Lim Kim San



Lim Kim San (b. 30 November 1916, Singapore–d. 20 July 2006, Singapore) was a former politician best known for his contributions to public housing in the 1960s during his term as chairman of the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Throughout his political career, Lim held various ministerial portfolios including finance, education, defence, communications and the environment.1 He also chaired the Council of Presidential Advisers as well as boards of various organisations such as the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Early life
The eldest in a family of six children, Lim’s early education began at Oldham Hall School and later Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore. From a very young age, he began discussing with his father about the latter’s businesses, which included gasoline, salt, rubber and sago.2 In 1939, Lim graduated with an arts diploma in economics from Raffles College.3


Career
After the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), Lim took over the operations of a sago business in Geylang in which his father-in-law had a stake.4 Lim subsequently invented a way to mechanise sago pearl production and became a self-made millionaire businessman.5 Besides his sago factory, he was also involved in banking, heading the United Chinese Bank, Batu Pahat Bank and Pacific Bank in the 1950s.6


Lim was appointed as a member of the Public Service Commission in 1959 and became the first chairman of HDB the following year. He entered into politics in 1963 when he contested the general election in Cairnhill that year as a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate and was successfully elected as a member of parliament.7 Between 1963 and 1980, Lim held several ministerial portfolios including national development, finance, defence, education, environment and communications.8

Accomplishments
During his term as HDB’s chairman from 1960 to 1963, Lim spearheaded the construction of low-cost public housing to tackle the housing shortage at the time. In slightly over three years, HDB managed to complete 26,000 flats.9 For his achievements, he was accorded the state’s highest honour, Darjah Utama Temasek (Order of the Temasek) in 1962, as well as the Philippines’ Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1965 for community leadership.10


As chairman of PSA (1979–94),11 Lim led the transformation of PSA from a regional entrepot into the world’s number-one container port by 1990. He implemented a series of changes such as the introduction of new systems and a revision of work processes and attitudes. A third container terminal, Brani Terminal, was officially opened in 1993.12

Lim retired from politics in 1981 but continued to help the PAP in its selection of suitable candidates to contest elections.13 In 1990, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his contributions to the party.14

He then assumed the role of executive chairman of SPH on 1 September 1988.15 During his 14 years with SPH as executive chairman and three years as its senior adviser,16 SPH grew to become one of the region’s leading media companies, with an increase in net profit from S$73.7 million in 1988 to S$490 million in 2005.17

In 2000, the National University of Singapore launched the Lim Kim San Professorship in Business Policy in his honour.18

Death
On 20 July 2006, Lim died from pneumonia at the age of 89.19

Family
Wife: Pang Gek Kim (d. 1994)20
Children: Two sons and four daughters21

Timeline
1951: Director, United Chinese Bank Ltd; chairman, Batu Pahat Bank Ltd and Pacific Bank Ltd22
1959–1963: Member and later deputy chairman, Public Service Commission

1960–1963: Chairman, HDB
1963–1980: Member of parliament for Cairnhill23
1963–1965: Minister for national development
1965–1967: Minister for finance
1967–1970: Minister for interior and defence
1970–1972: Minister for education24
1971–1978:
Chairman, Public Utilities Board25
1972–1975: Minister for the environment26

1973: Chairman, board of trustees, NTUC Welcome Consumers’ Cooperative Ltd27
1975–1978: Minister for national development and communications
1978–1979: Minister for national development28
1979–1981: Minister for the environment29
1979–1994: Chairman, PSA30
1981–1982: Managing director, Monetary Authority of Singapore31
1988–2002: Executive chairman, SPH32
1992–2003: Chairman, Council of Presidential Advisers33
2000–2002: Chancellor, Singapore Management University34

Selected awards
1962:
First person to be awarded the state’s then highest honour, Darjah Utama Temasek (Order of Temasek)35
1965: Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Philippines.36

1977: Medal of Honour, National Trades Union Congress37
1982:
Honorary Doctor of Laws, National University of Singapore38

1990: Distinguished Service Medal, PAP39



Author

Jenny Tien



References
1. Kor, K. B., Tan, M. L., & Leong, C. (2008). The big builder: Lim Kim San. Singapore: SNP Editions, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705092 KOR)

2. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 161. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
3. Pang, G. C. (1996, November 29). Indomitable Kim San: A man of integrity. The Straits Times, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 162. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
5. Koh, B. S. (1996, November 29). Glowing tribute paid to ex-minister Lim Kim San as he turns 80. The Straits Times, p. 1; Yap, S. (2006, July 21). The man who helped to house a generation. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tan, L. (Interviewer). (1985, March 11). Oral history interview with Lim Kim San [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000526/21/7, pp. 90–93]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline; Pang, G. C. (1996, November 29). Indomitable Kim San: A man of integrity. The Straits Times, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, pp. 163, 166. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
8. Nirmala, M. (2000, October 16). The man who moves mountains. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Yap, S. (2006, July 21). The man who helped to house a generation. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lim Kim San to take over as SPH executive chairman. (1988, June 26), The Straits Times, p. 1; HDB’s mastermind now takes it easy. (1985, February 10). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Koh, B. S. (1996, November 29). Glowing tribute paid to ex-minister Lim Kim San as he turns 80. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Asad Latif. (2009). Lim Kim San: A builder of Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 208–209. (Call no.: RSING 363.585092 ASA)
13. Lam, P. E. The organisational utility men: Toh Chin Chye & Lim Kim San. Lam, P. E. and Tan, K. (Eds.). (1999). Lee’s lieutenants: Singapore’s old guard. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
14. Nirmala, M. (2000, October 16). The man who moves mountains. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lim Kim San to take over as SPH executive chairman. (1988, June 26). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Lim Kim San to step down as SPH senior advisor. (2005, October 19). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Long, S. (2002, November 12). Lim Kim San stepping down as SPH executive chairman. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Kor, K. B., Tan, M. L., & Leong, C. (2008). The big builder: Lim Kim San. Singapore: SNP Editions, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705092 KOR)
18. Ng, V. (2000, October 17). NUS sets $100m funds target for 2005 centennial. The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Chua, M. H. (2006, July 21). ‘Mr HDB’ Lim Kim San dies. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Yap, S. (2006, July 21). The man who helped to house a generation. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Pang, G. C. (1996, November 29). Indomitable Kim San: A man of integrity. The Straits Times, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Pang, G. C. (1996, November 29). Indomitable Kim San: A man of integrity. The Straits Times, p. 56; Yap, S. (2006, July 21). The man who helped to house a generation. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Nirmala, M. (2000, October 16). The man who moves mountains. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Who’s Who in Malaysia and Singapore. (1983–1984). (Vol.2).  Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who’s Who Publications, p. 146. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
25. Asad Latif. (2009). Lim Kim San: A builder of Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 194. (Call no.: RSING 363.585092 ASA)
26. Who’s Who in Malaysia and Singapore. (1983–1984). (Vol. 2).  Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 146. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
27. Asad Latif. (2009). Lim Kim San: A builder of Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 194. (Call no.: RSING 363.585092 ASA)
28. Who’s Who in Malaysia and Singapore. (1983–1984). (Vol. 2). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who’s Who Publications, p. 146. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
29. Asad Latif. (2009). Lim Kim San: A builder of Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 194. (Call no.: RSING 363.585092 ASA)
30. Koh, B. S. (1996, November 29). Glowing tribute paid to ex-minister Lim Kim San as he turns 80. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Asad Latif. (2009). Lim Kim San: A builder of Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 194. (Call no.: RSING 363.585092 ASA)
32. Lim Kim San to step down as SPH senior advisor. (2005, October 19). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Asad Latif. (2009). Lim Kim San: A builder of Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 194. (Call no.: RSING 363.585092 ASA)
34. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2002, August 15). Remarks by Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, deputy prime minister and minister for defence, at the farewell lunch for Mr Lim Kim San held on 15 August 2002 at 12.45 pm at Singapore Management University [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline
35. Pang, G. C. (1996, November 29). Indomitable Kim San: A man of integrity. The Straits Times, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. HDB’s mastermind now takes it easy. (1985, February 10). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Who’s Who in Malaysia and Singapore. (1983–1984). (Vol. 2). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who’s Who Publications, p. 146. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
38. Lim Kim San talks to Christine Khor. (1982, September 19). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Nirmala, M. (2000, October 16). The man who moves mountains. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Law and government>>Public administration>>Cabinet (Government Councils)
Cabinet officers--Singapore--Biography
Lim Kim San, 1916-
Politicians--Singapore--Biography
Politicians
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders