Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Singapore Perspectives 2020: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s vision on 4G leadership

4G leaders to offer Singaporeans more say in shaping policy: Heng Swee Keat
Plans are also afoot to give more help to lower-income citizens, says DPM
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2020

Amid challenges such as inequality and economic disruption, the fourth-generation leadership is determined to build a future of progress and prosperity for Singaporeans, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

Mr Heng, who is expected to take over as Singapore's next leader in the coming years, also painted a vision of how he and his colleagues intend to lead the country. Their approach hinges on going beyond working for Singaporeans to working with them in designing policies and implementing them.

He also hinted that plans are afoot to give more help to lower-income Singaporeans.

"We are now studying how we can better help lower-and lower-middle-income Singaporeans, including current and future seniors, to meet their retirement needs in a sustainable way," said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

More help will also be given to workers - like those in their 40s and 50s - to upskill, with the Government putting in place the next phase of SkillsFuture, he added.

"I will provide more details in the coming Budget."

Speaking at the Institute of Policy Studies' annual Singapore Perspectives conference, Mr Heng invited "all Singaporeans to work with us, and with each other" to tackle the challenges facing the nation.

Just as the founding leaders fostered a sense of nationhood through policies such as home ownership that gave the people a stake in Singapore, Mr Heng said the Singapore Together movement launched last year "will be our new cornerstone of nation building".

For instance, new platforms have already engaged Singaporeans on ways to improve work-life harmony and encourage household recycling, said Mr Heng.

Singaporeans are also being involved in the development of Singapore's landscape such as the Somerset Belt, the Geylang Serai cultural precinct as well as parks.

"What we see forming is a new model of partnership between the Government and Singaporeans in owning, shaping and acting on our future," he told an audience of students, academics and policymakers.

"In this process, government agencies are learning to develop and deliver policy solutions in a more collaborative manner."

This collaborative approach is Singapore's way forward in a world marked by differences and uncertainty, he said.

He noted that many countries have seen their political consensus fracture over the past decade, brought about by changes such as technological disruption, growing inequality and ageing populations.

Singapore is not immune to these divisive forces, and there were hints of this in some of the public discourse around foreigners, he added.

Amid these disruptive forces, a strong sense of unity is key to keeping Singapore successful, the same way the founding political leaders beat the long odds facing the Republic in the early days, said Mr Heng.

"Our improbable success was made possible by exceptional governance - capable leaders, working together with a united people."

People had a stake in the country and there was trust between them and the Government.

"This approach must remain core to the Government's mission, especially as we grapple with longer-term issues facing us," he said.

But in a society increasingly flooded by information and misinformation, it is critical to find ways to deepen understanding and relationships among people, he noted.

"We must reject extremist views that will fray our social fabric, and be discerning about falsehoods and irresponsible promises that cannot be fulfilled."

That is why giving Singaporeans a bigger role in shaping policy would help them appreciate the trade-offs involved and distinguish truth from falsehoods, he said.

Singaporeans have also shown they want to let their actions speak for themselves: Total volunteer hours have nearly trebled in the past 10 years, from 45 million hours in 2008 to 122 million hours in 2018, he noted.

At the same time, the Government will continue to exercise leadership in areas such as security and defence, and in planning for the long term, said Mr Heng.

"I am confident that our partnership efforts to date will set the foundations for the work of a generation," he said.

Migrants in Singapore mostly from Malaysia: United Nations report debunks popular perceptions

Malaysians make up 44% of foreign-born population here, followed by Chinese nationals at 18%
By Tan Ee Lyn, Senior Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 19 Jan 2020

Malaysians form the biggest group of migrants living and working in Singapore, accounting for almost half - or 44 per cent - of the foreign-born population here, United Nations figures show.

They are followed by Chinese nationals, who make up around 18 per cent of the migrant pool. Together, the two groups account for over six in 10 migrants in Singapore.

Rounding off the top three sources of migrants is Indonesia, which made up 6.4 per cent of the foreign-born pool last year.

They are followed by Indians (5.9 per cent), Pakistanis (5.1 per cent) and Bangladeshis (3.2 per cent). Those from Hong Kong and Macau together make up 3.3 per cent.

This diverse group of migrants has tripled in the last 30 years from 1990 to last year, according to figures from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The rise from 727,262 to 2.16 million has, in turn, boosted Singapore's total population from three million to 5.7 million last year.

The UN figures reveal, for the first time, where migrants in Singapore were originally from. They include those who have acquired the Singapore passport, such as Haidilao hotpot founder Zhang Yong, a newly minted Singaporean who was born in Sichuan.

Others in the group include permanent residents, work pass holders and their dependants, as well as students.

The Singapore Government has never published figures on the origins of migrants by country. Its official figures are only by region.

Its Population In Brief 2019 report shows that among those given permanent residency and citizenship in 2018, for example, 62.5 per cent and 61.6 per cent respectively were originally from South-east Asian countries, while 31.2 per cent and 32.4 per cent were from other Asian countries.

Sociologist Zhan Shaohua said the UN data shows the diversity in Singapore. "This will, in turn, increase people's understanding of each other's cultural differences,"said Dr Zhan from Nanyang Technological University.

A significant feature of the UN figures is that Malaysia has consistently been the top source of migrants - debunking the widespread perception that the overwhelming majority of foreigners in Singapore are from China and South Asia.

In the last 30 years, the proportion of Malaysians has shot up, to 44 per cent last year from 27 per cent in 1990. In absolute numbers, the group has ballooned five times to almost one million - 952,261 - last year, from 195,072 in 1990.

As for China-born migrants, the proportion has hovered around 18 per cent, except in 1990, when it was 21 per cent. This works out to 380,145 last year, from 150,447 in 1990. Indonesia stands at No. 3, with its proportion more than doubling to 6.4 per cent last year from 3 per cent in 1990. In absolute numbers, this stood at 138,338 last year from 21,520 in 1990.

The UN figures are based on public data from Singapore's Department of Statistics. Most countries also share with the United Nations partial lists of the origins of their migrants.

A National Population and Talent Division spokesman said: "Numerous factors affect the mix of countries from which people come to work or settle in Singapore. They include the attractiveness of Singapore through family ties, economic needs, geographical proximity, as well as the situation in their home country and other possible destinations."

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Public Service and Politics in Singapore

Political leadership vital to Singapore’s success: PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 2020 Annual Public Service Leadership Dinner
Civil service cannot function well without first-class political leadership, he says
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Jan 2020

A high-quality public service is critical, but for Singapore to be successful, it must work closely with a "first-class political leadership", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said. It must also be fundamentally aligned with elected leaders.

"Some people argue that since we have a capable civil service to keep things working, Singapore already is in good hands.

"Hence, we need not be so stringent in our expectations of political leaders - of capability, or mastery of their portfolios, of the experience they bring to the job," he told 900 public servants at the Public Service Leadership Dinner yesterday.

"And (that) we can even survive a bad election, or a bad government, because the civil service is there.

"I believe this is totally misguided. Leadership does matter, and political leaders play a specific, vital role in any country, but especially in our system of government," he said.

PM Lee added that a competent civil service may be able to keep the country going on autopilot for some time, even if its politics are divided, or its political leaders well-meaning but mediocre.

But the civil service cannot launch major policy, set new directions or mobilise the population to mount a national response to major challenges, he said.

Citing the example of the United States, where there is widespread agreement that the country's ageing infrastructure is due for an urgent upgrade, PM Lee noted that the necessary work cannot be done because of deep political divisions.

In Singapore, the political climate gives the country the luxury of looking beyond the short term, and public servants can work alongside leaders with the political will to do things the right way, he added.

And just as public servants must understand the political context, ministers are expected to be "hands-on executive leaders" rather than simply providing strategic guidance, he said.

This means that if they are not up to scratch or cannot play their roles properly, the public service will not function well.

"Maintaining an outstanding public service will itself be in jeopardy," PM Lee said. "The quality of Government will go down, and it will take years to recover, if at all."

He also stressed the public service must be "fundamentally aligned" with the elected government.

This means being sensitive to the political context and sharing the fundamental values and priorities of the political leadership.

Only when senior public service leaders work closely with their elected counterparts will both parties be able to give effect to the will of the people, PM Lee said.

"It is a fine balance - for the public service to be neutral and non-political, insulated from the hurly-burly of party politics, and yet politically sensitive and responsive to the nation's priorities and aspirations. But this is inherent in the role of a public service leader," he said.

He added that a political transition will happen in a few years, with the fourth-generation political leaders coming to the fore.

The next general election has to be held by April next year, but polls are expected to be called this year.

He said that while the working style of the 4G leaders may be different, one thing cannot change.

This is the "fundamental alignment, close working relationship and mutual trust between the ministers and civil servants".

PM Lee said he was confident that 4G leaders and public service leaders share the same core values: meritocracy, clean government, multiracialism, inclusive development and economic growth.

"And the conviction that an outstanding government is a vital differentiator for Singapore, and that Singapore has to be exceptional to thrive," he said.

Singapore attracted $15.2 billion in investments in 2019; set to create 32,000 jobs

Big jump in investments in 2019 set to create 32,000 jobs in Singapore
Singaporeans to get most new jobs, says Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing; half of the roles are linked to digital economy
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2020

Despite a challenging year weighed down by global economic uncertainties, Singapore beat expectations for investment commitments last year.

It secured $15.2 billion in investments last year, which are expected to create more than 32,000 jobs over the coming years, the Economic Development Board (EDB) announced at its year in review yesterday. The vast majority of these jobs will go to Singaporeans, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

This would be in line with the trend seen between 2015 and 2018. Some 60,000 jobs were created during that period, of which 50,000 were taken up by Singaporeans, said Mr Chan.

Large manufacturing investments from semiconductor as well as energy and chemical companies were key to the surge in investments last year.

Technology firm Micron expanded its presence here with a multibillion-dollar investment, while gas giant Linde pumped in $1.9 billion to quadruple its footprint in the Republic by 2023.

EDB chairman Beh Swan Gin said that the strong investment commitment numbers reflect companies' confidence in Singapore's strong fundamentals and its strategic position in a fast-growing Asia.

The $15.2 billion worth of investment commitments beat EDB's forecast of $8 billion to $10 billion for the year, and exceeded 2018's $10.9 billion figure. The electronics industry accounted for some 28.4 per cent of investments.

When fully implemented, the projects will create 32,814 jobs, almost double the forecast of 16,000 to 18,000 positions.

Close to half of these jobs will be in the digital economy, and around 60 per cent to 70 per cent will be jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), noted Dr Beh.

Mr Chan highlighted that while Singapore drew strong commitments last year, it has no room to be complacent as there is global competition for talent in sectors such as information and communications, robotics and deep technology.

The projects committed to last year are expected to contribute $29.4 billion in value-added per annum - the direct contribution to Singapore's gross domestic product.

Total business expenditure, which refers to companies' incremental annual operating expenditure, such as on wages and rental, was $9 billion last year. This exceeded the forecast $5 billion to $7 billion.

EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong highlighted three reasons for the strong investment commitments last year: Singapore's position at the heart of a growing Asia which provides companies with access to the booming region, trust in the Republic and the stability it offers, and the sophisticated capabilities of its economy.

He said EDB will continue to strengthen Singapore's position as a platform for companies to tap opportunities in the region, reinforce its role as a hub for companies to develop digital solutions, and support companies in innovation.

Mr Sanjiv Lamba, Linde Asia-Pacific chief executive, said that the company's $1.9 billion commitment to Singapore last year was its largest worldwide.

"For over 20 years, Linde has continuously strengthened our presence and operations in Singapore through multiple investments, made possible by its excellent infrastructure, abundant highly skilled workforce, and stable and friendly business environment," he said.

Meanwhile, EDB is moving away from yearly forecasts to long-to medium-term ones to reflect how companies plan their investment positions.

From this multi-year perspective, EDB still expects to draw $8 billion to $10 billion in investment commitments and create around 16,000 to 18,000 expected jobs yearly.

Investment commitments for 2020 should come in above the forecast based on the pipeline of projects, said Mr Chng.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices in updated Fair Consideration Framework

Firms to pay heavier price if they don't give locals a fair shot at jobs
They face stiffer penalties for discrimination and prosecution in court for false declaration
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 15 Jan 2020

Employers who discriminate against locals when they recruit now face stiffer penalties and could be prosecuted in court if they make false declarations on their hiring considerations.

The new regime has kicked in with changes to the Fair Consideration Framework, which was introduced in 2014 to specifically target discrimination against locals and has now been given sharper teeth.

While most employers have adapted to it since, it is timely now to weed out the minority that still think they can treat the job advertising requirement in the framework as a paper exercise, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday.

Firms must advertise openings for jobs paying below $15,000 a month on the national Jobs Bank for at least 14 days before applying for an employment pass for a foreigner.

Some try to game this.

"In places where the workforce is multinational, like Singapore, perceptions of discrimination against locals are particularly toxic," said Mrs Teo, noting that other forms of workplace discrimination, such as those based on age and gender, are just as unacceptable.

She said that it is important for Singapore to stay open and help businesses put together the best possible team to compete on the world stage.

But this requires a balance of foreigners and local workers - which means regulating the flow of foreigners coming to work in Singapore and investing to build up a local pipeline to help businesses grow here, she added.

Employers must practise fair consideration including for local applicants, and hire on merit, Mrs Teo said.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices followed up on around 2,000 complaints of discrimination from 2014 to 2018, she noted.

Of those complaints, action was taken against employers in 680 cases, with 280 cases resulting in debarment from hiring new foreign workers.

Half of these cases were for nationality discrimination, and the others for other forms of discrimination, such as age and gender.

Mrs Teo said that cases where action has been taken include those where employers had pre-selected foreigners for job positions and went through the motions of advertising the role, and omitted critical job requirements so there were no suitable applicants, and those who made false declarations to the ministry that they considered local candidates fairly when they did not.

Under the updated framework, employers found guilty of discrimination will not be able to renew work passes for existing employees during the period of debarment. In the past, debarment mostly applied to new work pass applications.

In addition, these errant employers will not be able to apply for new work passes for at least 12 months - up from the minimum of six months previously. The debarment period can extend to 24 months for the "most egregious cases", said Mrs Teo.

These changes to the Fair Consideration Framework took effect earlier this month.

Employers who falsely declare that they have considered all candidates fairly will also now be prosecuted in court and face up to two years in jail, if found guilty.

Yesterday, logistics firm Ti2 Logistics became the first to be charged for falsely declaring it had fairly considered locals before trying to hire a foreigner.

The harsher penalties will deter would-be and recalcitrant employers and businesses, said National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay in a Facebook post.

Waste of time, effort for flat owners to sort out their own noise issues

It was heart-rending to read about the plight of a fellow Housing Board flat dweller who faced almost insurmountable difficulties to try to resolve a noise issue with his neighbours (S'pore's first Exclusion Order: Man's noisy neighbours say they will not comply, Jan 7).

But it was even more depressing to continue to hear from others concerned that such issues have not been given the right treatment, even though so many Singaporeans live in HDB flats (Leaving feuding neighbours to sort out issue may not be best approach, by Mr Lee Teck Chuan, Jan 14; New process needed to tackle neighbour disputes quickly, by Dr George Wong Seow Choon, Jan 13; and Disappointed that hands appear tied in dealing with noisy neighbours, by Mr Daniel Tan Jia Hao, Jan 11).

Many Singaporeans have expressed their dissatisfaction that Mr Daniel See had to endure such a long period of distress just to try to have some peace for his family in his own house.

Many cannot even contemplate the long struggle to finally obtain an Exclusion Order - which happens to have no bite - from the authorities.

One wonders what has really gone wrong with the whole process. A law-abiding citizen, who chose to take a civil approach, ends up getting frustrated with red tape.

Who should be held accountable for making life in an HDB flat safe and sound; is it the HDB, the town council, the MP, government agencies or the courts?

It is a waste of time and effort for each individual flat owner to sort out his own complaint. There needs to be a coordinated ministry effort to deal with such issues.

Matthew Quah Chin Kau (Dr)
ST Forum, 16 Jan 2020

Sunday, 12 January 2020

A new chapter in Singapore-New Zealand partnership

Upgraded Agreement between New Zealand and Singapore on a Closer Economic Partnership (ANZSCEP) entered into force on 1 January 2020
By Jo Tyndall, Published The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2020

In 1975, when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was asked how he saw New Zealand contributing to Singapore's future, his reply was: "More economic cooperation, more trade, more dissemination of your technological expertise."

Nearly 4½ decades later, Mr Lee's vision takes flight in an upgrade to the Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) that took effect on Jan 1.

The CEP was Singapore's first-ever bilateral free trade agreement, and New Zealand's second.

The recently upgraded CEP is at the heart of the enhanced partnership launched by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last May.

The enhanced partnership has four "pillars": trade and economic; science and innovation; defence and security; and people-to-people links. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, the pillars are interconnected and come together to form a picture of a deep and multifaceted relationship.

Our vision for the enhanced partnership is simple - it's about facilitating collaboration, innovation and the exchange of ideas through partnerships.

Trade between our two countries worth $4.52 billion was matched by $4.43 billion of two-way direct investment in the year ending December 2018. Two-way trade in goods has trebled in value since the CEP first entered into force in 2001. Many New Zealand businesses also use Singapore as a hub for their operations throughout Asia.

There's already a lot going on, but the enhanced partnership and the upgraded CEP create the potential to do even more.

That's why the upgraded CEP provides "behind-the-border" access that will help boost trade between us, through modernised rules of origin and speedier Customs clearance arrangements. That way, companies can more easily qualify for duty-free treatment and stand to benefit from streamlined administrative procedures, which will lower transaction time and costs.

Singaporeans and New Zealanders love good food, and the CEP upgrade will open the door wider for trade that feeds this mutual passion. Singapore food exporters will benefit from improved market access and expedited clearance of their exports, while consumers here can be confident that imports from New Zealand will meet stringent food safety requirements.

The CEP also includes two new chapters on e-commerce and regulatory cooperation, which recognise how trade is evolving with the rapid growth of digital technology. Ground-breaking rules will facilitate company-level cooperation in logistics and e-invoicing, while consumers can be assured their personal data will be protected through mechanisms that facilitate trusted data flows and online consumer protection.

The potential for cooperation is clear if we look at the innovative and successful Singapore-New Zealand partnerships already hiding in plain sight.

Singapore ice-cream maker Udders and New Zealand milk producer Miraka have created a range of ice cream now being served exclusively on Singapore Airlines, Scoot and Jetstar.

And that's not all. During last November's Singapore FinTech Festival, three New Zealand companies announced partnerships with Singapore firms. For example, Valocity Global - a leading New Zealand fintech company - is working with OCBC Bank to streamline the bank's digital mortgage lending and valuation process.

We also each have deep pools of talent that can work together to develop cutting-edge technologies - in fact, we have already begun joint research programmes in the areas of "future foods" and data science.

At the government level, our common values and complementary strengths mean Singapore and New Zealand are well positioned to jointly tackle many of the global challenges facing us.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Singapore's former chief justice Yong Pung How dies, aged 93

Yong Pung How left an impact on Singapore law, finance and government
Tributes pour in, lauding former CJ's judiciary revamp and his work with GIC, MAS, OCBC
By Selina Lum, Law Correspondent, The Straits Times, 10 Jan 2020

Former chief justice Yong Pung How, who implemented key reforms to transform the Singapore court system into a model of efficiency, died yesterday. He was 93.

He is survived by his wife, Madam Cheang Wei Woo, and their daughter, Ms Yong Ying-I, who is permanent secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Information.

Mr Yong and Madam Cheang met in 1950 when they were both studying in London. They married in 1955, when he was 29 and she, 26.

Tributes poured in yesterday from across the many areas in which Mr Yong had left an impact, in a career that spanned the Government, law and finance.

The legal fraternity saluted him for revamping Singapore's judiciary in his 16 years as the country's top judge from 1990 to 2006.

"Yong Pung How was a towering figure in the law. Respected as chief justice - and occasionally feared - the sweeping reforms that he introduced helped establish Singapore's reputation as a legal hub with a world-class judiciary," said National University of Singapore law dean Simon Chesterman.

Singapore Management University law dean Goh Yihan described Mr Yong as a titan of the Singapore legal system, which he said "is world-class and internationally recognised because of Mr Yong's steadfast push towards modernisation and efficiency in the 1990s".

Mr Yong was born on April 11, 1926, in Kuala Lumpur, the only son in a family of six children. His father Yong Shook Lin was a prominent lawyer who co-founded the firm Shook Lin & Bok.

He read law at Downing College in Cambridge University after World War II, and it was there where he would strike up a lifelong friendship with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who would go on to be Singapore's founding prime minister.

Mr Yong was admitted to the Singapore Bar in 1964 and migrated to Singapore with his family in 1969. He was a senior partner with Shook Lin & Bok until 1970.

He then went into merchant banking and finance, ending up as chairman and chief executive officer of OCBC Bank from 1983 to 1989.

On a secondment from OCBC from 1981 to 1983, he helped form the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation - Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, now known as GIC - and became its first managing director.

He was also managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) from 1982 to 1983, working closely with Dr Goh Keng Swee, who was chairman.

GIC CEO Lim Chow Kiat said Mr Yong's contributions were foundational. "He incorporated it as a private limited company, a form GIC still operates by, so that it can focus solely on managing the foreign reserves," said Mr Lim.

Mr Yong worked with the appropriate ministries on a rigorous governance framework for GIC and was instrumental in recruiting the first investment managers globally, ensuring that the officers were armed with sharp investment skills, as well as a strong sense of rigour and conviction, said Mr Lim. "We appreciate that what GIC is today is the product of Mr Yong's talents in manifold areas: legal, banking, business and administration."

MAS credited Mr Yong for steering the authority and the financial sector through a period of slower growth globally. "He helped implement a new approach towards reserves management, where foreign assets in excess of what MAS needed to manage the Singapore dollar were transferred to the newly created GIC for long-term investment by the Government," it added in a statement.

OCBC's group CEO Samuel Tsien said that when Mr Yong led the bank, it was a time of change, especially in consumer banking, when customer demand for services significantly increased amid intense competition.

Under Mr Yong, OCBC rolled out the largest network of ATMs in Singapore and was also the first to introduce Sunday and night banking.

He also drove the growth in the bank's property and residential loan areas, and modernised the look of OCBC's Chinese sailing vessel symbol that forms part of its current logo.

Still, the part of his career that he is perhaps best known for was to come.

On July 1, 1989, at age 63 - despite nearly two decades away from law and having already once declined an offer to be a judge - Mr Yong was persuaded by Mr Lee to join the judiciary with a view to him becoming the chief justice.

He was appointed a Supreme Court judge and took office as the chief justice a year later on Sept 28, 1990. When Mr Yong took the helm at the judiciary, there was a backlog of more than 2,000 cases.

He introduced case management measures that cleared the backlog by the mid-1990s and reduced the time for cases to be concluded.

He harnessed technology to streamline court procedures, set up specialist courts, raised the salaries for judges to attract legal talent and initiated the Justice's Law Clerk scheme to recruit top law graduates to the legal service.

In his first speech as chief justice, he abolished the traditional wigs worn by judges and lawyers, and salutations such as "My Lord" or "Your Lordship" for Supreme Court judges.

"In the place of these relics, the legacy Mr Yong left behind is a world-class judiciary staffed by first-rate legal talent and deploying cutting-edge technological advances," said Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran.

At the time, Mr Yong's push for efficiency gave rise to questions about whether justice was being rushed. Lawyers quit in droves as they were stressed by court deadlines. Besides his efforts to reform court processes and strengthen the quality of the Bench, Mr Yong also chose to hear all appeals of criminal cases from the State Courts, which were then known as the Subordinate Courts.

He developed a reputation for being tough and enhancing the sentences of those who appeared before him, even as he gave second chances to offenders with psychiatric problems.

Mr Yong was also well-known for his acerbic observations in the courtroom. Once, he was told by the defence counsel that an 18-year-old boy who had sex with a minor was given probation by a district judge. Mr Yong said of the judge: "Maybe he should be put on probation."

He also produced the most judgments in the history of the Singapore Bench, with a total tally of 882 written judgments.

He retired on April 10, 2006, at the age of 80.

His many achievements aside, Mr Yong said his finest hour in life had nothing to do with his illustrious career as chief justice.

In an interview in 2004, he said: "I would say it was the day I married my wife. We have been married for 50 years now, and I still consider her my best friend.

"To stay happily married with a good reputation and a close-knit family must be one of anybody's happiest achievements in life, whatever the work you do."