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Tharman Shanmugaratnam (born 25 February 1957) is a Singaporean politician and economist serving as the Senior Minister of Singapore since 2019. He previously served as Deputy Prime Minister from 2011 to 2019. He is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, and advises the Prime Minister on economic policies.

Tharman is concurrently the Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore's central bank and financial regulator. In addition to his responsibilities in the Government, he is Deputy Chairman of the GIC and chairs its Investment Strategies Committee.

Tharman chairs the Group of Thirty, an independent global council of economic and financial leaders. He also chaired the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance which in October 2018 proposed reforms for a more effective system of global finance for development, sustainability and financial stability. He earlier led the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the key policy forum of the IMF, for four years (2011 to 2014); he was its first Asian chair. He also co-chairs the Advisory Board for the UN's Human Development Report, and is a member of the World Economic Forum Board of Trustees.

Tharman has spent his working life in public service, in roles principally related to economic and social policies. He served as Deputy Prime Minister from 2011-2019. He also served as Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies for four years (from 2015). Prior to that, he was Minister for Finance for eight years (from 2007),[1] and Minister for Education for five years (from 2003).[2] He has been Chairman of MAS since 2011.

Early life and education[]

Tharman attended the Anglo-Chinese School. He went on to the London School of Economics (LSE), where he earned a first BSc degree in economics; LSE later honored him with an Honorary Fellowship in 2011.[3] He subsequently obtained an MPhil in economics from the University of Cambridge,[4] and a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University, where he received a Lucius N. Littauer Fellow award for outstanding performance and potential. Tharman was a student activist while studying in the United Kingdom during the 1970s.[5] He originally held socialist beliefs, but his views on economics changed over the course of his working career.[5]

Career before politics[]

Tharman started his career at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), where he became its chief economist. He later joined the Singapore Administrative Service and served in the Ministry of Education as a Senior Deputy Secretary for Policy,[6] before returning to the MAS where he rose to become its Managing Director.[7] He resigned from this position to contest in the 2001 general election as a candidate for the People's Action Party.

Political career[]

Following the 2001 general election, Tharman was appointed Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Education. He then served as the Minister for Education from 2003 to 2008.

In May 2006, Tharman was also appointed Second Minister for Finance[8] before becoming Minister for Finance on 1 December 2007.[9]

Following the 2011 general election, Tharman was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, while remaining as Minister for Finance. He served concurrently as the Minister for Manpower between May 2011 to July 2012. He stepped down as Minister for Finance in September 2015 after 9 years. After the 2015 general election, Tharman remained Deputy Prime Minister and was also appointed as Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies in October 2015.[1]

Tharman was first elected Member of Parliament in Nov 2001 in Jurong GRC,[10] and has been re-elected three times since. At the 2015 general elections, Jurong GRC, helmed by Tharman, garnered a vote share of 79.3 per cent against a Singaporeans First (SingFirst) team. Tharman has been elected to the Central Executive Committee of the People's Action Party since Dec 2002, and was appointed 2nd Assistant Secretary-General in May 2011.

In May 2017, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) conferred on Tharman the Medal of Honour, the highest of its May Day Awards. NTUC cited amongst other things "his deep commitment to building an inclusive society".[11]

On 23 April 2019, the Prime Minister Office's latest cabinet reshuffle announced that Tharman, alongside Teo Chee Hean, would be relinquishing their respective Deputy Prime Minister portfolios, and would be appointed Senior Ministers effective from 1 May onwards. Tharman would also be Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and advise the Prime Minister on economic policies.[12]

Other national and international appointments[]

In April 2017, Tharman was appointed to chair a G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, which was set up to review the system of international financial institutions. In Oct 2018, the Group proposed reforms[13] for a more effective system of global development finance and for financial stability. Tharman also succeeded Jean-Claude Trichet as Chairman of the Group of Thirty, an independent global council of leading economic and financial policy-makers from January 1, 2017.[14]

Tharman had previously been appointed by his international peers as Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC),[15] the key policy forum of the IMF, for an extended period of four years from 2011; he was its first Asian chair. 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".[15][16]

He co-chairs the Advisory Board for the UN's Human Development Report, focused on inequality, together with Thomas Piketty.

In May 2019, Tharman was admitted to the World Economic Forum Board of Trustees.[17]

Tharman has been the chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) since May 2011.[18][19] He is appointed as the Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) as of May 2019, and chairs its Investment Strategy Committee.

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 subsequently chaired the tripartite Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity (CSIP) until May 2017.[20]

He currently also chairs the Economic Development Board's International Advisory Council,[21] and the International Academic Advisory Panel that advises the Government on strategies for the university sector.[22]

Among his other roles, he chairs the Board of Trustees of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), which seeks to uplift educational performance and aspirations in the Indian Singapore community.[23] He also chairs the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute.

Legal charge and conviction[]

While serving as Director of the Economics Department of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 1993, 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 projections in the Business Times newspaper. The others were a research director, Raymond Foo, and economist Manu Bhaskaran, of Crosby Securities, journalist Kenneth James and editor Patrick Daniel of the Business Times.[24]

The OSA case, which stretched over more than a year, was reported extensively in the Singapore press.[25] Tharman contested and was eventually acquitted of the charge of communicating the GDP growth flash projections.[26] Senior District Judge Richard Magnus then introduced a lesser charge of negligence, because the prosecution's case was that the figures were seen on a document that he had with him in a meeting room during his meeting with the private sector economists together with one of his colleagues.[27] Tharman also contested this lesser charge of negligence, and defended himself on the witness stand for a few days.[28]

The Court nevertheless convicted him together with all the others in the case, including the editor of Business Times newspaper which published the figures.[29] Tharman was fined S$1,500, and the others S$2,000.[29] 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, or to his subsequent larger national responsibilities.

Personal life[]

Tharman is a Singaporean of Ceylonese Tamil ancestry.[30][31] One of three children, he is the son of Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam,[31] 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.[32][33][34]

Tharman is married to Jane Yumiko Ittogi, a lawyer of Chinese-Japanese heritage.[35] She is actively engaged in social enterprise and the non-profit arts sector. The couple have a daughter and three sons.

Tharman was an active sportsman in his youth, and has highlighted the way sports instills lessons for life. He spoke about sports as a form of education in Game for Life: 25 Journeys[36], 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 and to with humility."

In Chinese-language media, Tharman is usually referred to as Shàng Dámàn (Template:Lang), an approximate transliteration of Shanmugaratnam. It was given to him by a leading language specialist in 1995.[35]


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