Tall Order

Peh Shing Huei








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(Paperback | ISBN 9789813276048 | 334 pages | 2018)


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 twobedroom 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 byelection.

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


‘An inspiring and extraordinary story of an “improbable politician”, who rose to lead Singapore after the legendary Lee Kuan Yew. The biography offers invaluable insights into how Goh Chok Tong walked tall “in his own shoes” overcoming challenges and defeating difficulties in the path of Singapore’s consolidation. And how his strengths and values reflect and also reinforce those of Singapore. This volume whets our appetite for the second volume of the biography.’
—Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

‘Engaging and thought-provoking insights drawn from the leadership of one of Asia’s most eminent statesmen. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong sheds inspiring light on the values, vision and valour of the new Singapore dream—both inclusive and sustainable—in our changing world.’—Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations Secretary-General