Tomorrow, HDB turns 55.
A recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) asked Singaporeans to name 10 events that they thought were most important to Singaporeans. The formation of HDB on 1 Feb 1960 was on the top 10 chart. I am glad that HDB’s role in nation building has resonated strongly with Singaporeans.
Its early years were exceptionally challenging. HDB’s first chairman, Mr Lim Kim San, led HDB to break new ground and laid a strong foundation which successive generations of HDB staff were able to build upon.
Working along with Mr Lim were many HDB staff. Through their hard work, perseverance and personal sacrifices, HDB grew and moved steadfastly towards its mission.
He first worked in the Singapore Improvement Trust, and joined HDB when it was formed. He was a Resettlement Officer. In those years, squatters were common in Singapore, and living conditions were squalid. The most immediate and important task then was to resettle and rehouse the squatters in better HDB homes.
While resettlement from slums to modern HDB now seems obviously positive, convincing the people then to move into high-rise flats was an arduous task. Officers like Mr Bong faced strong resistance from the squatters as it meant changes to where they lived, how they lived and where they worked. Tremendous patience and a human touch were needed. Mr Bong did just that!
There are many other HDB pioneers like Mr Bong. The impact of their contribution will long be remembered. They laid the solid foundation, from which we can now move public housing to even greater heights. “My Nice Home Gallery”, the plans for upcoming Bidadari and Tampines North etc show the transformation of HDB towns in the past 55 years. A transformation that I am sure our HDB pioneers will feel proud of. I think we have not disappointed them and I hope to continue to build upon their vision, to achieve greater success.
Thank you HDB Pioneers and Happy Birthday, HDB!
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