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Lim Kim San – Singapore’s Home-Builder (1916 – 2006)

In the course of Mr Lim Kim San’s career, he was known as an indispensable problem-solver that helmed many key ministries, and is best remembered as the man who solved Singapore’s abysmal housing problems in the 1960s.

Mr Lim was called to public service in 1959 to assume the post of the Chairman of the Housing and Development Board. Under his leadership, HDB built more flats than any of the previous governments and resolved Singapore’s crushing housing problems. In 1963, Lim stood as a Member of Parliament for Cairnhill and was subsequently appointed Minister for National Development.

Other positions held in Mr Lim’s long and illustrious career in public service include portfolios in Finance, National Development, Education, Defence, Communication and Environment. In addition, Mr Lim was also the Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Chairman of the Public Service Commission and the Public Utilities Board.

Retiring from public life in 1981, Lim continued to serve Singapore in other capacities – Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisors, Chairman of the Port of Singapore Authority and Executive Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings. He also headed a panel with the weighty task of facilitating leadership renewal in Singapore. Mr Lim’s tenacity, drive and practical wisdom enabled all his charges to be met, and in many instances, exceeded. As deserving of accolades as Mr Lim’s achievements might be, he humbly asserted during his acceptance speech at the Magasay Award Presentation Ceremony in 1965 that “the great honour which has been conferred on me today should rightly belong to a group of young, very dedicated dynamic and unselfish men and women of my country, who by their hard work, foresight, a devotion to duty, have made it possible for Singapore to complete successfully its first five-year low-cost housing programme.”

1 Click here to listen to speech by National Development Minister Lim Kim San at the Opening of the United Industrial Corporation Limited, 29 October 1965.

2 Acceptance Speech of the Minister for Finance, Mr Lim Kim San, at the Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremony in Manila on 31 August 1965.