Heng Swee Keat to present Budget 2016: Singapore's other finance ministers

Heng Swee Keat to present Budget 2016: Singapore's other finance ministers

SINGAPORE - Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will present his first Budget on March 24, 2016.

He is Singapore's eighth finance minister since independence in 1965.

The past ministers were: Mr Lim Kim San, Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr Hon Sui Sen, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Dr Richard Hu, Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Here's a look at the men who were in charge of the country's purse strings.

HENG SWEE KEAT (born in 1961)

Term: Oct 1, 2015 - Present

Mr Heng Swee Keat studied at Raffles Institution and read economics at Cambridge University on a Singapore Police Force scholarship. He also has a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Mr Heng started out as a police officer, and was once commander of the Jurong Police Division. When he joined the elite administrative service in 1995, he was posted to the Ministry of Education as the director of higher education.

From 1997 to 2000, he was then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew's Principal Private Secretary. He later served as the CEO of the Trade Development Board and the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

In 2005, he became the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), steering the Singapore economy through the 2008 global financial crisis.

In 2011, he left MAS to contest in the general election as a People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in Tampines GRC. He was appointed a full minister immediately after the election - taking the helm at the Ministry of Education.

He began his term as Singapore's eighth Finance Minister on Oct 1, 2015. He also chairs the Committee on the Future Economy which looks at key areas that are crucial to sustaining economic growth vital to the country's future.

Heng Swee Keat to present Budget 2016: Singapore's other finance ministers

THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM (born in 1957)

Term: Dec 1, 2007 - Sept 30, 2015

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam studied at the Anglo-Chinese School, and subsequently obtained a bachelor's degree in economics from the London School of Economics. He went on to get a master's degree in economics from Cambridge University, and a master's degree in Public Administration from Harvard University, where he received a Lucius N. Littauer Fellow award for outstanding performance.

Much of his earlier professional career was spent at the MAS, where he was the director of economics and eventually the managing director.

Mr Tharman left MAS to be the PAP candidate for Jurong GRC in the 2001 General Election.

Upon entering politics in 2001, he was appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Education. He then served as Minister for Education between 2003 and 2008.

In May 2006, he was also appointed to the post of Second Minister of Finance. In December 2007, he was appointed Finance Minister, a post he has held until September 2015.

In 2011, he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and MAS chairman.

In the Cabinet reshuffle after the Sept 11 general election in 2015, DPM Tharman took on the role of Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

LEE HSIEN LOONG (born in 1952)

Term: Nov 10, 2001 - Nov 30, 2007

The eldest child of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Lee Hsien Loong graduated from the University of Cambridge with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a diploma in computer science. He also obtained a master's in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Before entering politics, Mr Lee was a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

He resigned from the army in August 1984 to become political secretary in the Defence Ministry. In December that year, he stood in the general election as the PAP candidate in the Teck Ghee seat and won. Teck Ghee was later merged into Ang Mo Kio GRC.

In the same year, he was appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence. He was made full Minister for Trade and Industry in 1987, and was concurrently Second Minister for Defence.

In 1990, Mr Lee was appointed Deputy Prime Minister with responsibilities for economic and civil service matters. He also concurrently served as MAS chairman from 1998 to 2004, and Minister for Finance from 2001 to 2007.

Mr Lee was sworn in as Singapore's third Prime Minister in 2004.

HU TSU TAU RICHARD (born in 1926)

Term: December 1985 - Nov 9, 2001

The son of well-known doctor Hu Tsai Kuen, Dr Richard Hu Tsu Tau was educated at the Anglo-Chinese School and then at the University of California, Berkeley. He graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1952, before proceeding to post-graduate studies at the University of Birmingham. After receiving a doctorate in chemical engineering in 1957, he lectured for a stint at the University of Manchester (1957-1960).

In 1960, he returned home and joined the Shell group of companies. He rose through the ranks and was promoted to chairman of Shell Singapore in 1977.

Upon his retirement from Shell in 1983, Dr Hu took on the role of managing director at Government Investment Corporation.

It took three Cabinet Ministers - Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Goh Chok Tong - to persuade him to go into politics. In 1984, he ran as the PAP candidate for the seat of Kreta Ayer and was elected as a Member of Parliament.

He was appointed Minister for Trade and Industry after the election, and moved to the Finance Ministry in 1985. He is Singapore's longest-serving finance minister.

He also became MAS chairman that year, a position he held until 1997. He was also Minister for Health (1985-1987) and Minister for National Development (1992-1993). He retired from politics in 2001.

TONY TAN KENG YAM (born in 1940)

Term: Oct 24, 1983 - December 1985

The son of a businessman, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam studied at St Patrick's School and St Joseph's Institution. In 1959, he was awarded a Singapore Government State Scholarship, which replaced the colonial-era Queen's Scholarship. In 1962, he earned a first-class honours degree in physics from the then-University of Singapore. He also has a master's in operations research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Adelaide.

He entered politics in 1979 and proved to be the fastest-rising star of the PAP's second-generation team. The MP for Sembawang was made Senior Minister of State (Education) immediately after his election, and became Education Minister just 16 months later.

In his 27 years in political office, Dr Tan helmed five ministries and served three prime ministers. He even held the reins to three ministries - Finance, Education and Health - at the same time in 1985.

In 1991, he left the public sector to become chairman and chief executive of OCBC Bank, but was asked to return to the Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence in 1995, three years after then DPMs Ong Teng Cheong and Lee Hsien Loong were diagnosed with cancer.

After Dr Tan stepped down from the Cabinet in 2005, he was appointed chairman of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and deputy chairman and executive director of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC).

In June 2011, he announced his intention to run in the presidential election and resigned from his posts in GIC and SPH, and his membership in the PAP. He won the 2011 presidential election to become Singapore's seventh President.

HON SUI SEN (1916-1983)

Term: Aug 11, 1970 - Oct 14, 1983

Mr Hon Sui Sen was born in Penang and received his early education at St Xavier's Institution in Penang and topped the Senior Cambridge examination in 1932. In 1935, he won a scholarship to Raffles College and made his way to Singapore where he graduated with a Class 1 diploma in science, doing chemistry, mathematics and majoring in physics.

He then joined the civil service, first as a police court magistrate, before rising through the ranks to eventually become Singapore's Land Commissioner.

Mr Hon played a pivotal role in shaping Singapore's national economic development strategy. He set up the Economic Development Board in 1961 and was its first chairman until 1968.

He was responsible for championing the development of the Jurong Industrial Estate, which set the stage for the country's rapid industrialisation in the 1960s.

He later served a two-year stint as head of the Development Bank of Singapore.

In 1970, at the urging of then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, he entered politics. "I drew upon my friendship with him... He (Hon) could not refuse me; he could not say no to public duty. But he was a reluctant politician - a technocrat before the word was defined to mean a well-qualified minister who did not come up through the political rough and tumble," said Mr Lee in a special tribute to Mr Hon in Parliament in December 1983.

Mr Hon stood as the PAP's candidate for the constituency of Havelock in April 1970 and won. He began his 13-year tenure as Finance Minister four months later. He was named Economic Minister of the Year by Britain's Euromoney magazine in 1982.

Mr Hon died of heart attack at age 67.

GOH KENG SWEE (1918-2010)

Term: Aug 17, 1967 - Aug 10, 1970

Born into a middle-income Peranakan family in Malacca, Mr Goh Keng Swee came to Singapore when he was two years old. His early education was at Anglo-Chinese School (1927-1936) and later at Raffles College (1936-1939).

He joined the colonial civil service in 1939, but his career was interrupted by the Japanese Occupation. In 1946, he rejoined the civil service and his outstanding performance earned him a scholarship to study statistics at the London School of Economics (LSE) in the following year.

During his stay in London, he started the Malayan Forum, an anti-colonial political group, with fellow students including Lee Kuan Yew and Toh Chin Chye. Dr Goh returned to LSE for further studies in 1954 and obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1956.

In 1959, he was elected the People's Action Party member for Kreta Ayer, a seat he held until he retired from politics in 1984. As a Cabinet minister, Dr Goh held the Finance, Defence and Education portfolios at different times. He was First Deputy Prime Minister when he retired.

Dr Goh also held several other key appointments, including chairman of MAS and deputy chairman of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.

He died on May 14, 2010 after prolonged illnesses. He was 91.

LIM KIM SAN (1916-2006)

Term: Aug 9,1965 - Aug 16, 1967

Mr Lim Kim San was born in Singapore in 1916, the eldest of six children. He was educated in Anglo-Chinese School and Raffles College (now the National University of Singapore), where he majored in economics.

From a young age, he helped his father run the family's businesses in rubber, commodities, salt, sago and petrol. In 1939, he married Madam Pang Gek Kim, daughter of Mr Pang Cheng Yean, a founder-director of United Chinese Bank. The couple had two sons and four daughters. She died in 1994.

At 34, he earned his first million when he invented a set of machines that produced sago pearl cheaply.

In 1959, he began his career in the public sector. Four years later, he contested and won the Cairnhill constituency. He went on to head many ministries, including National Development, Finance, Defence, Education, Environment and Communications.

After retiring from politics in 1981, he continued to contribute actively in diverse roles. He was chairman of the Port of Singapore Authority, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers and executive chairman of the Singapore Press Holdings.

When he was Finance Minister between 1965 and 1967, there was a popular saying that the Singapore dollar would remain very strong because it was backed by a mountain of gold. An apt description because his name Kim San in Chinese means "mountain of gold".

He died on July 20, 2006 from pneumonia and old age. He was 89.

SOURCES: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD, THE STRAITS TIMES ARCHIVES, PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE


This article was first published on March 4, 2016.
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