Winsemius in Singapore’s Economic History
7 June, 2017
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
The Dutch economist Albert Winsemius led two extremely modest industrial survey missions to Singapore under the United Nations Development Programme in 1960-61. He had no knowledge of Singapore except that it was ‘going down the drain’ and his first team was poorly assembled. Yet his work and advice were soon endorsed by the Singapore government and incorporated in the expansive State Development Plan of 1961, and he subsequently became a trusted informal adviser to the government into the 1980s.
Winsemius in Singapore offers an intriguing case study of expert intervention in colonies and former colonies throughout the world after the Second World War, a contrast for instance to the failings of technical advisers in the disastrous East Africa Groundnut Scheme. How did Winsemius succeed where so many experts had failed? How did he learn from Singapore and conversely, how did Singapore learn from him? This talk, by exploring Winsemius’ official and unofficial recommendations for Singapore, his interest in political as well as economic issues and his oral history recollections of his time in the city, goes further to suggest that Winsemius was even more impactful in Singapore history than we have hitherto realised.
With Distinguished Speaker, Dr Loh Kah Seng
Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at James Cook University
Loh Kah Seng is one of the few Singapore historians who works on social, cultural and transnational pasts – the big and small histories of Singapore, its people and its links to the wider world. He is a prolific author and editor whose work includes the award-nominated Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore (NUS Press 2013, shortlist for 2015 EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize). Loh is actively involved in history and heritage projects. In 2011, he was Oral History Coordinator in the Working Committee of the Documentation Project for Bukit Brown and Seh Ong Cemeteries. A former teacher, he has developed educational resources with schools and agencies, including the school textbook All about History: European Dominance and Expansion in Southeast Asia in the Late 19th Century for the Ministry of Education in 2014, and educational material on the history of rice and spices in Southeast Asia for UNESCO in 2016.