Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hon Sui Sen , 韩瑞生(b 1916-d 1983)

Hon Sui Sen, a Penang Hakka Catholic from Balik Pulau(浮罗山背), and an Alumni of SXI(Saint Xavier's Institution), Strait Settlement Penang.

He was in Penang from 1916 when he was born in Balik Pulau until he was accepted into Raffles College, Singapore in 1935. He spent his childhood and school days in Penang. A Penang born Strait Settlement Chinese who excel in Singapore, Penang Lang is very proud of his achievement.

He was the Minister of Finance, Singapore from 1970 to 1983, the first Chairman and President of the Development Bank of Singapore, the first Chairman of Economic Development Board, and Member of Parliament for Havelock constituency. He was one of the the early Singapore statement who had shaped the economic development of Singapore.

Hon Sui Sen(韩瑞生)(b. 1916 - d 1983)

Hon Sui Sen(韩瑞生), his full name was Benedict Hon Sui Sen (b. 16 April 1916, Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia - d. 14 October 1983, Singapore).


Early life

Hon received his early education at St. Xavier's Institution in Penang, Malaya, topping the Senior Cambridge examination in 1932. His Catholic education so inspired him that he had intentions of joining the Brotherhood. In 1935, he won a scholarship to Raffles College and made his way to Singapore where he studied the pure sciences. He graduated with a Class 1 diploma in Science in 1938. Married to Annie Voon during World War II at the Sacred Heart Church in Singapore, Hon was an avid reader of a wide range of literature and liked listening to classical music.

1916 - Born at a Catholic Hakka family in Balik Pulau, Penang, Strait Settlement. He is a Hepo Hakka(河婆客, 潮汕半山客)from 祠堂埔村 Jiexi(揭西县), Guangdong Province, China.

The surname of Han

The surname Hon is actually Han(韩)surname, Hon is the pronunciation of Han in Hakka dialect. Han (韩) is currently ranked 25th in China in terms of the number of bearers at around 8 million persons, it is also the surname for Korean(Han is considered the oldest surname in Korea, dating back 5000 years according to genealogy records). The famous personality from the Han family are Han Xin '韩信' - Famous Western Han general.

In Guangdong Province, there is a concentration of Han Chinese with the surname of Han at Hepo town, Jieyang county(揭阳河婆镇), now Jiexi county(揭西县). Jiexi County is a county of Guangdong Province, China. It is under the administration of Jieyang city(揭阳/揭陽市)formed in 1991. The Teochew dialect is predominantly spoken in this region, but the Hakka dialect, has its limited presence among Hakka people in Jiexi County. The Hakka there is called Hepo khek(河婆客). Some call them "pan-san-hak"(半山客), san-hak means Hakka, pan means half, which means not a full blood Hakka. "pan-san-hak"(半山客 which literally means the Hakka of half mountain, or half Hakka. Hon Sui Sen, should be Han Sui Sen(韩瑞生) is a Hepo Hakka, ancestral land was at the village with the name "祠堂埔村".

Jiexi(揭西县), Guangdong, China(潮汕半山客)

“半山客”是潮汕地区对潮汕客家人的称呼. 半山客原是潮州、揭阳、汕尾、汕头、丰顺一带的客家人,又称潮汕半山区居民. 半山鹤是客家方言的一种口音,特指丰顺的半山客. 半山鹤,本身是发音转写词,原音又可译写为半山福。半山客在潮汕则称半山客,在梅州(丰顺)则称半山鹤。潮汕福佬地区,多把客家人称为山客,而半山客则指非纯属山客,意思是潮汕地区这些客家人. 河婆客是潮汕半山客.

广东揭西县河婆镇韩屋楼,下马石,宫墩,明山楼,河皮塘,共有2万多人 。其中韩屋楼现有8000余人。


1924? - Primary school? He may had skip some years
1930? - SXI
1932 - Junior Cambridge at the St. Xavier’s Institution in 1932. His classmates included the late Datuk Wong Pow Nee (a Chief Minister of Penang after Merdeka), the late Lau Fook Khean (a Queen’s scholar who later became a doctor) and the late Datuk Khor Cheang Kee (a famous journalist; for years Chairman of the Board of Governors, SXI), and the late Brother Dr. Michael Jacques FSC.
1934? - Senior Cambridge(some article said 1932, which may be wrong)
1935 - won scholarship to Raffles College, where he studied the pure sciences
1938 - He graduated with a Class 1 diploma in Science

Civil Service Career

1939 : Joined the Civil Service and appointed to the Straits Settlement Civil Service as a Police Courts Magistrate(警庭推事).
1942? - Collector of Land Revenue prior to the Japanese occupation of Malaya and Singapore

Japanese Occupation(WW2)日本侵占新加坡

1942 : The Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II occurred between about 1942 and 1945 after the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942. Singapore was renamed to Syonan-to (昭南島 Shōnan-tō), which means "Island of the Light of the South" or "Southern Island (obtained) during Shōwa period".
Hon Sui Sen married Annie Voon See Chin, soon after the bomb raids of World War II started.
"In Penang, I stayed with Hon Sui Sen (later to become our minister for finance). In 1942, some four months into the occupation of Singapore, Hon had sent his wife and baby daughter back to Penang and boarded with my family in Norfolk Road as a paying guest"(interview with Lee Kuan Yew on Japanese Occupation).

1943: Hon Sui Sen returned to his hometown Penang. Balik Pulau was the good place to escape from the war as many civilian had done. A tough time for the new family.

1945: Singapore was officially returned to British colonial rule on 12 September 1945, following the formal signing of the surrender instrument at City Hall. Hon Sui Sen and family returned to Singapore to resume his duty.

Post war period

1954 - PAP was formed

1957 : Commissioner of Lands(新加坡土地局局长).

Political Career

1959 - PAP won the election on 13-5-1959. At the founding day of Economic Development Division, there were only 4 persons, Dr Goh Keng Swee as Minister, Hon Sui Sen as Permanent Secretary, Tong Dow Ngiam as young cadet Administration Assistant and office boy(Tong Dow Ngiam & Simon Tay, 2006).

1959 : Permanent Secretary (Economic Development), Ministry of Finance
1960: an attachment to the World Bank in 1960 for 6 months & attended an economic management course, where he met Dr Albert Winsemius. He was Singapore's long-time economic advisor from 1961 to 1984

1961 - 1968 : Dr Goh Keng Swee established the Economic Development Board(经济发展局) and Hon Sui Sen was its first Chairman.

1961 -
As Chairman of the EDB (founded August 1, 1961), Hon played a key role in the implementation of Singapore's industrialization strategy, with the Jurong Industrial Estate (JIE) as the first major project. Sited on swamplands in the west of Singapore, the JIE soon became the centrepiece of an industrialization program that stretched from garments and toys to petrochemicals and electronics. The first factory in Jurong, the National Iron and Steel Mill, was opened on August 2, 1963. By 1968, there were about 300 factories employing 21,000 people in Jurong. In conjunction with the development of the industrial estate, satellite towns were built in the west of Singapore, transforming the Jurong area into a centre of both industrial and residential development.

1964 - SIM or Singapore Institute of Management(新加坡管理学院)
He was also a council member of the Singapore Institute of Management from 1965 to 1968. 1964年新加坡管理学院在当时财政部长韩瑞生的倡议下成立,学院开始以成人提供管理知识和培训为创院目标,至今升格到大学, SIM University(新跃大学)。

He formally retired from the Civil Service in 1965

1968 - 1970 : Chairman and President, Development Bank of Singapore(星展银行有限公司).

1968 - Development bank of Singapore(星展银行有限公司)
DBS was established in 1968 as the development bank of Singapore. It was the catalyst to Singapore's economic development during the nation's early years of independence. Hon Sui Sen was appointed as Chairman and President.

1968 - JTC Corporation (裕廊集团), formerly the Jurong Town Corporation (裕廊镇管理局), is Singapore's lead agency in charge of planning, promoting and developing industrial facilities and infrastructure. JTC is formally incorporated on 1 June 1968.

1968 - NOL(Neptune Orient Lines,海皇轮船)
The company Neptune Orient Lines began life on 30-12-1968 as Singapore’s national shipping line, wholly owned by the Singapore Government just as it was becoming clear that containerisation was the way of the future. Then Finance Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee was the key decision-maker in the planning and establishment of the company, including issues regarding leadership and trade routes. Other officials involved in the planning of NOL’s aims and objectives, capital structure and trade activities included Hon Sui Sen, J. Y. Pillay, Sim Kee Boon and Eric Khoo.

1970 - 1983 : Member of Parliament for Havelock constituency & Minister of Finance.

11 Aug 1970 - 13 Oct 1983 : He succeeded fellow founding father Goh Keng Swee as finance minister. He was the Minister of Finance until his death on 13-10-1983.
Hon devoted 44 years of his life to Public Service. In 1970, Singapore had only a handful of suitable leaders to guide the infant economy. Dr Goh Keng Swee had been moved to the Ministry of Defence from the Ministry of Finance and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was initially in a quandry as he sought for a suitable replacement until he decided on Hon. Although he had little formal training in economics (his only official exposure being an attachment to the World Bank in 1960) he managed to more than double Singapore's GDP from S$2,462 in 1970 to S$5,752 in 1982 and raised Singapore's official reserves six times over.

Hon Sui Sen was a big man. It will not be easy to find another Finance Minister to repeat this delicate exercise in on- the-job ... Singapore's official reserves went up over six times from $3.1 billion in 1970 to $18.9 billion in 1983(Joan Hon, daughter of Hon Sui Sen,1984, from the book Relatively speaking authored by her)

Monetary Authority of Singapore(新加坡金融管理局) (establish in 1971)
1970, Parliament passed the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act leading to the formation of MAS on 1 January 1971. The MAS Act gives MAS the authority to regulate all elements of monetary, banking and financial aspects of Singapore. Hon Sui Sen was the 1st chairman from Jan 1971 - Jul 1980

1979 - Singapore's Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen paid a visit to China in late 1979

1981 - Hon Sui Sen was one of the first board member of The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Pte Ltd or GIC(新加坡政府投资公司). The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Private Limited (GIC) is a sovereign wealth fund established by the Government of Singapore in 1981 to manage Singapore's foreign reserves.

1983 - Hon Sui Sen died in office
He died of a heart attack in October 1983. He died in office, the first PAP minister to die in office. He give his best to Singapore until the last second of his life, a great Singaporean. ".... I've seen my closest friend [former Finance Minister] Hon Sui Sen on his deathbed; he had had a heart attack and was fighting for his life, doctors were there, the priest was there, but there was no fear in his eyes. He and his wife were devout Catholics. They were both convinced they would meet again in the hereafter. I believe a man or a woman who has deep faith in God has an enormous strength facing crises, an advantage in life"(an interview of Lee Kuan Yew by Time on his view of religion on 13-12-2005).

1962 : Meritorious Service Medal
1967 : Distinguished Service Medal
1969 : Conferred the nonorary deegree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Singapore.
1982 : Named Economy Minister of the Year by Euromoney magazine.
1984 : Posthumously awarded The Order of Temasek for distinguished service.

Father: Peter Hon Boon Poh, rose from being a corporate accountant to gain wealth in the tin mining industry and began to invest in rubber and coconut estates until the Depression led to a decline in the family wealth. He then turned to operating cinemas.
Mother: Catherine Loh Soon Yin
Brother : Louis Hon, elder brother
Sisters: Margaret Hon, Theresa Hon (younger sisters), Martha Hon, youngest sister.
Wife: Annie Voon See Chin. They were married soon after the bomb raids of World War II started.
Daughters: Joan Hon, Elizabeth Hon, Vivien Hon and Brenda Hon

A mentor & talents developer
Hon Sui Sen, a former permanent secretary and head of Economic Development Board, was one of our best civil servants. I persuaded him to become an MP and then finance minister. He recommended several, among them, people whom he had worked with: Goh Chok Tong吴作栋, S Dhanabalan丹纳巴南, Tony Tan陈庆炎. They were three heavyweight ministers(extracted from Speech by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew on ministerial salaries in Parliament, Friday 30 June 2000). He finds a talent, he gives him a role, a job which suits his talent, and he will tell them, " There is always room at the top".

His Legacies

Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library Building(韩瑞生纪念图书馆)

Hon Sui Sen Auditorium, National University of Singapore.

Hon Sui Sen Drive, Hon Sui Sen Drive is located at Buona Vista district,

The Hon Sui Sen Endowment

Looking at the background of Mr Hon Sui Sen, we can understand why his mentor Dr Goh Keng Swee(吴庆瑞博士, b1918-d 2010) and Lee Kuan Yew have high confidence and trust on him. He was a management genius with golden touch, from Economic Development Board, Development Bank of Singapore to Ministry of Finance. It revealed that he was one of the pillar of Singapore's economic development, and right hand man of Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kuan Yew appointed Dr Goh Keng Swee to manage finance in early days of Singapore formation, Dr Goh gave his confidence to Han Sui Sen and hand picked him to lead Economic Development Board, and allow him liberty to choose his people for the job. The mutual understanding and chain of trust on the capability of the people they appointed, allow them to excel in their job, was the main success story of Singapore. In short, appointed the right person, and provide them the liberty to do their best. Dr Goh Keng Swee was from Strait Settlement Malacca, he was "The architect of Singapore's prosperity". Singapore's gain was Malaysia's loss. Mr Hon Sui Sen is the proudest son of Penang, and St Xavier's Institution.

Lee Kuan Yew(Singapore) as Political Visionary, Dr Goh Keng Swee(Malacca)as Economic Architect, Hon Sui Sen(Penang)as the Capacity Builder, ironically were all from the Strati Settlement of Singapore, Malacca and Penang, and educated at Raffles College(between 1935-1942); is it coincident?.....a beautiful combination, a powerful team. Dr Goh Keng Swee(Malacca)and Hon Sui Sen(Penang)were the man behind Singapore's economic success......

Mr Hon Sui Sen, a great son of Penang, a great man for Singapore.....

Raffles College
Yong Nyuk Lin,杨玉麟(1934 -1937) - headed the Raffles College alumni association, business partner of Lee Kuan Yew during WW2, brother-in-law of Lee Kuan Yew.
Hon Sui Sen, 韩瑞生(1935-1938)
Goh Keng Swee,吴庆瑞 (1936–1939).
Lee Kuan Yew (1940-1942)

Related articles/references:
1. Hon Sui Sen(1999), by Michael Mukunthan, National Library Board Singapore
2. The architect of Singapore's prosperity(2010), by Fiona Chan and Gabriel Chen, The Strait Time, Singapore;
3. A Mandarin and the making of public policy:reflections(2006), by Tong Dow Ngiam, Simon Tay, published by NUS Press, Singapore(This is a must read book on Hon Sui Sen's early days in Economic Development Board)
4. Lee Kuan Yew on Religion;
5. Strategic pragmatism: the culture of Singapore's Economic Development Board(1996), by Edgar H. Schein, published by MIT Press(Pg 39 & Pg 40)
6. Lim Kim San: A Builder of Singapore(2010), by Asad Latif, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies( pg 8 & 9 on Lee Kuan Yew's comment on Hon Sui Sen's dilemma prior to enter politic)
7.History of Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library,
8. Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International.

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