In 1982, Tharman began his career as an economist at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s de-facto central bank. From 1982 to 1992, he served MAS in various capacities, including Senior Economist, Assistant Director, and Deputy Director. In 1995, he was appointed as the Director of the economics department at MAS, a position he held for two years. He was appointed Concurrent Special Assistant to the Managing Director on 1 September 1997 and held the post until 30 November 1997. He rejoined the Monetary Authority of Singapore on 1 December 1997 as Deputy Managing Director of the Banking and Financial Supervision department. On 1 April 2001, he was appointed Managing Director of MAS, a position he held until 22 October 2001.
- 0.1 International Organisations
- 0.2 Political
- 1 Controversy
- 2 Awards, Honours, Achievements
- 3 Salary
- 4 Favourites
- 5 Facts/Trivia
He served at MAS for 13 years before switching to an administrative role in the Education Ministry in 1995. There, he was appointed as the Deputy Secretary of Policy. On 16 September 1997, he assumed the position of Senior Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Education and held the post until 30 November 1997.
International Monetary Fund
In 2011, Tharman was appointed as the chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the policy advisory committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and became the first Asian to head this committee. He served in this position until 2014. He was also among those shortlisted to be the next chief of the IMF in 2019.
Group of Twenty (G20)
In April 2017, Tharman was chosen by the G20 to lead a special group called the G20 Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Global Financial Governance. Then, in January 2021, Tharman was picked by the G20 again, this time to co-lead another important group called the G20 High-Level Independent Panel (HLIP) on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
Group of Thirty (G30)
On 1 January 2017, Tharman took over as the Chair of the Group of Thirty, which is a group of important worldwide economic and financial leaders. He led this group until 2023.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
On 22 May 2019, Tharman was announced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the co-chair of the Advisory Board for the 2019 Human Development Report (HDR). He was reappointed to the same position for the 2020 and 2021 Human Development Reports.
World Economic Forum (WEF)
In May 2019, Tharman was appointed a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
.@Tharman_S says the world we live in now is one ‘framed around shocks’, that are only intensifying due to breaching of planetary boundaries.
— World Economic Forum (@wef) January 19, 2023
United Nations (UN)
In March 2022, Tharman was appointed to the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism. He also serves as a co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water. The commission’s initial recommendations played a role in shaping the outcomes of the UN Water Conference held in March 2023.
Tharman made his political debut in the 2001 General Elections as a candidate of the People’s Action Party (PAP) from the Taman Jurong division of the Jurong GRC (group representation constituency) constituency of Singapore. He secured the victory with 79.75% of the total votes cast and was appointed Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Senior Minister of State for Education. In December 2002, he was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the People’s Action Party. In 2003, Tharman joined the cabinet as the Minister for Education, a position he held until 2008. Tharman has successfully contested the Jurong GRC seat in five consecutive elections, namely in 2001, 2006, 2011, 2015, and 2020. He was also appointed as the Second Minister for Finance while still serving as the Minister for Education. On 1 December 2007, he became the Minister for Finance.
Following the general election in 2011, Tharman was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore while continuing his duties as the Minister for Finance. He also served as the Minister for Manpower from 2011 to 2012. In May 2011, he was designated as the second Assistant Secretary-General of the People’s Action Party (PAP). After serving as the Minister for Finance for 9 years, he stepped down from the role on 30 September 2015. After the general election in 2015, Tharman continued his role as Deputy Prime Minister and was further assigned the role of Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies in October 2015.
On 23 April 2019, it was announced that Tharman would become the Senior Minister starting from 1 May 2019, as part of a Cabinet reshuffle. He gave up his role as Deputy Prime Minister and also served as the Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and provided advice to the prime minister on economic policies.
On July 6th, 2023, Tharman resigned from all official and political positions he held within the government to run in the 2023 Singaporean presidential election.
Singapore has a strict process for candidates running for the presidency. Any Singaporean citizen wishing to run for president must apply and receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and a community certificate. These certificates are issued by a Presidential Election Committee that verifies all eligibility criteria. A candidate must meet either the Private or Public sector criteria. A person qualifies under the public sector criteria if they have held a designated public office or chief executive position of a key statutory board or government company. A person qualifies under private sector criteria if they have held the chief executive position of a company with S$500 million shareholders’ equity and net profitability. Tharman, along with two other candidates, Ng Kok Song and Tan Kin Lian, qualified to run for president. Tharman won the election with 70.4% of the votes.
Official Secrets Act Case
In 1992, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was serving as the Director of the Economic Department of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (Central Bank of Singapore), was accused of violating the Official Secrets Act by releasing Singapore’s 1992 second-quarter flash GDP growth projections in the Business Times newspaper. Tharman denied the charge and was eventually acquitted. However, the prosecution introduced a lesser charge of negligence, claiming that Tharman had access to the figures on a document that he had with him during a meeting with private sector economists. Tharman defended himself but was still convicted and was fined S$1,500.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- Honorary Fellowship of the Economic Society of Singapore in 2010
- Finance Minister of the Year 2013 by Euromoney Magazine
- Medal of Honour in 2017 by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)
- Institute of International Finance’s inaugural Distinguished Leadership and Service Award 2019
As the president of Singapore, Tharman receives a salary of S$1,28,333 per month and his annual income is S$1.54 million.
- Food: Chai Tow Kway, Ikan Tenggiri Tapang fish
- A student activist while studying in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, Tharman originally held socialist beliefs, but his views on economics evolved throughout his working career.
- He is proficient in four languages, English, Tamil, Malay, and Mandarin.
- Tharman, along with his classmates Chew Keng Chuan and Yeoh Lam Keong, authored the poetry collection “But We Have No Legends” back in 1978. He contributed four poems to this collection. At that time, the trio was associated with the Young Writers’ Circle at the National Library. In a 2015 interview, Tharman recalled those days and revealed that he never saw himself as a poet.
- He chose pineapple as his campaign symbol in the 2023 presidential election of Singapore citing that it is considered a symbol of prosperity in China as well as in India and contains Vitamin C and thiamine, which promotes happy hormones. His slogan during the campaign was ‘Respect For All.’
- He follows a non-vegetarian diet.
- He became the fourth person to receive the Honorary Fellowship of the Economic Society of Singapore in 2010.
- An active sportsman in his youth, Tharman has highlighted the role of sports in his life. In an interview, he spoke about sports as a form of education and said,
“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.”
- Tharman has been practising Chinese calligraphy since 2002.
- Tharman leads the National Skills Future initiative. It gives every Singaporean opportunities to develop themselves or discover new interests at every stage of life.
- Tharman is Chairman of the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute. He also chairs the Board of Trustees of SINDA (Singapore Indian Development Association) which seeks to uplift educational performance and aspirations in the Indian community in Singapore.
- The 2023 Presidential election is the first contested presidential election since 2011. Before this, the incumbent and first female president of Singapore, Halimah Yacob, was elected without any election as no other candidate qualified to contest the election.
- In 2016, Yahoo News conducted a poll asking people to vote for a successor to Lee, the then PM. Tharman won with an overwhelming approval of almost 70 per cent of the voters but he himself previously said that he doesn’t see himself as a PM material. Discussing this in an interview, he said,
I’m good at policymaking, I’m good at advising my younger colleagues, and at supporting the PM – not at being the PM. That’s not me.”
- Tharman is the first non-Chinese president of Singapore to win a contested election in a Chinese-dominated society.
- He is the third Indian-origin person to head the state as a President after Sellapan Ramanathan and Chengara Veetil Devan Nair.