On Thursday (18 June), the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) announced six of its candidates who will be participating in the upcoming General Election. They were introduced by PSP Secretary General Dr Tan Cheng Bock via an online press conference.
One of these candidates is 54-year-old Gigene Wong who has held various senior management roles in China multinational corporations over the last two decades, including as former CEO of Gulf oil China and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Foshan Electrical & Lighting Co which is listed on the China Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
Dr Tan described Ms Wong as a “down-to-earth person” with “fierce determination”. Coming from a poor family, Ms Wong worked three part-time jobs at the age of 17 to put herself through school, finally completing a master’s degree through distance learning.
Party founder Dr Tan also noted Ms Wong’s extensive experience in turning loss-making companies around into profit-making businesses. Ms Wong has over 20 years of experience working in China and is able to speak in Hokkien, Teo Chew, and Cantonese as well as Mandarin.
During the press conference, Ms Wong shared her struggles growing up. The three part-time jobs she took up to fund her part-time tertiary education, were as a production worker, tuition teacher, and as an illegal hawker selling products at bus interchanges and market.
She recounted, “And when the environment officer comes, I got to carry my stuff and run away and that’s how I earn a living to support myself through part time study.”
She went on to recall how she had managed to earn about S$80, which she thought was a lot of money at the time. Back in the 80s, technology was the next big thing and therefore, her dream was to take a course on computers. However, she said when she arrived at the computer centre intending to sign up for a course, she found out that it would cost S$300.
Not having enough money to enrol, she left. However, she then saw a signboard on the opposite side of the building advertising an accounting course for S$30 and a typing course for S$3.
“At a time at the age of 17, I don’t know what is accounting,” said Ms Wong. Still, she signed up anyway after learning that it was basically book-keeping.
She said, “So I was very happy again. Oh I can sign up for accounting course for $30 and a typing course for $3. And that starts my journey later on from accountants to finance manager to financial controller and later on to a list Company CFO.”
“So I can call myself a $30 listed company CFO which I’m very proud of it… because I got no money to study and I make it all my way to the listed Company CFO and a CEO of MNC company in China. And that is my success story,” enthused Ms Wong.
She went on to emphasise her determination and tenacity by recalling how it took her three and a half years to get her motorcycle license despite being discouraged by her instructor.
She went on to thank Dr Tan for selecting her as a PSP candidate for the upcoming general election, stressing that she is doing this in order to speak up for all Singaporeans.
Ms Wong said, “I would love to speak up for all the Singaporeans, for you. If you have something worrying you that you dare not to speak up, count on us. Count on PSP. We will speak up for you, be it high cost of living, employment, housing, children’s education, whatever that you dare not say. Let us do the job.”
Left career in China to voice out for those who dare not
When asked about her reason for returning to Singapore to partake in politics despite her successful career in China, Ms Wong said that while she has enough for her family to comfortably retire after twenty years of toiling in China, she saw how people around her were unhappy, stressful and have to deal with the high cost of living.
Ms Wong recounted how a seventy year old auntie said that she cannot stop work, because once she stops, her source of income stops and it is also hard to find a job now.
She said, “Our country is prosperous and rich but its citizens are poor”. She shares how she admires Dr Tan who could have retired to look after his grandchildren but yet persisted ahead to found PSP, hoping to do something for the country.
“As a Singapore daughter, I still care for the country even when I am physically overseas.”, said Ms Wong.
She shared that she resigned from her semi-retirement work in China to return to Singapore after she was contacted by Dr Tan at the end of March this year, hoping that she can represent the people to voice the things that they do not dare to say.