Mr. Goh Keng Swee was born into a middle-income family in Malacca but little did he know that he would grow up to become an important figure in Singapore’s history. He was one of Singapore’s pioneer ministers. In fact, he was Singapore’s first Minister of Defence. He helped to establish the strong foundation in today’s Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
In 1967, Mr. Goh made it compulsory for all 18-year-old male Singaporeans to serve in the army as he felt that this would establish a credible defence force and help with nation-building. NS was also seen as the best way to quickly build up Singapore’s defence forces without placing a heavy burden on the country’s financial and manpower resources.
Mr Goh, with his vision to build strong and credible defence force, believed that air defence should be Singapore’s top priority in terms of security. In 1968, when the Singapore Air Force was set up, he saw a need to recruit pilots who could defend our skies. However, instead of setting up a recruitment drive, he set up the Junior Flying Club in 1971 to promote flying among secondary school and tertiary students, and nurtured potential pilots for the Air Force. Today, it is known as the Singapore Youth Flying Club (SYFC). This initiative was both innovative and successful. This program is still used today. In 2016, 46 members of SYFC received their Wings and Certificates after completing the Private Pilot’s Licence Course at the SYFC and all of them applied to SAF as pilot trainees after their studies.
Mr Goh was Minister of Finance twice and Chairman of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Mr Goh was often referred to as the ‘economic architect’ of Singapore for his great contributions to the transformation of Singapore into a prosperous nation during his terms as Minister for Finance and defence. As Minister of Finance, Mr Goh spearheaded many of the most impressive public policy achievements in Singapore: Economic Development Board (EDB) (lead government agency for planning and executing strategies to enhance Singapore’s position as a global business centre. We dream, design and deliver solutions that create value for investors and companies in Singapore), the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS)( leading financial services group in Asia), the Jurong Industrial Estate(key-manufacturing sector that provided jobs for thousands of Singaporeans, all while creating a brand new housing estate altogether) .
Mr Goh’s contribution to Singapore can never be understated. Like the rest of his pioneer colleagues his work and commitment set the foundation for the prosperous, peaceful and strong Singapore.