Singapore Budget 2015: Meet the people Tharman spoke about in the Budget Speech

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam mentioned several people during his Budget speech on Monday. Who are they? The Straits Times brings you the stories behind the names.

Vincent Poon


Much has been written about Singapore's swim star Joseph Schooling, but it was 69-year-old Vincent Poon who knew how it all began.

Mr Poon was Joseph's first coach, guiding him for five years when he was a child.

The coach would often dive underwater to watch him and help him improve his technique, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Monday.

"So when Joseph's current coach Eddie Reese - former coach of the US Men's Olympic Swimming Team - recently described Joseph as 'the closest human to a dolphin under water'," he said.

"Vincent knew how it all began."

Mr Poon himself epitomises the spirit of lifelong learning, perseverance and passion that Singapore hopes to create. He taught himself to swim when he was six, at the first public pool in Singapore, the old Mount Emily swimming pool. When he went to Beatty Secondary School, he became the swimming team captain.

Later, he received a long-distance swimming award - he swam more than 20km, non-stop over 12 hours. Mr Poon was also a serious judoka, obtaining a black belt (second dan).

He was seriously injured in a road accident, which gave him a permanent limp, but he did not give up hope.

He became a swimming coach and went on to coach countless young Singaporeans over the years. Some have gone on to become exceptional swimmers. Among them is Joseph, an Asian Games Gold medallist and Olympian.

"That's really the spirit of what we are creating in Singapore," said Mr Tharman as he wrapped up his two-and-a-half speech.

"Finding something that we think we can be good at, persevering over the years and taking pride in it, and passing the passion on to the next generation, so that we keep moving up."

Senthilnathan Manickam


The 41-year-old was held up as an example of the type of worker Singapore wants: someone who continues to deepen and upgrade his or her skills after leaving school.

Mr Senthilnathan graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Film Sound and Video course. After some years of working on corporate videos and TV programmes, he chose to specialise in a niche - high-speed cinematography. He is making a name for himself in the field in Singapore and abroad, said Mr Tharman.

Mr Senthilnathan was quoted by Mr Tharman as saying:"There isn't one path but many paths to achieve your dreams and be successful. Don't give up. You always learn something new every day."

Mr Tharman on Monday announced new SkillsFuture initiatives to encourage Singaporeans to acquire deeper skills relevant to their jobs, as well as renew themselves by going back to education in the course of their careers.

Mohamad Jafry Samsudin


During his internship at Hope Technik, Mohamad Jafry bin Samsudin was involved in developing the latest generation of the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) Red Rhino fire vehicles.

Hope Technik is a newly set-up company in advanced manufacturing. It has 50 employees and takes in about 10 interns a year. The interns get a chance to pick up new skills beyond their formal polytechnic and university curriculums.

Jafry is one of them, and he has since joined Hope Technik after graduating from Republic Polytechnic.

More students and SMEs will benefit in the same way as Jafry and Hope Technik with the rolling out of better internship programmes for two-thirds of polytechnic courses and half of ITE courses over the next two years.

Edwin Neo


Edwin Neo was trained in interior design, but developed a passion for making high quality European-style shoes.

He went to train under a master shoemaker in Budapest and came back to found his own company. He is doing well, selling both ready-to-wear shoes and upmarket bespoke creations.

The shoes are not cheap, said the Finance Minister to laughter from the House.

Mr Neo was mentioned in the Budget speech as an example of those who are willing to go the extra mile for to their passion.

The newly announced SkillsFuture Study Awards and Fellowships will be useful for individuals like Mr Neo. Singaporeans can make use of the awards and fellowships to develop deep skills and mastery in the growth clusters of the future.

"But we will be open to those who want to develop themselves in fields that they are really passionate about," Mr Tharman said.

Lim Wee Fong

Lim Wee Fong joined construction and civil engineering firm Samwoh as a researcher while he was doing part-time Masters studies at Nanyang Technological University.

He now manages Samwoh's research lab which looks at further innovations.

Samwoh has used government grants to invest in R&D on recycling waste materials such as rubber tyres and rubble into new construction materials.

"Samwoh is doing this to make a mark for itself in sustainable construction," said Mr Tharman on Monday.

At the same time, Samwoh is developing its people. Mr Lim is one of them.

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