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1977: Spotlight on clothmakers, publishers

Global negotiations on textile trade quotas, the fall of businessman Cho Jock Kim and the listing of Chinese newspaper publishers led the news in 1977.


TEXTILES were an important component of Singapore's manufacturing base and a key source of jobs in 1977, but international quotas imposed limits on the industry.

When the Multi-Fibre Agreement, the framework that governed international quotas until the 2000s, came up for renewal, Europe pushed to reduce the amounts that could be imported from Asia, a move that would naturally hurt factories in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Singapore would continue to be an important sourcing and distribution hub for textiles and apparel in the decades to come, but the limitations of international quotas and the emergence of low-cost competitors elsewhere in the region added to the challenges of actually manufacturing within the country. It is little surprise that Singapore at the time was beginning to shift its manufacturing industries toward higher-end products such as electronics and semiconductors.

One did not have to look further than the newsstands to know that times were different. Changes to the law that limited the stake that any ordinary shareholder could hold in a newspaper led to the initial public offerings of the publishers of Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh, two of Singapore's leading Chinese papers at the time. Both offerings saw solid uptake from investors.

What few investors foresaw at the time was that the two newspapers would eventually merge six years later to form Lianhe Zaobao, which remains the main Chinese-language broadsheet in Singapore today.

One publisher in the headlines for less positive reasons was businessman Cho Jock Kim, whose Far Eastern business empire, which included the prestigious Hilton hotel on Orchard Road, was coming under pressure as Singapore authorities began to prosecute him on charges of criminal breach of trust. Mr Cho would eventually be sentenced to jail for seven years.

The Business Times has been there to report and analyse the most significant news since 1976. Every week, this feature will showcase excerpts from the biggest stories for each year that the paper has been in operation. The full text of all the stories can be found online at