Mr Lee Kuan Yew played a role in the introduction of unleaded fuel into Singapore and the simplification of the type approval process for motor vehicles sold here.
At the 1990 Singapore Motor Show, he thought that a model on display would be a cost-effective future replacement for his official car, and made inquiries.
The distributor replied that the model concerned could not be registered in Singapore because it ran only on unleaded fuel, unavailable here then, and was merely being displayed to enhance the manufacturer's image.
Mr Lee demanded a briefing on the pros and cons of leaded versus unleaded petrol, and decided that the introduction of the latter would bring health and environmental benefits.
The Ministry of the Environment quickly formed a committee to implement the introduction of unleaded petrol. It met frequently with representatives from the motor industry, of which I was a part.
While such projects took three to six years in other countries, Singapore managed to get everything in place in a year.
Mr Lee ordered the car. It had to undergo type approval. The motor industry felt that Singapore's processes at that time were inflexible and outdated.
For example, there was still a requirement then for wheels to be fully locked when the brakes were applied.
This created controversy and delays in approval when cars with anti-lock braking systems were submitted for approval.
Mr Lee monitored the progress of the car through the type approval process.
We heard anecdotal accounts that Land Transport Authority staff had to justify not only why they were following procedures just because those were in the rulebooks, but they also had to explain what those procedures were supposed to achieve.
The car was duly approved and delivered. Shortly afterwards, the type approval process was totally revised and simplified.
Until the most recent revisions last year, the type approval process for a vehicle for sale in Singapore was a straightforward one that even private importers could use to their advantage.
Lee Chiu San
This article was first published on Mar 27, 2015.
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