Sir Harold Wilson Visit Jurong Industrial Estate in 1978
Former British Prime Minister Sir Harold Wilson (right) being briefed by Managing Director of Beecham Pharmaceuticals Private Limited R P Allen (third from right) during his visit to the factory at Quality Road, Jurong Industrial Estate. Sir Wilson and Lady Wilson were on a five-day visit to Singapore at the invitation of PM Lee Kuan Yew.
Sir Harold Wilson being briefed by Managing Director of Beecham Pharmaceuticals Private Limited R P Allen during his visit to the factory at Quality Road, Jurong Industrial Estate.
Visit to Crown Cork at Boon Lay Road, Jurong Industrial Estate
Director and General Manager of Crown Cork, Graham Bell briefed Sir Harold Wilson on factory activities during Sir Wilson's tour of the factory at New Boon Lay Road. Crown Cork is a British-based industry.
In the early 1900s, Jurong was uncharted territory, mainly dominated by swamps with low hills covered by shrubs and a thick jungle. The word jurong (jurung in current Indonesian spelling) refers to the elevated porch of a traditional house. Thus considering the area's many small hills in a swamp, Jurong may refer to these small elevated lands in the swamp. In 1929, Jurong Road was extended to Bukit Timah, connecting it to the rest of Singapore Town. Jurong remained a sleepy rural area until 1959, when Singapore became a self-governing colony.
The government saw industrialization as a solution to the country's economic problems and Jurong was picked as a prime area for development. Jurong's coastal waters were deep, making it suitable for a port; the land was mostly state-owned; and landfill was readily available from the area's many hills. In the 1950s, it was developed into an industrial estate, supported by low-cost housing. Amenities such as government dispensaries, a private hospital, creches, hawker centres and banks were built in the 1970s during efforts to develop Singapore economically.
From entrepot trade to industrialization in Singapore
For over a century, entrepot trade was the most important force in Singapore's economy. As a commercial center for import and export, it provided thousands of jobs. This trade also helped Singapore grow from a fishing village into a modern city-state.
Singapore's geographical position made it an ideal collecting and distribution center for the region. From spices in the early days, the trade shifted to sugar, coffee, and copra (dried coconut kernals). Later, there was tin, rubber, crude oil, and manufactured goods from the East.
Today, Singapore trades with almost all nations in the world. Its main trading partners are Malaysia, Japan, the United States, Saudi Arabi, and the European Union. The countries make up about two-thirds of the island's total trade. Crude oil, electronic parts, iron and steel, and aircraft and ships are imported into Singapore. The island's main exports include petroleum products, machinery and equipment, electronic products and crude rubber.
No country, however, can depend on trade alone. It has to develop in other directions as well. Over the years, the other ports in the region had been offering stiffer competition for the trade in the area. And, with declining trade, Singapore had to make other plans.
The population in Singapore had also increased rapidly. The increase, especially in the years after the Second World War, was a world record! As a result, besides housing, education, better health and medical services for the people, more jobs were urgently needed. Since agriculture was out of the question because of the shortage of land, and it was not possible to expand the entrepot trade, attention was directed toward industrialization instead.
Before 1961, industry in Singapore was limited to the processing of rubber and copra, tin smelting, and the refining of vegetable and coconut oils. Other light industries included the manufacture of furniture, footwear, clothers, food and bottled drinks for the home market.
The industrialization program was introduced in the early 1960s. The government spent millions of dollars to turn Jurong - a swamp in the south-western part of the island - into an industrial area. Hills were leveled, swamps filled, and roads and factories built. This was followed up by the construction of high-rise homes for the workers and their families. Markets, schools, landscaped parks, and other recreational facilities were also provided.
Industries set up in the area included shipbuilding and repairing yards, car assembly plants, and petroleum refineries as well as factories producing everything from plywood, plastics, ceramics, steel tubes, and tires to electrical and electronic goods.
Many conditions were just right for the new industrialization in the 60s. Communications facilities were well-developed. So was the water and electricity supply. The port, banks, and other services were all ready to serve the needs of the manufacturing industries. Singapore also had a stable government and a large pool of skilled labor.
As a result, many local and foreign investors set up industries in Singapore. They were given every encouragement, including attractive tax incentives. The industrial drive was so successful that manufacturing became a major contributor to Singapore's economy. For the first time in history, Singapore was not longer totally dependent on entrepot trade.
When there was not enough land available in Jurong for more factories, smaller industrial estates were started in different parts of the island. Today, Singapore has 30 industrial estates of which Jurong is the largest. All are managed by the Jurong Town Corporation, which was set up in 1968. There are altogether slightly less than 5,00 companies.
Visit to Jurong Town Corporation (JTC)
Sir Harold Wilson briefed the development of Jurong town centre with maps and models during his visit to Jurong Town Corporation (JTC).
With full employment achieved in the early 1970s, Singapore has turned its attention to higher technology industries. It is also moved toward mechanization, computerization, and the increasing use of industrial robots. Next to Japan, Singapore is Southeast Asia's second largest use of robots in factories.
The very success of Singapore's industrialization program has also led to its growth in trade, port services, transportation, and communications, banking and finance, and construction and tourism.
[Source: Major World Nations - Singapore by Jessie Wee]
The Case of the Economics Development Board
Singapore is today ranked among the world’s strongest and most competitive economies. Forty years ago, it had a very different economy. It was beset with acute housing shortage and severe unemployment. The Economic Development Board (EDB) has played a key role in developing Singapore’s economy, creating wealth and jobs for the population. Established since 1960, the EDB is Singapore’s one-stop and lead government agency for planning and executing economic strategies to enhance Singapore's position as a global hub for business and investment. The EDB seeks to facilitate and support both local and foreign investors in manufacturing and services sectors to develop and expand new business opportunities, especially capital-intensive, knowledge-intensive and innovation-intensive activities.
Singapore is today ranked among the world’s strongest and most competitive economies. Forty years ago, it had a very different economy. It was beset with acute housing shortage and severe unemployment. The Economic Development Board (EDB) has played a key role in developing Singapore’s economy, creating wealth and jobs for the population.
Established since 1960, the EDB is Singapore’s one-stop and lead government agency for planning and executing economic strategies to enhance Singapore's position as a global hub for business and investment. The EDB seeks to facilitate and support both local and foreign investors in manufacturing and services sectors to develop and expand new business opportunities, especially capital-intensive, knowledge-intensive and innovation-intensive activities.
The EDB, in promoting Singapore, markets Singapore as a Total Business Centre, the location to ‘begin your journey in Asia’. There are marketing brochures explaining ‘why Singapore’. Investment promotion is not just to corporations but also extends to individuals, and is worldwide. Recognizing that investors are not homogenous, the EDB now provides an extensive range of focused programs, policies and schemes to attract three groups: investors, startups and individuals, to Singapore.
Singapore has made remarkable economic progress since the early 1960s. To a large extent, the EDB has been effective in promoting investment . It has created a whole new industrial economy.
There are more than 7,000 MNCs in Singapore; about half of these have regional operations. The MNCs are carefully selected to ‘fit’ the target sectors and/or specific manufacturing process chain spectrum. To remain robust, Singapore's economic structure has diversified; startups and SMEs are increasingly featured in economic development. Strong manufacturing and services sectors have become the twin pillars of the economy. There is a wide range of businesses, particularly in the higher value-adding activities. With the help of the EDB, other government support agencies and fiscal incentives, industries have automated, mechanized
and restructured their activities to stay competitive.
Moving forward, the EDB has charted several strategies to realize its vision of Singapore as a premier hub for value-creating investments: strengthen industry clusters, identify and grow new clusters, nurture innovation-driven enterprises, develop new geographies, and make Singapore’s environment conducive and competitive for global business. A number of factors can perhaps be discerned as having contributed to EDB’s pivotal role in Singapore’s economic growth. The first is clear and strong government support that is
translated into the operating institutional framework—a one-stop, pro-business quasi-public agency, with resources for implementation.
The second is the EDB philosophy of ‘committed to deliver, courage to dream and bold in design’, which has resulted in a carefully crafted economic development program. The third is the capacity to change, to stay ahead of world trends, innovate and make quick adjustments to meet changing times. Such legerity is crucial to staying competitive. The Singapore EDB experience is a reassertion of other aspects of Singapore’s post-independence development that provides one model of how given the appropriate operational environment, concepts can be translated into practical programs and implemented to achieve the desired results.
Source: Economic Development Board
Note: A series of these archived photos and descriptions are curated on the nostalgic blogs to share with our heritage friends. These personal blogs to express for non-commercial and not for profit purposes; and credit with acknowledgement and thanks to the National Archives of Singapore. Thank you.