thanks to Shannon Gacht

In the 1960s, a young Goh Chok Tong went to work at the Fullerton building by the Singapore River. He wrote economic papers for the Economic Planning Unit of the civil service. For lunch, he would head to the spartan, roof-top canteen. Last night, he returned to his old haunt, but this time, as the Prime Minister of Singapore.

And it was not for a working meal, but to wine and dine in style on the top floor of the building - the Lighthouse - on a selection of dishes from the five restaurants and bars of the five-star Fullerton hotel, which he opened a minute into New Year. He also visited his earlier workplace - now a suite in the hotel. The prosaic government building, set up in the 1920s has, over the years, housed a string of institutions, including the Singapore Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the General Post Office. Owned by Sino Land, the Hong Kong arm of property bigwig Far East Oganisation, it has now been completely transformed.

As he walked down memory lane, PM Goh spoke fondly of the building. “The Fullerton’s transformation reminds me of how far we have come as a nation. In the lifetime of this building, Singapore has been transformed from a small island with an uncertain future to a prosperous and thriving country. I hope The Fullerton and Singapore will continue to enjoy more good years together,” he said.

The review committees set up to look into improving Singapore’s tourism will submit their reports soon, he added. “Like The Fullerton, we need to constantly redesign and restructure ourselves and our products to keep pace with changes and changing tastes.”

After taking part in the countdown to the New Year with artistes Emil Chow of Taiwan and Olivia Newton-John from Australia, he declared The Fullerton open. The event was also a fund-raising effort for charity, as Far East patriarch Ng Teng Fong and his family donated $1 million to charities and arts groups. Sino Land’s chairman and the elder Mr Ng’s son, Mr Robert Ng, announced that the family was also making a $1.2 million donation to the Singapore Tourism Board to have two sculptures along the Singapore River and to relocate the Merlion.