Mr J Y Pillay, SIIA Member and Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, is the recipient of this year's highest National Day Award - the Order of Nila Utama.
The Order is conferred by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. It was last given in 2006 to former A*STAR Chairman Philip Yeo and former Permanent Secretary of the Finance Ministry Lim Siong Guan. The annual awards recognise those who've made outstanding contributions to Singapore in public service and community work and 2,845 individuals are being honoured this year.
Once described by former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew as being "equal to the best brains in America", Mr Pillay, a former top civil servant has been credited with developing Singapore Airlines into a world-class carrier. Still an active contributor to Singapore today, Mr Pillay has been an adviser to the President since 2001. A key milestone came when the Singapore government sought presidential approval to tap the national reserves, during the 2009 financial crisis.
"It was a pioneering move on the part of the government... so naturally we paid a little more attention than I suppose if it were a routine event. We looked at the proposals of the Ministry of Finance and we found that they were eminently reasonable, so there was no major problem," Mr Pillay said.
Mr Pillay also plays a part in helping Singapore maintain good ties with dignitaries. As Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, he stands in as Acting President when the Head of State is away. He recalls meeting former US President George Bush.
Mr Pillay said: "It was quite an interesting meeting, (we) chit chatted for about 15 minutes. Mr Bush was mostly doing the chatting, and I doing the listening. But I remember when he came up the steps, I told him, 'Mr President, you're the first head of state I'm receiving so I'm very nervous.' He patted me on the back and said don't worry."