By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond
Tianjin Eco-City will have a new CEO, the 4th, next month after the current one, Liew Choon Boon, resigned.
Keppel Corp announced on Tuesday (13 Sep) that BG (NS) Tay Lim Heng, would be the new CEO leading the massive property estate project in China from 1 Oct.
The Tianjin Eco-City is a joint project between China and Singapore to build a modern green township near the city of Tianjin, after an agreement was signed by both governments in 2007.
To facilitate the development, a 50-50 joint development company called Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co Ltd (SSTEC) was set up by both sides between Singapore’s Keppel Group and a Chinese Consortium led by Tianjin TEDA Investment Holding Co Ltd. Essentially, Singapore came up with the money while China provided the land for the development.
1st CEO – Goh Chye Boon
Goh Chye Boon was formerly a civil servant from the elite Administrative Service. At the start of his career, his postings included the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Community Development, the People’s Association, National Youth Council and the Ministry of Finance.
He was also the Executive Director of External Department at the MAS, where he co-chaired the Organising Committee for the 2006 IMF-World Bank Group of Governors Annual Meetings when it was held in Singapore, before joining MTI.
He then became the Deputy Secretary at MTI, responsible for overseeing the organisation of the inaugural Formula ONE night race that was held in Singapore in September 2008.
In late 2008 when development started in Tianjin Eco-City, he was moved to Keppel and appointed CEO of SSTEC. He left in 2010 and in 2011, he was made head of GIC’s China Business Partnership unit, which seeks to synergise and integrate GIC’s investments in China.
In Jan 2013, Goh decided to join Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) as EVP of resort operations, overseeing operational non-gaming functions.
But last year, Goh quit RWS “to pursue other opportunities”. His resignation came as RWS profit dived on bad debt provisions.
2nd CEO – Ho Tong Yen
Replacing Goh Chye Boon was yet another scholar Ho Tong Yen. He had attended the LKY Fellows Programme at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University. He took over from Goh at the end of 2010.
Ho served as Press Secretary to then Senior Minister Goh and Director (Special Duties) in the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, before being transferred to Keppel.
At the time before becoming the 2nd CEO of SSTEC, Ho was also holding concurrent appointments in MFA as Director of the International Organisations Directorate and Director (Academic Matters) of the MFA Diplomatic Academy.
Ho’s career in the Singapore Foreign Service includes postings at the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and the MFA task force during Singapore’s non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council. He has also served as Special Assistant to then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prof S Jayakumar, as well as Singapore’s Deputy Trade Representative in Taipei.
3rd CEO – Liew Choon Boon
Ho was replaced by the 3rd CEO Liew Choon Boon last Jul.
Liew was a Senior Director in MND before being transferred to Keppel to head SSTEC.
He has held a range of senior positions in policy and operational areas in Education, Law, Defence, Community Development, and Information, Communication and the Arts. As the Director of Finance in the Ministry of Defence, he was responsible for the planning and management of the defence budget, and for setting financial policies and internal controls. Previously in the then Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, he oversaw policies covering infocomm, media, arts and culture.
Liew also attended the LKY Fellows Programme at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University.
But Liew’s tenure was short. In less than 1.5 years, he resigned. No reason was given except that he resigned for “personal reasons”.
4th and New CEO – BG (NS) Tay Lim Heng
The new CEO to take over from Liew next month is a former SAF general – BG (Ret) Tay Lim Heng.
BG (Ret) Tay held various key appointments while he was with the SAF, including Director of Joint Intelligence Directorate, 6th Division Commander and Assistant Chief of General Staff (Operations). He was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Gold) for his excellent military career.
He was later transferred from SAF to become the CEO of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) before becoming the Deputy Secretary in MND.
In 2010, he joined Keppel and held directorships at Keppel Seghers Engineering Singapore Pte Ltd, Keppel Seghers Belgium NV, GE Keppel Energy Services Pte Ltd, EM Services Pte Ltd, Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment Holdings Pte Ltd, Keppel Shipyard Limited and Keppel Singmarine Pte Ltd.
A “ghost” eco-city?
In its announcement, Keppel said that it now has more than 50,000 residents and 3,500 registered companies in the city. The goal is to build a small city housing 350,000 Chinese residents.
However, a posting by a netizen on Baidu forum last year had shown a rather pessimistic picture of the development of Tianjin Eco-City.
The author, who was probably a Taiwanese on a fact finding mission for investment purpose, said that from Tianjin main railway station to Tianjin Eco-City, it takes a 2 hour drive. Even from Tanggu, it will take 1 hour. Tanggu is on the Hai River where it enters the Bohai Sea, and is a port for Tianjin. It is about 50km away from Tianjin city.
While on the road, the local driver told the author that Tianjin Eco-City is beautifully developed. The environment is good but it has no people. In Tanggu port, a lot of people are buying houses but they use them for investment purpose and not for staying.
The author also confirmed that a property sales person at 万通生态城新新家园 project (in Tianjin Eco-City) disclosed that people are buying their units for investment purpose.
He also described Tianjin Eco-City being yet another “ghost” city:
He also quoted a 2014 article by UK Guardian painting a bleak picture of Tianjin Eco-City:
And this is most interesting. The author said he didn’t see too many companies operating inside the eco-city. When he approached 2 staff of an office building to ask why there are so few companies operating there, the staff told him that many companies had registered their addresses there but decide to operate somewhere else:
Giving money to companies to move to Tianjin Eco-City
Meanwhile, the Singapore government is going all way out to attract companies to move to Tianjin Eco-City. Some of the initiatives include launching the “Tianjin Eco-city Assistance Programme” (TAP), which provides grant up to S$150,000 to eligible companies investing in Tianjin Eco-city.
It is not known how many of the said 3,500 registered companies (as announced by Keppel) are operating somewhere else but leaving just a “jaga” in its registered office at Tianjin Eco-City.
In another report by French newspaper Le Monde, some S$16 to 20 billion is said to have been spent on developing Tianjin Eco-City (https://theindependent.sg.sg/s16-