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The Last Fools – The Eight Immortals of Lee Kuan Yew


“Finally, a book that fills a large hole in the Singapore Story about the largely forgotten men who worked hand in hand with the country’s founding politicians to build the foundation for Singapore’s future. Read this absorbing account to understand how they operated with their political masters in an intriguing milieu that is one of a kind in the world.”

– Han Fook Kwang, Editor-at-Large at The Straits Times


Popular Readers’ Choice Awards 2022 – English (Adult) category – Second Runner-up

Dr Alan HJ Chan ‘Spirit of Singapore’ Book Prize 2023 – Longlist

How Singapore transformed from Third World to First is a story that has been well-documented through the eyes of outsiders and key figures in the nation’s history, including Lee Kuan Yew himself. But never before has it been told from the perspective of the civil servants so instrumental in the success of this improbable nation.

Why the moniker ‘Eight Immortals’? Simply because these civil servants were so powerful that they were nicknamed after the fabled deities of Chinese mythology. The airports, seaports, airlines, housing projects, healthcare infrastructure, and financial systems they built are still here today – and are among the best in the world. While the heavens had the likes of Lu Dongbin, He Xiangu, and Lan Caihe, Singapore had:

  • George Bogaars
  • Andrew Chew
  • Hon Sui Sen
  • Howe Yoon Choong
  • Lee Ek Tieng
  • Ngiam Tong Dow
  • J.Y. Pillay
  • Sim Kee Boon

Want to read a book that is a blend of history, inspiration, and motivation? Then this is the one for you. Journey through Singapore’s formative years with a flip of each page. Pick up leadership lessons in every chapter. Be in awe at countless displays of boldness, vision, and intrepidity. We promise that you will never see Changi Airport or the Singapore River in the same light again.

Their trials, tribulations, and triumphs are niftily encapsulated in this independent book, written by eight experienced journalists and authors and edited by award-winning author Peh Shing Huei. It tells the story of how Singapore went from backwater nation to one of the world’s most developed economies and peaceful countries – and it reads like a blockbluster, too.

About the Editor

Peh Shing Huei is a Singapore Literature Prize-winning author and journalist. He was The Straits Times‘ news editor and China bureau chief. He is the author of 12 books, including seven bestsellers: When the Party Ends, Neither Civil Nor Servant, Tall Order and Standing Tall: The Goh Chok Tong Years, The Last FoolsThe Price of Being Fair, and Strictly Business: The Kwek Leng Beng Story. He is a regular commentator on Singapore and China affairs. He is a graduate of the National University of Singapore and Columbia University in New York.

Product Description

ISBN: 978-981-18-4363-1 (Softcover)
Page Count: 224
Year Published: 2022
Edited by: Peh Shing Huei
Authors: Aaron Low, Derek Wong, Jacqueline Woo, Justin Kor, Peh Shing Huei, Prabhu Silvam, Samantha Boh & Sue-Ann Chia
Publisher: The Nutgraf Books


“Constructing an effective government is a complicated task, at which more nations fail than succeed. This book highlights part of the reason Singapore succeeded and serves as a timely reminder to the policy-makers of today.”
Frank Lavin, former United States Ambassador to Singapore

“These immortals left lasting imprints on me: get the job done, don’t overanalyse. The Last Fools tells you how they turned marsh into marvel.”
Philip Yeo, former chairman of the Economic Development Board of Singapore

“This is a timely book written by veteran journalists who can vividly capture the times and lives of people who have now been forgotten by today’s young. I hope this book will inspire others to recall other Singaporeans on whose shoulders this nation has been built.”
Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Singapore Management University

Behind the Book

They have been in the shadows for too long. So we decided to do something about it.

The Last Fools: The Eight Immortals of Lee Kuan Yew began as a simple passion project when we were bored out of our wits as work slowed down during the pandemic in 2020. In some ways, we, too, felt like the last fools, embarking on a project we had no idea would even take off. We had only our grit and a writer’s naive hope to fall back on.

Pen, paper, and laptops in hand, we wrote in a fervour. We trawled through years of newspaper articles, research papers, books, and even companies’ annual reports. We listened to countless audio recordings too. And because all but two of the Eight Immortals have since passed away, we had to search for and interview old friends and family members of these men.

Two years, eight writers, and plenty of drafts later, we present the finished product: 224 pages of an epic read, cocooned in a vibrant cover of yellow and black.