Singapore’s 3rd richest man who completed only primary school working tirelessly for education
Having had only six years of formal schooling, paint tycoon Goh Cheng Liang, 94, believes strongly in helping needy students get an education.
It was largely for this reason that Mr Goh, one of Singapore's richest men, set up the Goh Foundation in 1994.
The founder of Wuthelam Holdings donated $20 million to start the foundation, one of its board members, Dr Tan Eng Liang, told The Straits Times in an exclusive interview.
Mr Goh, who has three children, continues to donate to the foundation through his family trust, Dr Tan said.
The Goh Foundation is the sixth largest foundation here, according to a report released in August.
It gave out $16.1 million in grants and donations in 2019.
Dr Tan, 84, a former senior minister of state for finance and sports luminary who worked for the Wuthelam Group as its executive vice-president after he stepped down from politics, said: "I can't find a better boss than him. He's just too nice and very generous. If anyone needs help, he will be there to give a helping hand.
"People (used to) go to his office to ask for donations all the time. And that is one reason he started the Goh Foundation."
With the foundation, Mr Goh could carry out philanthropic work in a more sustainable and impactful manner.
The man that Forbes Asia ranked as Singapore's third richest currently, with a wealth of US$19.5 billion (S$26 billion), is a self-made billionaire.
He completed only primary school as his parents were too poor to pay for further studies.
Most of his wealth came from the paint business.
Mr Goh's Wuthelam Holdings has a majority stake in Nippon Paint, one of the world's largest paint manufacturers.
Besides funding scholarships and bursaries, the Goh Foundation supports medical research, including for childhood cancer.
Its $50 million donation to the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) made the news in 2014.
The bulk of the donation funds the Goh Cheng Liang Proton Therapy Centre and its research programme in the new NCCS building, according to the NCCS website.
The Goh Foundation also supports community projects here and overseas, from funding social services that help disadvantaged families in Singapore to reforestation projects in Thailand.
Ms Goh Chiat Jin, Mr Goh's daughter, sits on the board of the foundation.
The Goh Foundation has kept a low profile through the years, which is the Goh family style, Dr Tan said.
The Goh Foundation declined to say how much it has donated to charity since its inception.