Lim Kim San

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Lim Kim San

林金山
Lim Kim San.jpg
Lim Kim San
Personal details
Born(1916-11-30)30 November 1916
Singapore
Died20 July 2006(2006-07-20) (aged 89)[1]
Singapore
Spouse(s)Pang Gek Kim (m. 1939; deceased)
Children2 sons, 4 daughters
ParentsLim Choon Huat (father)
Wee Geok Khuan (mother)[2]
Known forHousing Development Board

Lim Kim San (Chinese: ; pinyin: Lín Jīn Shān; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Lîm Kim-san) DUT (First Class) (30 November 1916 – 20 July 2006) was a Singaporean politician. He was credited for leading the successful public housing program in the Southeast Asian city-state during the early 1960s, which eased the acute housing shortage problem at that time.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1916 in Singapore, Lim was the eldest of six children. He was educated at Oldham Hall School, Anglo-Chinese School, and then Raffles College, where he obtained a Diploma in Arts (Economics) in 1939.[3].[4]

When World War II erupted and the Japanese occupied Singapore, Lim was one of many tortured on suspicion of being pro-communist and pro-British. A long time after the war, 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, politicized his generation and made them vow to "never let our fate be decided by others."

Lim made his first million at age 36 when he came up with a machine to produce sago pearls cheaply.[3]

Career[edit]

In 1958, Lim was appointed to the Public Service Commission and the Housing Board. Lim served as a Member of Parliament in Cairnhill from 1963 to 1980.

Housing Development Board[edit]

In 1960, Lim was appointed the first Chairman of the Housing Development Board. Due to a rapidly increasing population, more than 400,000 people were living in over-crowded conditions in ramshackle “shophouse” buildings or in squatter settlements with substandard living conditions. At this time, Lim was appointed to the Housing Development Board.

He had volunteered for the job and had not been paid for three years. It was in this position that Lim oversaw the massive construction of high-rise, low-cost apartments that would eventually become the main source of housing for Singaporeans.[5]

Housing Plan[edit]

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 2000 units were built, more than what was built in the previous decade.

Lim defied all detractors, in particular those in the Singapore Improvement Trust, who said he could not build 10,000 units a year. A committee was eventually set up under Lim Tay Boh (Chinese: 林溪茂; pinyin: Lín Xīmào) to find out whether the HDB had the capability and the materials to reach the construction goal. By the time the committee published its report, the HDB had already completed 10,000 units of housing.[4]

In the first Five Year Housing Program, HDB achieved its goal of completing 5,000 units of housing by 1965. The largest project at that time was Queenstown, a satellite town of more than 17,500 apartments capable of housing close to 22,000 people. The new neighborhood was built as a self-contained entity, with all amenities and shops built along with the houses, so people would not need to travel to other areas for basic necessities, thereby lowering traffic congestion. This philosophy (which was ultimately extended with the concept of regional centre), is generally accredited by many 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 broke out and some 16,000 people became homeless. Under Lim's guidance, the relocation and reconstruction of the lost housing was completed in just over four years, and 1200 housing flats were made available to those who lost their homes in the fire.

The success of the housing project was considered by some to stem mainly from the standardized architectural designs that were used. Another important factor was Lim's decision to use private contractors rather than employing construction workers directly. This allowed the HDB to supervise the contractors to ensure standards, rather than dealing with minute problems. Also, overall cost was kept low by using a large pool of contractors and different sources of building materials.

There are some who said that by solving Singapore's housing problem, Lim saved the PAP in the process. However, Lim himself was more modest, saying the success of the housing programme was also due to government funding, as housing was, and still is, a top priority.

Part of Lim's success at the HDB was that he had the trust of the Prime Minister at the time, Lee Kuan Yew. He also worked closely with the Minister of Finance at the time, Goh Keng Swee. These connections allowed Lim keep the housing program well-funded. Another political factor that allowed the success of the Housing Project was that Lim managed to cut through bureaucratic red tape and rigid regulations that would have otherwise hindered the housing program.

Honours, political career[edit]

In June 1962, Lim was awarded the State's highest honor, the Darjah Utama Temasek (Order of Temasek) and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his community leadership, which provided a model for the developing world.

In September 1963, Lim stood for election in the Singapore Legislative Assembly election as a PAP candidate from the Cairnhill constituency. Lim won by a landslide, winning 7,749 votes out of the 11,659 cast. In October, Lim was appointed as Minister for National Development. Also, in recognition of Lim's adept ability of judging a person's merits, he was also brought on board as the PAP's "talent scout."

Post-Independence Career[edit]

After Singapore's independence in 1965, Lim served as Minister of Finance for 2 years, before becoming the Minister of Interior and Defence. He held this position for three years until 1970, when Lim was appointed as Chairman of the Public Utilities Board to oversee the development of new water reservoirs. He would hold the chairmanship from 1971 to 1978. He therefore returned to the other posts, such as Minister for Environment (1972 - 1975/1979 - 1981), Minister for Communications (1975 - 1978) and Minister for National Development (1978 - 1979).

Retirement[edit]

Lim quit politics in 1980 but remained active in public life well into the twilight years of his life.[6] After a long illness, Lim died at approximately 5.30PM SST on 20 July 2006 at his home. He was cremated at Mandai. In recognition of Lim's work for the government, the Singaporean state flags on all government buildings were flown at half-mast on the day of his funeral.[7]

Lim left behind five children, 12 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.[8] England-born footballer Luke O'Nien is his grand-nephew.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Lim Kim San (Lin Jin Shan)". History of Singapore Pioneers. 30 September 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  2. ^ "Lim Kim San". National Library Board. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Lim Kim San | Infopedia". Eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  4. ^ a b "Channel NewsAsia". Channel NewsAsia. 2016-02-03. Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  5. ^ "Lim Kim San: A Builder Of Singapore (Select Books: The Asian Book Specialist - Bookseller, Publisher and Distributor)". Select Books. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  6. ^ "Lim Kim San – Singapore's Home-Builder (1916 – 2006)". National Archives of Singapore. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Channel NewsAsia". Channel NewsAsia. 2016-02-03. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  8. ^ "Mr Lim Kim San laid to rest". Singapore-window.org. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  9. ^ "Wycombe's O'Nien keen to play for Singapore". The NewPaper. 2016-01-09. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
Political offices
Preceded by
?
Minister for National Development
1963 - 1965
Succeeded by
Edmund William Barker
Preceded by
Goh Keng Swee
Minister for Finance
1965 - 16 August 1967
Succeeded by
Goh Keng Swee
Preceded by
?
Minister for Interior and Defence
1967 - 1970
Succeeded by
Goh Keng Swee
Preceded by
Ong Pang Boon
Minister for Education
1970 - 1972
Succeeded by
?
New ministerial post Minister for the Environment
1972 - 1975
Succeeded by
Edmund William Barker
Preceded by
?
Minister for National Development
1975 - 1979
Succeeded by
?
Preceded by
Edmund William Barker
Minister for the Environment
1979 - 1981
Succeeded by
Ong Pang Boon