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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Economist to President: Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s President

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a prominent economist, now Singapore’s ninth president, is the third individual of Indian origin to lead the prosperous city-state for the next six years. Born into Singapore’s Tamil community, constituting about 9% of the 2.7 million voters, Tharman is among the most highly qualified citizens of this resource-scarce nation, with over 50 years of developmental experience.

Before the September 1 presidential election, the 66-year-old economist, sports enthusiast, and poet expressed his deep privilege in serving the nation through various roles, both on the ground and in shaping national policies for a more equitable and inclusive society, as well as representing Singapore internationally.

In a landslide victory, Tharman won against Ng Kok Song, a former chief investment officer with the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC), and Tan Kin Lian, the former chief of NTUC Income, a state-owned union-based insurance group, securing over 70% of the votes. This election marked the first contested presidential election since 2011.

Born on February 25, 1957, in Singapore, Tharman is a multi-generational Singaporean of Tamil descent dating back to the 19th century. His father, Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam, a renowned medical scientist, is often referred to as the “father of pathology in Singapore,” having founded the Singapore Cancer Registry and led several international organizations related to cancer research and pathology.

Tharman is married to Jane Yumiko Ittogi, a Singaporean lawyer of mixed Chinese-Japanese heritage actively involved in social enterprise and the non-profit arts sector in Singapore. They have one daughter and three sons.

Tharman’s educational journey took him through the Anglo-Chinese School and culminated in a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the London School of Economics (LSE). Later, LSE awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in 2011. He proceeded to Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge, where he earned a Master of Philosophy degree in Economics.

Subsequently, he became a student at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, completing a Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree and earning the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, a recognition for academic excellence and leadership among MPA students.

Professionally, Tharman has dedicated his career to public service, primarily in roles related to economic and social policies. He has also led several high-level international councils and panels.

Tharman served as Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister from 2011 to 2019 and as Senior Minister in the Cabinet from 2019 to 2023. In June 2023, he announced his candidacy for the 2023 presidential election and resigned from all government positions and the governing People’s Action Party (PAP) in July 2023, as the presidency is a non-partisan office.

While studying in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, Tharman was a student activist with socialist beliefs, but his economic views evolved significantly over his career.

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