Section 2
Defence and International Security

Section 3
Linking Bridges and Strengthening Ties

Section 4
Building on the Economic Miracle

Section 5
A Healthy Nation, A Thriving Land

Section 6
Housing a Nation: Changing Times, Changin Needs

Section 7
Sports and Culture: The Finer Things in Life

Section 8
Education for All on Different Paths

Section 9
The Next Decade






If the first 10 years from 1965 to 1975 saw Singapore’s drive to survive, the next 10 years saw its drive to succeed. From 1975 to 1985, the momentum was there for Singapore to reach greater heights – in every sense of the word.


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After the first 10 years…

It is a different world. In many respects, it is a better world. I much prefer this to what we had in 1965. There is now the sufficient infrastructure. But to make that next qualitative jump means a really big effort and one which you have to make yourself because you cannot expect the schools with 43 pupils on an average to one teacher, to do for your children what you have to do yourselves - nurture them, imbue them with the right attitudes of life, to work and the necessary self-discipline…

And I hope that we shall together, make the next five years at least not less successfully than the last 1¾ years since we ran into the oil crisis… it requires that constant drive and that willingness to learn, to achieve and to be proud of what you are doing; not just minimum of effort, maximum of monetary rewards. That attitude will never take us into the industrial society. My good wishes to all of you on this 10th anniversary.

- Extract of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s National Day Rally speech, Aug 1975

Singapore in 1975

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS

Port of Call: Snapshots of the Economy

In 1975, Singapore was the fourth busiest port in the world in terms of shipping tonnage. Its top three trading partners were the United States, Malaysia and Japan.

Exports of ships and boats (including rigs), scientific instruments, and watches and clocks went up. From the agricultural sector, orchids and aquarium fish also registered outstanding export growth. However, exports of rubber, petroleum products, and electrical and electronic goods fell, as the effects of the global recession were felt in Singapore due to the oil crisis in 1973-1974.


The “Jewels” of HDB
And when we have the planners to plan all the new towns, then we have this diamond concept. ‘Diamond’ concept, you know, Singapore is like a (diamond shape). The new towns, you call ‘diamonds’. So you have Woodlands, Nee Soon, Ang Mo Kio, all that all over, surrounding the catchment area.

- Extract of oral history interview with Lim Kim San (1985, reel 19), Minister for National Development in 1975

Telok Blangah was one of the new towns actively developed in 1975. Others included Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Clementi and Woodlands. About half – or around 1 million – of the population were living in flats built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) by 1975.  There were more than 220,000 flats in Singapore by then.

As the Central Area was being redeveloped under an ongoing urban renewal scheme, businesses and industrial operators were resettled at various neighbourhoods and light industrial estates built by the HDB. These areas included Geylang Bahru (above), Sin Ming, Punggol, Kallang Basin, Bedok, Ang Mo Kio and Telok Blangah. Under a revised policy in 1975, those affected could opt for a cash grant instead of alternative accommodation.


Armed Forces: Operation Thunderstorm

In 1975, the Maritime Command at Pulau Brani was renamed the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).

Source: Pioneer, May 1975, courtesy of NAS

In mid-1975, the armed forces of land, sea and air undertook their first joint emergency operation when South Vietnamese refugees started arriving in Singapore on their way to seek asylum in other countries. “Operation Thunderstorm” was a major humanitarian effort involving personnel from Commandos to engineers.

The RSN played a vital role intercepting vessels. The armed forces had to refuel or repair vessels (sometimes in open sea), rescue refugees from sunken ships, replenish food and water supplies, and even disarm ships carrying weapons. One vessel was choked with fuel gas and the hazardous gas had to be released at Pulau Bukom. Naval personnel also had to teach refugees proper ship handling techniques. By the end of two weeks, some 90 tons of rice, 75,000 tins of sardines, 20,000 tins of condensed milk, and 293 tons of water were given away. The operation tested all the forces and their mostly young servicemen.

Jurong and Other Industrial Estates

The largest industrial estate in Singapore was in Jurong Town. By 1975, after more than a decade of development, Jurong Industrial Estate had

  • more than 600 factories and 70,000 workers
  • its own modern sewerage system, an industrial water treatment      
    plant, and a railway line
  • about 3 million tonnes of cargo handled yearly at Jurong Port

The Jurong Port expansion project was underway in 1975. More warehouses were also being built. To the west of Jurong Town, work was ongoing to reclaim seafront land. On the east of Jurong Town, industrial land were being prepared along the eastern bank of Pandan River and on sites to the north and east of Jurong Lake.

Land was set aside to house workers. By 1975, there were about 80,000 residents and 18,600 homes, with more housing units being built. Recreation facilities included Singapore’s only drive-in cinema, a bird park, an ice-skating rink, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden, and a sports stadium.

Source: NAS
Jurong Stadium was opened in 1975 and the first major event held there was the National Day Parade and march-past officiated by Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen. More than 12,000 people attended.

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS
Jurong Town’s well-planned industrial and residential mix, and its multi-storey flatted factories that continued to be in hot demand, impressed visiting VIPs. The European Economic Community president Francois-Xavier Ortoli (second from left in photo) toured the town in September 1975.

Source: NAS

Women working at a flatted factory in Jurong. There were more women working compared to pre-independence days – they made up about 30 per cent of the workforce in 1975, up from 18 per cent in 1957.
Changi: High Flier In-waiting

Source: CAAS, courtesy of NAS
Aerial view of Changi Airport in 1975

The Government cleared land to start building a new airport in Changi, estimated to cost $1.2 billion. The site of the former British airforce base would have two parallel runways that could handle 10.5 million passengers a year when it was completed.

You know, in 1975, ’76, we submitted a proposal to extend the Paya Lebar Airport by putting a second runway…one school (wanted) to put the airport at Paya Lebar because it was more cost-effective because the airport was already there. You don’t have to build much again. The other school (wanted) to put it at Changi…the Finance Ministry was pushing for Paya Lebar. But the Communication Ministry was pushing for Changi. And PM was inclined to go to Changi.

PM’s point at that time was environmental because Paya Lebar at that time was in the midst of a very densely populated area. You put a second runway there, it was going to cause a lot of environmental problems. But the Finance Ministry was thinking that, look, we only got that much money in those days, so we got to be cost-effective…

In retrospect, I think, PM made the right decision to go to Changi…and now, Changi got more room to expand, they can put the third runway. We would never be able to put the third runway in Paya Lebar.

- Extract of oral history interview with Bernard Chen Tien Lap (2001, reel 6), who served under Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen in the early 1970s before becoming Minister of State for Defence from 1977 to 1981

Water: The Precious Resource


In 1975, each person in Singapore consumed about 270 litres of water a day. Total consumption in Singapore was 585,000 cubic metres (1 cu m = 1,000L) a day, of which 45% was for domestic use and about 30% for industrial and commercial use.

The Kranji-Pandan reservoir was completed in 1975. Together with the Upper Peirce reservoir, which was also completed in the year, they cost close to $132 million in total and increased total storage capacity to 98 million cubic metre. Treated water derived from Upper Peirce was already in use, while treated water from the Kranji-Pandan reservoir would be distributed by June 1976 to serve the north-western part of Singapore and the residential areas in Jurong.

Two more service reservoirs were being built at Kent Ridge and Jurong, as part of a $36 million water development project. In Jurong, a 4,500-cubic-metre water tank was being built and when completed, would serve the Clementi and Ayer Rajah areas.
Farming Goes Intensive

Close to $500 million worth of food was produced by about 1,000 farmers in 1975, even as the trend started to lean towards intensive farming. Pig farming was the most important farming activity, and Punggol and Jalan Kayu were new areas earmarked for intensive pig farming. This relocation away from water catchment areas would help to prevent water pollution from pig waste.

Other agricultural activities included poultry farming, vegetable gardening, orchid cultivation and fishing. Singapore was still working to remain self-sufficient in meat, poultry, eggs and fresh vegetables production.

Source: Singapore Press Holdings, courtesy of NAS
Eggs being collected at a poultry farm in Punggol in 1975.
Reclaiming Land, Creating Space

Reclamation work continued in the East Coast, to make way for commercial and residential uses. An upcoming site was the proposed Marina Centre, which was set aside as a waterfront hotel and shopping belt. The surroundings, to be marked by parks and promenades, were to be the “green lungs” for the city area.

The East Coast Park, set to be the largest recreation spot, was 75% completed. The building of an eight-lane coastal expressway was in progress, to link Changi Airport in the east and Jurong Industrial estate in the west.

Reclamation work was ongoing in the West Coast as well, where new port areas and warehouses were to be built. At Pasir Panjang Port, wharf works and construction of a breakwater were ongoing, and the Jurong Marine Base was undergoing expansion. Land around Tuas and Sungei Pandan were also being reclaimed.

Source: Singapore Press Holdings, courtesy of NAS

Source: Singapore Press Holdings, courtesy of NAS
Reclamation works from the marina stretching up along the East Coast in 1975.


Waste lines

There were two major sewage treatment plants in Singapore in 1975. The Kim Chuan Sewage Treatment Works served the eastern part of the island, and the Ulu Pandan Sewage Treatment Works (above) served the western part of the island. During the year, extension works to both plants were ongoing to cope with new housing developments.

Woodlands Sewage Treatment Works, to cater to the north, was expected to be fully operational by March 1976. Plans were ongoing to start on Bedok and Kranji Sewage Treatment Works.

ENV Annual Report 1975

Do you Know?
Cabinet Changes over the Decade

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