Goh Chok Tong was an improbable Prime Minister for an unlikely country. He had neither the connections nor the cunning to rise to the top, and was even once famously derided by his mentor Lee Kuan Yew for being ‘wooden’ in his communication skills. Except for an imposing height most unusual in this part of the world, he was an ordinary man. He lost his father at a young age, lived in a two-bedroom public flat with his mother and four siblings and needed a government bursary to complete university.
Yet somehow he succeeded. Tall Order tells the extraordinary story of his life and career over half a century, revealing how Singapore’s second Prime Minister rose through a combination of strength, wit and a political nous which many, including himself, did not know he had. In this first of two volumes, Goh navigated years of a challenging apprenticeship to Lee, scoring numerous policy successes but also suffering political blows and humiliation.
He was the man who first made Neptune Orient Lines, Singapore’s national carrier, profitable, before entering politics. The stellar corporate stint was followed by his many novel policies and institutions that have since become household names in the country: Medisave, Total Defence, Residents’ Committee and Nominated Member of Parliament. But the highlights were counterposed by setbacks, including overseeing the People’s Action Party’s first electoral defeat after independence at the Anson by-election.
In the hands of acclaimed author and journalist Peh Shing Huei, this authorised biography reveals the private deliberations and negotiations between Goh and Lee before the maiden leadership transfer of independent Singapore. Tall Order is the first biography of Goh. This riveting book offers rare insights into Singapore’s biggest and most important political and economic stories.