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Albert Winsemius (1910–1996) was a Dutch economist best known for serving as an economic adviser to Singapore from 1961 to 1984. He led the United Nations Survey Mission to Singapore[2] and played a major role in the formulation of Singapore's national economic development strategy.

Albert Winsemius
Albert Winsemius (1971).jpg
Albert Winsemius (1971)
United Nations Survey Mission to Singapore
In office
Succeeded byPost abolished
Personal details
Born(1910-02-26)26 February 1910
Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Died4 December 1996(1996-12-04) (aged 86)
The Hague, Netherlands
Spouse(s)Aly Winsemius-Schreiber[1]
Children2 daughters, 1 son



In 1960, Winsemius led the United Nations Expanded Programme for Technical Assistance (EPTA) team[3] to examine Singapore's potential in industrialisation. At that time, Singapore had just attained self-government and was facing high unemployment and growing population. Winsemius presented a 10-year development plan to transform Singapore from an entrepot trading port into a centre of manufacturing and industrialisation.

Winsemius' first emphasis was on creating jobs and attracting foreign investment. Labour-intensive industries, such as the production of shirts and pyjamas, were expanded. He also encouraged the large-scale public housing programme, believing that it would bolster the country's image, thus attractive to foreign investors.[citation needed] One of his earliest pieces of advice was not to remove the statue of Stamford Raffles as it was a symbol of public acceptance of Singapore's British heritage and could alleviate concerns that investors have towards a new socialist government. With Winsemius' help, Singapore attracted big oil companies such as Shell and Esso to establish refineries there.

During his term as Chief Economic Adviser from 1961 to 1984, Winsemius worked closely with Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, and key members of Lee's government such as Goh Keng Swee and Hon Sui Sen. Later, he also had a close partnership with Goh Chok Tong, Lee's successor as Prime Minister.[4] He visited Singapore two or three times a year to review economic performance indicators and to discuss macro-economic strategy with government planners.[5]

In the 1970s, Singapore was upgrading its industrial capacity to use higher technological methods, including electronics. Winsemius personally went to persuade large Dutch electronics companies such as Philips to set up production plants in Singapore. He also proposed that Singapore could be developed as a financial centre, as well as an international centre for air traffic and sea transport. Over the next twenty years, these predictions proved to be accurate.

In 1983, Winsemius retired from his position as Singapore's economic adviser at the age of 74. He said, "I leave with a saddened heart. It (Singapore) has become part of my life, more or less. It can do without me. It could do without me years ago. But it became part of my life. So I will shed a few tears, imaginary tears."


Winsemius died of pneumonia in the Netherlands on 4 December 1996.[6] In a letter of condolences to his family, Lee Kuan Yew wrote: "It was Singapore's good fortune that he [Winsemius] took a deep and personal interest in Singapore's development. Singapore and I personally are indebted to him for the time, energy and development he gave to Singapore. I am proud to have known him and to have been his friend."

When asked about his life as an economist, Winsemius once said, "There is quite a lot of satisfaction, perhaps not like that of, say, an architect who can look at something and say, 'I made it'. But there is that satisfaction in knowing that you have contributed to the well being of people you don't know..."[citation needed]


Winsemius married Aly Schreiber. They had a son, two daughters and eight grandchildren.[1]

Winsemius' son, Pieter Winsemius, served as Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment in the Dutch government from 1982 to 1986.[7]


In 1997, Nanyang Technological University established the Albert Winsemius Professorship as a lasting tribute to Winsemius for his significant contributions to Singapore's economic development.[8]

For his contributions to Singapore's economic development,[9] Winsemius was conferred several honours. In 1967, Yusof Ishak, the first President of Singapore, awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1970, he was conferred an honorary degree by the National University of Singapore. In 1976, he received the National Trades Union Congress' May Day Gold Medal of Honour.[10]

There is a lane in Clementi named after him.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Ong, Christopher. "Albert Winsemius". Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board Singapore. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  2. ^ Leipziger, Danny (1997). Lessons from East Asia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 240. ISBN 0-472-08722-3.
  3. ^ "UNDP and the Making of Singapore's Public Service - Lessons from Albert Winsemius".
  4. ^ Murphy, C.N. 2006, The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.102
  5. ^ Chua, Lee Hoong. "Death of Dr Albert Winsemius". Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  6. ^ Tan, Rachel. "Proven wrong – by a fish". Archived from the original on 7 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  7. ^ "SDWA and NUSDeltares receive Winsemius Awards". NUS News. National University of Singapore. Archived from the original on 23 October 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Fact Sheet on the Albert Winsemius Professorship" (PDF).
  9. ^ Tamboer, Kees. "Albert Winsemius, 'founding father' of Singapore". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  10. ^ "Singapore's trusted guide". Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  11. ^ "UNDP Singapore, 2015, UNDP and the making of Singapore's Public Service, Singapore: UNDP Singapore" (PDF).

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