Tharman Shanmugaratnam

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Tharman Shanmugaratnam
தர்மன் சண்முகரத்தினம்
Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the official opening of Yuan Ching Secondary School's new building, Singapore - 20100716 (cropped).jpg
5th Senior Minister of Singapore
Assumed office
1 May 2019
Serving with Teo Chee Hean
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byS. Jayakumar (2011)
Goh Chok Tong (2011)
Coordinating Minister for Social Policies
Assumed office
1 October 2015
Economic and Social Policies : 1 October 2015 – 30 April 2019
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byPosition established
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
In office
21 May 2011 – 1 May 2019
Serving with Teo Chee Hean
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byWong Kan Seng
Succeeded byHeng Swee Keat
Minister for Manpower
In office
21 May 2011 – 31 July 2012
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byGan Kim Yong
Succeeded byTan Chuan-Jin
Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore
Assumed office
1 May 2011
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
DeputyLim Hng Kiang
Minister for FinanceHimself
Heng Swee Keat
Preceded byGoh Chok Tong
Minister for Finance
In office
1 December 2007 – 30 September 2015
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byLee Hsien Loong
Succeeded byHeng Swee Keat
Minister for Education
In office
1 August 2003 – 1 April 2008
Prime MinisterGoh Chok Tong
Lee Hsien Loong
Preceded byTeo Chee Hean
Succeeded byNg Eng Hen
Member of the Singaporean Parliament
for Jurong GRC
(Taman Jurong)
Assumed office
3 November 2001
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
Born (1957-02-25) 25 February 1957 (age 62)
Singapore, Colony of Singapore
Political partyPeople's Action Party
Spouse(s)Jane Yumiko Ittogi
EducationLondon School of Economics (BA)
Wolfson College, Cambridge (MA)
Harvard University (MPA)

Tharman Shanmugaratnam (Tamil: தர்மன் சண்முகரத்தினம்; Chinese: 尚达曼; pinyin: Shàng Dámàn; born 25 February 1957) is a Singaporean politician and economist. He was appointed Senior Minister of Singapore on 1 May 2019, after serving as Deputy Prime Minister for eight years. 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 currently also co-chairs the Advisory Board for the UN's 2019 Human Development Report, focused on inequality; and serves as 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, and served also 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, MAS since 2011.

Early life and education[edit]

Tharman attended the Anglo-Chinese School. He went on to the London School of Economics (LSE), where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics; LSE later honored him with an Honorary Fellowship in 2011.[3] He subsequently obtained an M.Phil in economics from Wolfson College, 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 currently also co-chairs the Advisory Board for the UN's 2019 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 is the Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).[18] 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.[19]

He currently also chairs the Economic Development Board's International Advisory Council,[20] and the International Academic Advisory Panel that advises the Government on strategies for the university sector.[21]

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.[22] He also chairs the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute.

Legal charge and conviction[edit]

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.[23]

The OSA case, which stretched over more than a year, was reported extensively in the Singapore press.[24] Tharman contested and was eventually acquitted of the charge of communicating the GDP growth flash projections.[25] 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.[26] Tharman also contested this lesser charge of negligence, and defended himself on the witness stand for a few days.[27]

The Court nevertheless convicted him together with all the others in the case, including the editor of Business Times newspaper which published the figures.[28] Tharman was fined S$1,500, and the others S$2,000.[28] 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[edit]

Tharman is a Singaporean Tamil of Ceylonese Tamil ancestry.[29][30] One of three children, he is the son of Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam,[30] 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.[31][32][33]

Tharman is married to Jane Yumiko Ittogi, a lawyer of Chinese-Japanese heritage.[34] 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[35], 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 (尚达曼), an approximate transliteration of Shanmugaratnam. It was given to him by a leading language specialist in 1995.[34]


  1. ^ a b Singapore, CNA. "PM Lee and Singapore's new Cabinet sworn in". CNA.
  2. ^ May Wong (29 March 2008). "PM Lee unveils cabinet changes". Channel News Asia. Singapore.
  3. ^ "LSE announces its new Honorary Fellows".
  4. ^ "New MAS chief is top-notch economist". Straits Times. Factiva. 21 February 2001.
  5. ^ a b Ching, Leong (29 October 2001). "Politics not new to former student activist". Straits Times. Factiva.
  6. ^ "Financial review panel formed". Straits Times. Factiva. 23 August 1997.
  7. ^ "Singapore Monetary Authority gets new managing director". Agence France-Presse. Factiva. 20 February 2001.
  8. ^ The Government of Singapore (21 June 2006). "The Cabinet – Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam".
  9. ^ Popatlal, Asha (29 November 2007). "PM Lee to relinquish Finance Minister post, Tharman takes over". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 30 November 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  10. ^ gsi (11 September 2014). "Mr Tharman SHANMUGARATNAM". Prime Minister‘s Office Singapore. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  11. ^ "NTUC news".
  12. ^ "Heng Swee Keat to be promoted to DPM in Cabinet reshuffle". Channel NewsAsia. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Making the Global Financial System Work For All | G20 Eminent Persons Group(EPG) on Global Financial Governance". Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  14. ^ Yong, Charissa (1 December 2016). "Tharman to chair global financial experts' group". Straits Times. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^ "World Economic Forum appoints new member to Board of Trustees". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Executive Profile: Tharman Shanmugaratnam". Bloomberg. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  19. ^ Lam, Lydia (1 May 2017). "Jobs, jobs, jobs: 8 highlights from PM Lee Hsien Loong's May Day Rally". Straits Times. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  20. ^ Kang Shiong, Goh (25 April 2014). "Tharman to chair EDB's International Advisory Council". Business Times.
  21. ^ Ng, Jing Yng (27 June 2015). "Tertiary programme outcomes should be assessed, says panel". Today (newspaper). Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  22. ^ "Ten prominent Indians get two-year terms on Sinda board". Straits Times. Factiva. 14 August 1991.
  23. ^ Michael Richardson (22 October 1993). "Singapore Puts Top Prosecutor on News Leak". The New York Times.
  24. ^ e.g., Fernandez, Warren (29 April 1993). "Four to be tried jointly; 'no' to more information". Straits Times. Factiva., "Secret memo shows ISD didn't probe 'leak' of sectoral figures". Straits Times. Factiva. 29 October 1993.
  25. ^ Fernandez, Warren (5 December 1993). "No proof Shanmugaratnam passed secret info: Judge". Straits Times. Factiva.
  26. ^ "Singapore 'Secrets' Trial Downgraded". South China Morning Post. Factiva. 6 December 1993.
  27. ^ Sen, Ajoy (3 March 1994). "Singapore secrets trial hears testimony on security". Reuters. Factiva.
  28. ^ a b "Journalists, economists guilty after marathon trial". Agence France-Presse. Factiva. 31 March 1994.
  29. ^ "Mutton munchy". The Straits Times. 12 July 2015.
  30. ^ a b "Tamils in Federated Malaya and Singapore". Daily News. 19 February 2016.
  31. ^ "Aiyoh! After 16 years, he still can't say 'lah'". The New Paper. Courtesy of 4 September 2010.
  32. ^ "Interview with Emeritus Professor K Shanmugaratnam" (PDF). SMA News. 38 (5). May 2006.
  33. ^ "Working Overtime". The Straits Times. Courtesy of 1 May 2010.
  34. ^ a b "Try discipline with love – Acting Education Minister Tharman: My kids, their Mandarin and their future in China". The New Paper. Singapore. 9 June 2004. Archived from the original on 22 January 2008. (The canes) are for his three sons, aged 10, 12 and 13 and an 8-year-old daughter; His lawyer-wife, Madam Jane Yumiko Ittogi, is of Japanese-Chinese parentage and can speak Teochew; Mr Tharman revealed that the Chinese translation of his name, Shang Da Man, was given by a language specialist in 1995.
  35. ^ "Game for Life: 25 Journeys" (PDF).

External links[edit]

Parliament of Singapore
New constituency Member of the Singaporean Parliament
for Taman Jurong's Jurong Group Representation Constituency

Political offices
Preceded by
Teo Chee Hean
Minister for Education
Succeeded by
Ng Eng Hen
Preceded by
Lee Hsien Loong
Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
Heng Swee Keat
Preceded by
Wong Kan Seng
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
Served alongside: Teo Chee Hean
Preceded by
Gan Kim Yong
Minister for Manpower
Succeeded by
Tan Chuan-Jin
New office Coordinating Minister for Social Policies
Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies: 2015–2019

Title last held by
S. Jayakumar
Goh Chok Tong
Senior Minister of Singapore
Served alongside: Teo Chee Hean
Government offices
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Chair of the Monetary Authority of Singapore