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The article was first published in the Co-operator (April - June 2010 issue).

 goh keng swee 900pxDr Goh Keng Swee, former Deputy Prime Minister and one of Singapore’s founding fathers, created a lasting impact which is still felt today.

The champion of the Labour Movement was also the architect of the Co-operative Movement. A man of great vision and foresight, he formulated a blueprint for the setting up of Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, having taken lessons from co-operatives in other countries. 

He suggested in particular an insurance co-operative – which would provide the financial base for the Movement – and a consumer co-operative.

As early as 1969, Dr Goh, then Finance Minister, expounded his vision in a speech on the basic strategy for rapid co-operative development. At that time, the Co-operative Movement, in his words, was in “very rudimentary form”.

He suggested in particular an insurance co-operative – which would provide the financial base for the Movement – and a consumer co-operative. This laid the foundation for the setting up of the NTUC Income and the NTUC FairPrice Co-operatives, both of which are listed in the International Co-operative Alliance’s Global 300 List. The seed planted through his wisdom and foresight has translated into the phenomenal success of the Co-operative Movement.

He outlined four guiding precepts that we still use in the establishment of any new co-operative in Singapore.

Building on the principles laid down by Dr Goh, Singapore now has a flourishing Co-operative Movement. Today, the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) has 66 affiliates – a clear indication of the valuable contribution of co-operatives to our society.

Dr Goh’s passing in 2010 is a great loss to Singapore, and every working Singaporean. His guidance has laid the basis for a workforce that can truly aspire to success. We in the Co-operative Movement will cherish memories of his contribution.

Guiding Precepts for New Co-operatives

  • Any co-operative set-up would have to be competitive with private enterprise and not expect any privileged treatment by the Government.
  • Co-operatives must be derived from those fields in which they have a natural, built-in advantage.
  • The most scrupulous standards of integrity and trustworthiness must be maintained.
  • Co-operatives must have effective management.

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