- LIM KIM SAN became Chairman of the Housing and Development Board of the Singapore Government in 1960, and in 1963 was named Minister of National Development.
- Reclamation and construction of facilities for carefully designed industrial estates and satellite cities now promise that Singapore can “digest,” in a healthy environment, a population expected to reach two million within another 18 months.
- The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his marshalling of talents and resources to provide one-fifth of Singapore’s burgeoning population with decent, moderately-priced housing amidst attractive surroundings.”
Throughout Asia few problems are more acute than those created by people flocking to cities unprepared to accept the influx. The slums that usually result are a blot upon any civilized society and make a mockery of popular aspirations for a better way of life.
This dilemma has been resolved in Singapore in a manner that provides a model for much of the world. Completing construction of one new apartment every 45 minutes, on the average, at a cost of less than US$3.00 per square foot, the government can offer every applicant a new home within three days. These apartments, renting for US$7.00 to US$20.00 per month, offer kitchens, baths, electricity, gas, water and elevators. Erected in blocks rising up to 16 storeys, they are grouped into new communities complete with stores, social centers, schools, recreation facilities and delightful landscaping.
As the person primarily responsible for this achievement, LIM KIM SAN became Chairman of the Housing and Development Board of the Singapore Government in 1960, and in 1963 was named Minister of National Development. Upon assuming office five years ago, he reorganized an earlier halting effort at government-assisted housing, applying quietly and carefully a businessman’s energetic pragmatism to the construction industry. Private contractors were encouraged to participate to the maximum, while their profits were kept reasonable and costs of materials were stabilized. Economic activity and employment generated by the building of some 60,000 apartments has been a major element in Singapore’s growing prosperity.
Reclamation and construction of facilities for carefully designed industrial estates and satellite cities now promise that Singapore can “digest,” in a healthy environment, a population expected to reach two million within another 18 months. While continuing to expand government housing for the less fortunate citizens, LIM recently initiated the first major urban redevelopment program in Asia to transform the old port city into a modern metropolis. Private initiative and investment is being fostered to build apartments for middle-class and wealthier families as part of a harmonious commercial-residential complex on the 22 square mile island state.
Alert to human needs, LIM and the government of which he is a part are broadening the base of private ownership by selling government-built apartments to individual families on easy terms. Meanwhile, occupants are learning to maintain clean premises, properly dispose of garbage, and otherwise to be considerate of their neighbors. Furnishings and household appliances, both tasteful and inexpensive, have been made available by enlisting competitive participation by architects and manufacturers. The community life that is developing in the glistening, well-managed blocks of flats that have replaced squalid, over-crowded shacks testifies to the concern and probity of the leaders who made this possible.
In electing LIM KIM SAN to receive the 1965 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the Board of Trustees recognizes his marshalling of talents and resources to provide one-fifth of Singapore’s burgeoning population with decent, moderately-priced housing amidst attractive surroundings.
There is a saying in Malay, the national language of my country, which goes like this: “Lembu punya minyak sapi punya nama.” Translated, it means “The oil is from the cow but the buffalo gets the credit.” So it is with me here today. The great honor which has been conferred on me should rightly belong to the group of young, very dedicated, dynamic and unselfish men and women of my country who, by their hard work, foresight and devotion to duty, have made it possible for Singapore to complete successfully its first five-year low-cost housing program.
It was my good fortune and privilege to be in a position to give them the opportunity to prove their worth, and the Ramon Magsaysay 1965 Award for Community Leadership to me is actually a tribute to the young officers who worked with me and discharged well the responsibility that was assigned to them. This Award will undoubtedly spur all of us in Singapore towards fulfilling our aim of bringing about a more just and equal society, wherein every citizen will have the right to live in liberty and happiness and be given equal opportunity and expectation of a better life.
Those of us who have emerged from colonial rule to become free and independent nations sometimes do not have enough confidence in the capacity and ability of our own people. My own rather limited experience in the last few years has convinced me that solutions to the problem of nation building lie mainly in our own hands. Reliance on foreign expert advice will bring us far, but not far enough to satisfy the aspirations and desires of our people. The hard and often tiresome work must be done by us and us alone. For it is only the citizens of the country who can get the feel of the situation which is essential in the solution of any vexatious problem. Singapore’s Housing and Development Board has only one expatriate officer among a staff of more than 800 monthly paid, and I hope that its record in the field of low-cost housing will convince other emerging countries that there are young men and women among their citizens who, given the opportunity, will show that they not only have the dedication, the determination and the will, but also the capacity and ability to solve their own problems, difficult though they may be.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award, founded in memory of an outstanding leader of our time, keeps alive the spirit of international brotherhood. The high principles for which your great president lived, worked and died are continued, for, in making the Award, the Trustees have shown a spirit which transcends national boundaries and have made no distinction of race and creed. It is a beacon for the future of mankind and, if the spirit spreads, and spread it must, we can look forward confidently to the time when freedom can be enjoyed by all and man can live with man in honor and peace.
LIM KIM SAN was born in Singapore on November 30, 1916, the eldest of the six children of Lim Choon Huat, a well-to-do merchant, and his wife Wee Geok Khuan. He attended the Anglo-Chinese School and Raffles College, where he received his diploma in Arts (Economics) in 1939.
Shortly after graduation he married Pang Gek Kim, daughter of a wealthy merchant banking family. They have six children, four girls and two boys. Following his marriage LIM took on the management of his father-in-law’s business, becoming Director of the United Chinese Bank, a family-owned local bank, and Managing Director of the Batu Pahat Bank. Under his management the family enterprises prospered.
A man of “dedication and concern for public service,” as one associate has described him, LIM found time to serve on a variety of educational and quasi-governmental bodies. He was a member of the Council of the University of Malaya for Singapore (now the University of Singapore) from 1955 to 1958, serving as Chairman of the Finance Committee, and was President, University of Malaya Society, 1956-1957. In July 1959 he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Public Service Commission by the People’s Action Party (PAP) government and in August 1959 the Ministry of Education named him to a four-year term as a member of the new Board of Governors of Singapore Polytechnic.
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