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Tharman Shanmugaratnam
தர்மன் சண்முகரத்தினம்
Official portrait, 2023
9th President of Singapore
Assumed office
14 September 2023
Prime Minister
Preceded by Halimah Yacob
Senior positions
Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore
In office
1 May 2011 – 8 July 2023
Preceded by Goh Chok Tong
Succeeded byLawrence Wong
Ministerial offices
Senior Minister of Singapore
In office
1 May 2019 – 7 July 2023
Serving with Teo Chee Hean (2019 – 2023)
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byVacant
Succeeded by Lee Hsien Loong
Coordinating Minister for Social Policies
In office
1 October 2015 – 7 July 2023
Economic and Social Policies: 1 October 2015 – 30 April 2019
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byHeng Swee Keat
( Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies)
Office abolished
( Coordinating Minister for Social Policies)
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
In office
21 May 2011 – 30 April 2019
Serving with Teo Chee Hean (2009–2019)
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Preceded by Wong Kan Seng
S. Jayakumar
Succeeded by Heng Swee Keat
Lawrence Wong
Minister for Finance
In office
1 December 2007 – 30 September 2015
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Second Minister Lim Hwee Hua
Preceded byLee Hsien Loong
Succeeded byHeng Swee Keat
Minister for Manpower
In office
21 May 2011 – 31 July 2012
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded by Gan Kim Yong
Succeeded by Tan Chuan-Jin
Minister for Education
In office
1 August 2003 – 31 March 2008
Prime MinisterGoh Chok Tong
Lee Hsien Loong
Second Minister Ng Eng Hen
Preceded by Teo Chee Hean
Succeeded by Ng Eng Hen
Parliamentary offices
Preceded byConstituency established
Member of Parliament
for Jurong GRC
(Taman Jurong)
In office
3 November 2001 – 7 July 2023
Majority60,501 (49.24%)
Personal details
Born
Tharman Shanmugaratnam

(1957-02-25) 25 February 1957 (age 67) [1]
Singapore
Political party Independent
Other political
affiliations
People's Action Party
(2001–2023)
SpouseJane Yumiko Ittogi
Children4
Parent
Education London School of Economics ( BSc)
Wolfson College, Cambridge ( MPhil)
Harvard University ( MPA)
Occupation
  • Politician
  • economist
Signature

Tharman Shanmugaratnam [a] (born 25 February 1957), also known mononymously as Tharman, is a Singaporean politician and economist who has been serving as the ninth president of Singapore since 2023.

Prior to his presidency, Tharman served as Senior Minister of Singapore between 2019 and 2023, Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore between 2011 and 2023, and Deputy Prime Minister between 2011 and 2019. [1]He also served as Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies [2] between 2011 and 2015, Minister for Finance between 2007 and 2015, Minister for Education between 2003 and 2008 and Minister for Manpower between 2011 and 2012.

Tharman was committed through his years in government to building economic resilience and a more inclusive society. He introduced major educational reforms while serving as Education Minister [3], to make for a broader and more flexible system of meritocracy. He later led the ‘SkillsFuture’ programme, aimed at enabling life-long learning for all. [4] He has also promoted initiatives to deepen and advance Singapore’s model of multiculturalism. [5]

Tharman has led several international councils focused especially on global financial reforms, preparedness for future pandemics, education, and global water sustainability. He currently chairs the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Group of Thirty (G30), a grouping of eminent thought leaders in economic policymaking, academia and the financial industry. He also co-chairs the Global Commission on the Economics of Water (GCEW) [6], whose initial recommendations helped shape the outcomes of the UN Water Conference in March 2023. [7] He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum (WEF), an advisory board that helps shape the strategic directions of the WEF.

Tharman co-chaired the Advisory Board for the UN Human Development Report (HDR) from 2019 to 2024. [8] The Advisory Board provides intellectual advice and guidance on the overall vision, direction and message of the UN HDR. [9] He led the Board for the 2023/24 HDR with Joseph E. Stiglitz, and co-chaired with Thomas Piketty, Michael Spence, and Michèle Lamont, respectively, for the previous three editions of the HDR. [10]

A former member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), he was the Member of Parliament (MP) representing Jurong GRC between 2001 and 2023. [11] Tharman made his political debut in the 2001 general election [12], and had been re-elected to Parliament four times [13] at subsequent general elections in 2006, 2011, 2015 and 2020.

On 8 June 2023, Tharman announced his intention to run for the 2023 presidential election [14] and his scheduled resignation on 7 July 2023 from all his positions in the government and as a member of the PAP, as the presidency is a non-partisan office. On 2 September 2023, Tharman was announced as the winner after receiving 70.41% [15] of the vote in a landslide victory and was elected as the ninth president of Singapore. [16] He is the first presidential candidate not of Chinese descent to win in a contested presidential election in Singapore. [17]

Early life and education

Tharman was born in Singapore during British colonial rule in 1957 to a family of Jaffnese Tamil origin. [18] In his youth, Tharman attended the Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) [19] before graduating from the London School of Economics (LSE) with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. (LSE later awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in 2011). [20]

He subsequently went on to the University of Cambridge, where he completed a Master of Philosophy degree in economics. [21] He then became a student at the Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University, where he completed a Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree and was a recipient of the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award (given to MPA students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership).

Tharman was a student activist while studying in the United Kingdom during the 1970s. [22] He originally held socialist beliefs, but his views on economics evolved over the course of his working career. [22]

Early career

Tharman started his working career at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), where he became its chief economist. [23] He later joined the Singapore Administrative Service and served in the Ministry of Education as Senior Deputy Secretary for Policy, [24] before returning to the MAS where he eventually became its managing director. He was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1999. [25] He resigned as managing director of the MAS to contest in the 2001 general election as a candidate for the People's Action Party.

Official Secrets Act case

While serving as director of the Economics Department of the MAS in 1992, Tharman was one of five persons charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) in a case involving the publication of Singapore's 1992 second-quarter flash GDP growth projections in the Business Times newspaper. The others included the editor, Patrick Daniel, of the Business Times. [26]

The OSA case, which lasted over a year, was reported extensively in the Singapore press. [27] [28] Tharman contested, and was eventually acquitted of, the charge of communicating the GDP growth flash projections. [29] The District Court then introduced a lesser charge of negligence, as the prosecution's case had been that the figures were seen on a document that he had with him on a table during his meeting with private sector economists together with one of his colleagues. [30] Tharman also contested this lesser charge of negligence, and defended himself on the witness stand for a few days. [31]

The Court nevertheless convicted him and the others in the case. [32] Tharman was fined S$1,500, and the others S$2,000. [32] As there was no finding that he communicated any classified information, the case did not pose any hurdle to his subsequent appointment as the managing director of the MAS, nor to his subsequent larger national responsibilities.

Political career

Tharman made his political debut in the 2001 general election, contesting Jurong GRC as part of a five-member PAP team and won 79.75% of the vote. [33] Tharman was subsequently appointed Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Senior Minister of State for Education.

He was appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Education in 2003 and served in this role until 2008.

Following the 2006 general election, Tharman was appointed Second Minister for Finance (alongside his role as Minister for Education). [34] On 1 December 2007, he was appointed Minister for Finance. [35]

Following the 2011 general election, Tharman was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, while retaining his portfolio as Minister for Finance. He also served as Minister for Manpower between 2011 and 2012 concurrently. After the 2015 General Election, he stepped down as Minister for Finance on 30 September 2015 [36], after 9 years. He remained Deputy Prime Minister and was also appointed Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.

At the 2015 general election, Jurong GRC, which was predominantly anchored by Tharman, won 79.28% of the vote against the five-member Singaporeans First team. [37]

Tharman was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the People's Action Party in December 2002, and was appointed 2nd Assistant Secretary-General in May 2011.

On 23 April 2019, it was announced that both Tharman and Teo Chee Hean were appointed Senior Ministers effective from 1 May 2019 under a Cabinet reshuffle, relinquishing their Deputy Prime Minister portfolios. Tharman would also be Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and advise the prime minister on economic policies. [38]

Tharman retained his parliamentary seat in Jurong GRC at the 2020 general election, after winning 74.62% [39]of the vote against the five-member Red Dot United team.

In July 2023, Tharman stepped down from Parliament and all his positions in the government and resigned as a member of the PAP in order to stand as a candidate in the 2023 Singaporean presidential election. [40]

Other roles

Tharman served as Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for 12 years from 1 May 2011 until 7 July 2023, when he was succeeded by his deputy, Lawrence Wong. [41] [42]

In May 2019, Tharman was appointed Deputy Chairman of GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, a position he held until 7 July 2023. Tharman also served as Director of GIC between 2004 and 2023, and Chairman of the Investment Strategies Committee (ISC) between 2011 and 2023. On 7 July 2023, Tharman was succeeded by Lawrence Wong as Chairman of the Investment Strategies Committee (ISC).

Tharman chaired the International Advisory Council (IAC) of the Economic Development Board (EDB) between 2014 and 2023, [43] and the International Academic Advisory Panel that advises the Singapore Government on strategies regarding the university sector. [44] On 8 July 2023, Tharman was succeeded by Lawrence Wong in both positions.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

Tharman chaired the Board of Trustees of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), [45] which seeks to uplift educational performance and aspirations in the Indian community in Singapore from 2008 until 2023. [46] He also chaired the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute.

He chaired the National Jobs Council aimed at rebuilding skills and jobs for Singaporeans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. [47]

Tharman led the SkillsFuture programme, launched in 2014 with the aim of developing skills of the future, and opportunities for life-long learning and job upskilling among Singaporeans. He also chaired the tripartite councils from 2011 to 2016 which drove national efforts to transform productivity through innovation and skills, and the implementation of industry-specific transformation programmes. This included the Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity (CSIP). [48]

Tharman co-chaired several bilateral committees to promote economic and trade relations between Singapore and other countries, including the Singapore-Liaoning Economic and Trade Council from 2004 to 2008, [49] and the High-Level Russia-Singapore Inter-Governmental Commission from 2011 to 2022. [50]

International appointments

In 2011, members of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the policy advisory committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), appointed Tharman as its chair where he served until 2014. In announcing Tharman's selection, the IMF said that his "broad experience, deep knowledge of economic and financial issues, and active engagement with global policy makers will be highly valuable to the IMFC". [51]

In April 2017, Tharman was appointed by the G20 to chair the G20 Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Global Financial Governance. In October 2018, the Group proposed reforms [52] for a more effective system of global development finance and for financial stability.

On 1 January 2017, Tharman succeeded Jean-Claude Trichet as Chair of the Group of Thirty, an independent global council of leading economic and financial policymakers. [53] Tharman was subsequently succeeded by Mark Carney and was appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees on 1 January 2023.

On 22 May 2019, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that Tharman will be co-chairing the Advisory Board of the Human Development Report (HDR) 2019 alongside Thomas Piketty. He was reappointed twice, to co-chair the Advisory Board, alongside Michael Spence in 2020, [54] Michele Lamont in 2021/22, [55] and Joseph Stiglitz in 2023/24 [56],

In May 2019, Tharman was appointed a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum (WEF). [57]

In January 2021, Tharman was appointed by the G20 to co-chair the G20 High Level Independent Panel (HLIP) on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, alongside Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Lawrence Summers.

In March 2022, Tharman was appointed a member of the United Nations Secretary-General's High‑Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism. [58]

Tharman co-chairs the Global Commission on the Economics of Water with Ngozi Owonjo-Iweala, Mariana Mazzucato and Johan Rockström. Its initial recommendations helped shape the outcomes of the UN Water Conference in March 2023. [59]

Presidency (2023–present)

2023 presidential bid

On 8 June 2023, Tharman announced his intention to be a candidate in the 2023 presidential election. [60] [61] He resigned from all his positions in the government and as a member of the People's Action Party (PAP) on 7 July in order to stand in the election, as the presidency is a non-partisan office.

On 26 July, Tharman launched his presidential campaign with the campaign slogan "Respect for All". [62] On 7 August, he submitted his application for the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to the Elections Department. [63] He was issued the COE on 18 August by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC). [64]

On 2 September, Tharman was announced as the winner after receiving 70.41% of the vote, with Ng Kok Song receiving 15.72% and Tan Kin Lian receiving 13.87%, and was elected as the ninth president of Singapore. [65] He is the first non-Chinese presidential candidate to win in a contested presidential election in Singapore. [66] Tharman also garnered the highest vote count in Singapore's presidential electoral history of 70.41%.

He was sworn in on 14 September at a ceremony held at the Istana, succeeding Halimah Yacob. [67]

In office as President

In 24 January 2024, Tharman made his first state visit to Brunei as President. His predecessor, Halimah Yacob also made her first State Visit overseas, to Brunei. He also made state visits to Italy and Estonia in June 2024. [68] In 15 May 2024, Tharman appointed Lawrence Wong as the 4th Prime Minister of Singapore after Lee Hsien Loong resigned as Prime Minister.

Awards

Domestic Honours

  • In July 2010, Tharman became the fourth recipient of the Honorary Fellowship of the Economic Society of Singapore, [69] after Goh Keng Swee, Lim Chong Yah, and Goh Chok Tong.
  • In May 2017, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) conferred its highest award, [70] the Medal of Honour, on Tharman for his varied contributions to the labour movement including "driving national initiatives to better the lives of workers" and "his deep commitment to building an inclusive society". [71]

International Honours

Tharman was named Finance Minister of the Year 2013 by Euromoney, [73] in recognition of the roles he played in the economic restructuring of Singapore and as statesman of the region on the international stage.

During a working visit in June 2019, Tharman was admitted to the Freedom of the City of London. [74]

In October 2019, Tharman received the Institute of International Finance's inaugural Distinguished Leadership and Service Award, [75] together with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, for his role as a leading proponent of global reforms to de-risk and grow development finance and to achieve more resilient capital flows.

Personal life

Tharman is a fourth-generation Singaporean of Ceylonese-Tamil ancestry. One of three children, Tharman is the son of Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam, [76] a medical scientist known as the "father of pathology in Singapore", who founded the Singapore Cancer Registry and led a number of international organisations related to cancer research and pathology. [77] [78] [79]

Tharman is married to Jane Yumiko Ittogi, a Singaporean lawyer of Chinese–Japanese descent. She founded and chairs Tasek Academy and Social Services, a local NGO, and is actively engaged in its initiatives for social development and sustainability. The couple have one daughter and three sons together. [80] [81]

Tharman was an active sportsman in his youth, particularly in hockey, athletics, football, and cricket, and has expressed his views on how sports instils lessons for life. He spoke about sports as a form of education in Game for Life: 25 Journeys, [82] published by the Singapore Sports Council in 2013, as "a huge deal for character... Children learn the value of teams. They learn the discipline of repeated practice, and how there is no other way to develop expertise. Plus, the ability to fall or lose in competition and pick oneself up... with humility."

In Singapore's Chinese-language media, Tharman is often referred to as 尚达曼 ( pinyin: Shàng Dámàn), an approximate transliteration of Tharman Shanmugaratnam. [83] The name was given to him by a leading Chinese language specialist in 1995. Tharman has done Chinese calligraphy since 2002.

Notes

  1. ^ Tamil: தர்மன் சண்முகரத்தினம்

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Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Education
2003–2008
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Finance
2007–2015
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
2011–2019
Served alongside: Teo Chee Hean
Preceded by Minister for Manpower
2011–2012
Succeeded by
New office Coordinating Minister for Social Policies
Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies: 2015–2019

2015–2023
Succeeded byas Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies
Vacant
Title last held by
S. Jayakumar
Goh Chok Tong
2011
Senior Minister of Singapore
2019–2023
Served alongside: Teo Chee Hean
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Singapore
2023–present
Incumbent
Government offices
Preceded by Chair of the Monetary Authority of Singapore
2011–2023
Succeeded by
Parliament of Singapore
New constituency Member of the Singaporean Parliament
for Taman Jurong's Jurong Group Representation Constituency

2001–2023
Succeeded byas MPs for Jurong GRC (Bukit Batok East), (Clementi), (Jurong Central), (Jurong Spring)