Hon Sui Sen
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Benedict Hon Sui Sen (b. 16 April 1916, Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia - d. 14 October 1983, Singapore) was the Minister of Finance 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 pioneers responsible for shaping Singapore's economic development soon after independence.
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.
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 per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from S$2,462 in 1970 to S$5,752 in 1982 and raised Singapore's official reserves six times over.
Among Hon's many roles and accomplishments were establishing Keppel Shipyard and Sembawang Shipyard as competitive, international dockyards in the maritime business. As the first Chairman and President of the Development Bank of Singapore, he is credited for making it the largest commercial bank in the Republic. Most important to Singapore was his role in establishing the Economic Development Board and in working out the master plan for the Jurong's development under the EDB.
1939 : Joined the Civil Service and appointed to the Straits Settlement Civil Service as a Police Courts Magistrate.
1957 : Commissioner of Lands.
1961 - 1968 : Established the Economic Development Board and was its first Chairman.
1968 - 1970 : Chairman and President, Development Bank of Singapore.
He also was the Chairman of nine other companies including National Iron & Steel Mills Ltd, Jurong Shipyard Ltd, Sembawang Shipyard (Pte) Ltd, Keppel Shipyard (Pte) Ltd, Neptune Orient Lines Ltd, Jurong Shipbuilders Ltd, Singapore Electronic & Engineering Ltd, the Insurance Corporation of Singapore Ltd, Singapore Petroleum Company. He also was Director of Intraco.
1959 : Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance.
11 Aug 1970 - 13 Oct 1983 : Minister of Finance until his death.
1970 - 1983 : Member of Parliament for Havelock constituency.
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
He died of a heart attack in October 1983.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON)
Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the President, Prime Minister and ministers. Singapore: Publicity Division, Ministry of Culture.
(Call no.: RSING 328.59570922 BIO)
Morais, J. V. (1963). Who's who in Malaysia 1963 (p. x). Kuala Lumpur: Solai Press.
(Call no.: RCLOS 920.0595 WWM)
A Tribute to Hon Sui Sen. (1984). Singapore: Havelock Citizens' Consultative Committee.
(Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON)
Who's who in Malaysia & Singapore 1983-1984 (p. 52). . Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
Hon dies of heart attack. (1983, October 15). The Business Times (Singapore), p. 1.
Hon's very special style. (1983, October 15). The Straits Times, p. 18.
Hon's widow receives top award on behalf of late minister. (1984, November 24). The Straits Times, p.1.
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we can 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.
Hon Sui Sen, 1916-1983
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