Don’t be taken in by Heng Swee Kiat’s bullshit

I refer to the 30 Jan 2016 Straits Times report “Let’s create value and share it: Heng Swee Keat”.

Mr Heng said:

“Since its founding, Singapore has faced challenges which spur innovation, from a lack of water to an ageing population”.

It is imperative that Singaporeans be reminded of the simple fact that Singapore’s founding was in 1819, not 1965. It was our late Dr Goh Keng Swee who said that Singapore faced challenges as early as 1823, just four years after our founding by Sir Stamford Raffles:

… As early as 1823, four years after Singapore’s founding by Sir Stamford Raffles, the first discriminatory measures against Singapore’s trade were introduced … the Dutch imposed a special levy on piece goods imported into Java from Singapore …Trade discrimination and flag discrimination were only two of the perils that Singapore merchants had to contend with. Another took the form of the establishment of rival trading centres. In 1847, Makassar was converted into a free port by the Dutch to take away the flourishing Bugis trade from Singapore. In the next five years five more free ports were established at other places in the Netherlands East Indies. None of these measures checked the growth of Singapore …

[Singapore Economics History Collection – The Practice of Economic Growth, Goh Keng Swee, page 5]

I refer to the 29 Jan 2016 Today report “Bringing ideas to reality will keep Singapore ahead: Heng” ( for other statements made by Mr Heng but not reported by Straits Times.

Today reported Mr Heng saying:

… the Republic created its own technology to overcome the scarcity of water.

But the truth is altogether different as illuminated by wise members of the online community:

Water filtration, reverse-osmosis etc are Western inventions. We merely buy these filtration technologies & equipment for our needs.

Frank Lee

Researchers from both University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Florida successfully produced fresh water from seawater in the mid-1950s, but the flux was too low to be commercially viable until the discovery at University of California at Los Angeles by Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan at the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, of techniques for making asymmetric membranes characterized by an effectively thin “skin” layer supported atop a highly porous and much thicker substrate region of the membrane. John Cadotte, of FilmTec Corporation, discovered that membranes with particularly high flux and low salt passage could be made by interfacial polymerization of m-phenylene diamine and trimesoyl chloride. Cadotte’s patent on this process was the subject of litigation and has since expired. Almost all commercial reverse osmosis membrane is now made by this method. By the end of 2001, about 15,200 desalination plants were in operation or in the planning stages, worldwide.

In 1977 Cape Coral, Florida became the first municipality in the United States to use the RO process on a large scale with an initial operating capacity of 3 million gallons per day. By 1985, due to the rapid growth in population of Cape Coral, the city had the largest low pressure reverse osmosis plant in the world, capable of producing 15 million gallons / day (MGD).

Statestimesreview, Kok Wan See

Mr Heng also said:

But the fact is that Singapore’s social policy innovations in housing, healthcare and the Central Provident Fund, among others, are studied around the world.

Again, the truth is something else altogether different:

The predecessor of HDB is SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust), set up in 1927 by the British colonial government in Singapore in response to the massive housing needs of the population. If you go to Tiong Bahru today, in the neighbourhood of Seng Poh Lane, you can still see a good number of these colonial flats in excellent condition standing earmarked for heritage preservation. They can cost over a million in the open retail market today and much sought after. So HDB is not a PAP invention as claimed by the minister.

CPF was also created by the British government in the colonial days in Singapore, the British Colony of Hong Kong and the Peninsula of Malaya as a retirement plan for workers. It’s a British invention. The PAP only “bastardized” it for a cheap source of fund to build the nation and to profit from the citizens in astronomical housing prices, super expensive healthcare and education to absolve the government from its social responsibilities.

Frank Lee

Also, Singapore’s premier healthcare institutions predate PAP by a century. Singapore General Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Kandang Kerbau Hospital were established in 1821, 1844, 1858 respectively, more than a century before PAP came to power in 1959. How can PAP claim the credit of Singapore healthcare from pioneers like Tan Tock Seng who certainly was never a PAP man (because he died before PAP was born)?

Singaporeans shouldn’t miss out the ample evidence of the pioneering contributions of colonial era SIT in building Singapore’s first housing estates, first public flats including our first high rise flats and how it became the cornerstone upon which the later success of HDB rested upon:

The housing of 150,000 Singaporeans by the SIT had no parallel elsewhere in Asia. Straits Times, 2 Feb 1960

[Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, Ryan Bishop and John Phillips and Wei-Wei Yeo, page 57]

… He told the Straits Times: “I have never seen such wonderful blocks of flats … The S.I.T. flats, which he toured yesterday, “staggered him.” … “People in Liverpool where we consider ourselves to be in the forefront of town planning and slum clearance, would fight to get an S.I.T flat in one of the new blocks I saw to-day.

[The Straits Times, 10 June 1952, Page 5, He is all praise for SIT homes]

The S.I.T should be congratulated for developing Queenstown into a beautiful estate which was once covered with shrubs and graveyards. Queenstown should now be considered a model housing estate for Singapore. It has the highest building, schools, markets, good roads and plenty of playing grounds for children and very good flats.

[The Straits Times, 8 September 1956, Page 12, A SLUM IN THE MAKING]

One of its enduring achievements was the building of a new town at Tiong Bahru, intended to relieve the congestion in Chinatown. It housed 6,600 people and was to have been the first of a series of satellite towns.

[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 18]

The SIT record shows that by the end of 1959, it had built 22,115 housing units, 904 shops, and twelve markets. Another solid achievement to its credit was the completion of the Master Plan. It is often commented that the performance of the SIT was unremarkable compared with that of its successor, the HDB. But the different conditions under which the two bodies worked should be taken into account.

[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 19]

It is worth nothing that the first ten-storey tower blocks in London had appeared only three years before, in 1948.

[Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, Ryan Bishop & John Phillips & Wei-Wei Ye, page 56]

The Singapore Improvement Trust … did provide the basis of a public housing bureaucracy with a valuable accumulation of experience, which could later be utilized by the Housing and Development Board. An illustration of this transition is the development of the first satellite town, Queenstown, which was originally planned by the Trust but was left to its successor to accomplish.

[The Politics of Nation Building and Citizenship in Singapore, Michael Hill and Kwen Fee Lian, page 114]

Although the development of Queenstown was initiated by the SIT in 1952, the estate was subsequently completed by SIT’s successor, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), in the early 1970s. A major part of the town was developed during the first Five-Year Building Programme (1960–1965). Between the years 1952 and 1968, a total of 19,372 housing units were built in the area.

[HistorySG, an online resource guide – Development of Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town]


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