News Details | 24-Aug-2012

NTU confers Emeritus Professor title to economics guru - Professor Lim Chong Yah

This NTU professor is known as the face of Singapore economics.

The lines on his face tell the story of the country’s rise from the third world to the first, of which he played a key role in sound economic policies and championing fair wages for the working class.

In recognition of his distinguished service in academia, education, public service and philanthropy, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has conferred the title of Emeritus Professor, the university’s highest accolade for academia, on Professor Lim Chong Yah.

To mark the conferment of the Emeritus Professorship, the School of Humanities & Social Sciences at NTU will be organising a commemorative symposium and dinner in his honour today. Joining Prof Lim in a night of celebration will be Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam, former President of the Republic of Singapore, Mr S. R. Nathan, former Cabinet Ministers Mr Lim Boon Heng and Mr S. Dhanabalan as well as members of NTU’s Senior Management.

The accolade also makes Prof Lim, 80, the first professor in Singapore to be conferred the title of Emeritus Professor by the republic’s two top universities – NTU and the National University of Singapore (1992).

On his achievement, the father of four said: “I would like to thank the NTU management, staff and students for the privilege and opportunity to work with them in NTU for the last 20 years. I would also like, in particular, to thank NTU for conferring yet another Emeritus Professorship on me. This is a great honour.

“The two Emeritus Professorships conferred on me are not from ordinary universities.  They are from among the world’s best known, best-rated seats of higher learning and research, namely:  NTU and NUS.  I thus feel justifiably proud of the double privileges and double honours.”

NTU President, Professor Bertil Andersson, said: “The conferment of the Emeritus Professorship constitutes a life-long honorary association with NTU. The honour is most deserving, as I note, with deep appreciation, Professor Lim’s invaluable and multi-faceted contributions to scholarship, education, society, and international co-operation as an educator, economist, author, researcher, consultant and philanthropist.

“On behalf of the University, I take this opportunity to thank Professor Lim for the invaluable services he has rendered to the University on his retirement at 80yearsold. I look forward, Professor Lim, to your continued support to enable the University to scale greater heights, and to achieve greater global excellence.”  

Prof Lim is a distinguished and well-respected economist in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific. He is a prolific researcher who has written extensively on the theory of economic development and the policy options of the Singapore economy. He has 28 books, 38 chapters in books, 50 articles in refereed academic journals and 71 international conference papers to his credit. His Google Scholar citation count totalled 736. His writing on the Singapore economy in particular has influenced many important changes in Singapore’s economic and social policies.

Exemplary service to the nation

In the public sphere, Professor Lim was the Founding Chairman of the National Wages Council (NWC) for 29 years. As Chairman of the NWC, he played a pivotal role is steering Singapore from a nation inundated with strikes and lockouts to one that not only has industrial peace, but also has a harmonious and effective working relationship among the trade unions, the employers, and the Government.

He helped to guide the Singapore economy out from one hyper-inflation crisis in 1973 – 1974 and from two recession crises in 1985 and 1998. From 1979 to 1981, he led the restructuring of the Singapore economy from a labour-intensive, low value-added old economy to a capital-intensive, high value-added new economy.

Professor Lim also helped to kick-start Singapore’s very successful national-wide comprehensive workers’ training programmes as the Founding Chairman of the newly-created Skills Development Fund Advisory Council. In recognition of his numerous invaluable contributions to the development of the Singapore economy, the Government awarded him three National Day Awards over the years, including in 2000 the Distinguished Service Order (Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang), one of the highest awards in this country. Professor Lim is also the only academic who has received three recognition Awards from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as part of its May Day celebrations.

For 13 years, Professor Lim also served as the Editor of the Singapore Economic Review, which ranks as one of the most prestigious economic academic journals in Asia. Professor Lim also served as the President of the Economic Society of Singapore for 18 years, from 1973 to 1991. He was elected by the Society to become its Honorary Fellow since 1991.

Championing education

Prof Lim was the driving force behind many key initiatives aimed at elevating NTU to greater heights of achievement. He was the Chairman of the Remaking University Committee, which recommended amongst other things, the establishment of a School of Medicine in NTU. This has come to fruition, with NTU and Imperial College London establishing a joint medical school at NTU that will enrol its first batch of students in August 2013. 

Outside of academia and public service, Prof Lim has also given generously to help needy students as a result of his childhood. His mother passed away when he was eight years old and by the time he was 12 he was working on a farm, planting tapioca, rice and vegetables to supplement his family’s income. He also rode around his hometown of Malacca on a bicycle to deliver bread from the bakery to coffeeshops, channeling his earnings to support his education.

In 2007, Prof Lim approached NTU to launch the Lim Chong Yah Bursary Fund and he jump-started the project with a personal donation of $100,000. His determination to ensure that needy students are not denied an education moved the university to set up the Campaign for Accessibility to Higher Education, which raised over S$10.5 million towards its cause.

Earlier in 1995, Prof Lim also set up the NTU Students Emergency Fund to help students handle crisis situations. To raise funds, he donated his fees from  giving lecture appearances and royalties from his books to the project.

Mr Joel Lin, a Nanyang Business School Class of 2008 graduate, was one such beneficiary. He was on exchange in Canada when his father passed away but the NTU Students Emergency Fund helped him through that difficult period in his life.

“The grant brought me the two additional months I needed to complete the exchange before I returned to Singapore to get a job to support my family. I am very grateful for the Student Emergency Fund initiated by Prof Lim,” he said.

Even though he can look forward to retirement, Emeritus Professor Lim wants to stay active and continue contributing.

He said: “I have often been asked what I would do next with this new honorary life-long association with NTU.  All I know is that I just can’t stop working. The search for truth, for new knowledge, will go on.” 

NTU’s former Deputy President, Professor Chen Charng-Ning (2001), and the Founding Dean of the School of Communication Studies (now known as the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information), Professor Eddie Kuo (2011), are the other recipients of the NTU Emeritus Professor title.

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Media contact:

Wang Meng Meng
Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6681

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. In 2013, NTU will enrol the first batch of students at its new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, which is set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to four world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north and is setting up a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district. For more information, visit

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