Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Neither Civil nor Servant: The Philip Yeo Story by Peh Shing Huei

Neither Civil nor Servant might be 220 pages long, but it was an easy and a most fascinating read. It was so good that I finished it on a lazy Sunday afternoon, devouring it in one shot.

Have you ever wondered why Singapore's got an edge in the biomedical field, earning us international recognition for the groundbreaking research conducted in Biopolis?

Or how Jurong Island became a petrochemical hub?

Or how our manufacturing sector took off in the 60s and 70s?

Or perhaps how weaponry for our armed forces came to be?

If you're like me, probably not. We take for granted the many jobs created in these sectors without batting an eyelid.

This book chronicles the journey of the man, Philip Yeo, who was a pioneer in every single abovementioned industries.

In chronological order, the book begins with him in school, already brimming with entrepreneurial fervour as he set up a chemistry laboratory at home to practice for his 'A' Levels when the school labs were out of bounds. He funded this endeavour by screening movies in his school and collecting money from the tickets sold.

We are taken through a brief history of modern Singapore and witness the backbreaking, behind-the-scenes work that made Singapore the economic success it is today.

Each chapter ended with a Q&A between the author and Mr Yeo and it's delightfully peppered with smatterings of Singlish throughout the entire book.

The only gripe I had was perhaps it painted too perfect a picture of the man. I'd have liked to have a more complete picture of what issues his detractors had with him. But this is a biography after all, so I guess I'll just have to settle.

I'd encourage everyone interested in how Singapore went hurtling from third world to first in half a century to read this book.

Get your copy today!


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