companies improve productivity. He served for many years as a member on the National Wages Council (1981–1991, except 1989). Lim was instrumental in pushing for a flexible wage system to help older workers keep their jobs and to preserve jobs during difficult economic times. His pet phrase is that "the best welfare for a worker is a job". He believes that workers' interests are best served if trade unions help them remain employable through continuous upgrading of their skills.

Through his quiet leadership, Lim built up close rapport and trust with the union leaders. He was able to persuade union leaders to support the Central Provident Fund (CPF) cuts and reform during the 1998 recession. He also rallied union leaders and workers to support the restructuring of key companies like PSA International and Singapore Airlines (SIA).

Aware of the many criticisms of his wearing the two hats - that of NTUC chief and Minister in the Cabinet, Lim argued that this arrangement gave labour a place to influence public policymaking at the highest level. He opined that both trade unions and government have the same objective - to better the lives of workers.

Lim is known among union leaders for speaking the truth, even when it hurts. His approach is pro-worker, pro-business. As labour chief, he does not shirk from speaking uncomfortable truths about jobs and wages at risk from globalisation. Examples were when he spoke about "pre-emptive retrenchments" and when he warned of the dismal prospects of a "jobless recovery". Lim's first principle as a unionist is "If what you know is true, stick by it, persist, never mind the criticism, and work towards understanding and acceptance."

In 1996 August, Lim was conferred the honorary Doctor of Business from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University) for his significant role in developing and fostering the tripartite relationship among government, employers and workers in Singapore. In November 1996, Lim received the honorary Doctorate of Civil Law from his alma master, the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne for his "combined academic distinction, business acumen, political commitment and social concern". In 2007, the NTUC honoured Lim with the highest of the May Day Awards, the Distinguished Comrade of Labour for his unique and supreme contributions to the trade union movement. The NTUC recognises Lim as having played a key role in building trust among tripartite partners in the tumultuous 1990s when Singapore was rocked by recessions, job losses, and economic restructuring.

Lim was also the Executive Secretary of SMMWU (1981–1991) and advisor to 11 unions affiliated to the NTUC. He was also Chairman of NTUC Pasir Ris Resort Management Committee (1988–1992), Chairman of NTUC Club (1993–2006) and Appointing Governor of the Ong Teng Cheong Institute of Labour Studies (OTC-ILS) (1993–2006).

In 2013, the Lim Boon Heng Scholarship was launched to help Singaporean students who are residents of Jurong Central and Jurong Spring constituencies who have applied for admission into or are pursuing higher education in Singapore universities.[1]

Post-politics career[edit]

A year after Lim's retirement from politics in 2011, he joined Temasek's Board as Director. In July 2013, the investment company announced his appointment as Chairman to replace the then outgoing Chairman S. Dhanabalan.

Lim has often acknowledged the Institution's efforts in building Singapore's future, be it through investments or giving back to the community. He is a firm believer that actions, big or small, taken today will have an impact in the future of the Republic and its citizens thus "respect and protection of our environment can and should go hand in hand with development, jobs and prosperity."[2]

2014 was monumental for Temasek and Lim was an integral part of it - from the opening of offices in London and New York to the Institution's 40th anniversary. During Temasek's 40th Anniversary Dinner, Lim addressed distinguished guests, including Singapore President Dr Tony Tan and Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, where he reflected on the journey thus far and looking ahead to more achievements as a unit.

Personal life[edit]

Lim, a Catholic, is married to Florence Chia and they have a daughter and a son. He enjoys reading, cycling and playing golf.


  1. ^ "Jurong Central - Lim Boon Heng Scholarship 2013". Retrieved 2015-04-16.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ "Speeches - Media Centre - Temasek". Retrieved 2015-04-16. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Senior Minister of State (Trade & Industry)
1991 - 1993
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Second Minister For Trade & Industry
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Post created
Minister, Without Portfolio
1993 – 2001
Succeeded by
himself (Post Renamed as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office)
Preceded by
himself (Post created from Minister, Without Portfolio
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office
2001 - 2011
Succeeded by
Lim Swee Say and S. Iswaran
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tony Tan Keng Yam
Chairman, People's Action Party
2004 - 2011
Succeeded by
Khaw Boon Wan
Government offices
Preceded by
Ong Teng Cheong
Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress
1993 - 2006
Succeeded by
Lim Swee Say