IMF lauds Tharman's panel leadership in tough times

Members of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) thanked Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Saturday for his leadership as his four years at the helm of the committee came to an end.

A communique released after a meeting of the policy steering committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed deep appreciation for Mr Tharman's "service and guidance as IMFC chairman during challenging times".

He was also presented with a framed resolution of appreciation from the IMFC and a gavel he used while he was chairman.

The Singaporean minister became the first Asian to lead the IMFC when he was selected as chairman in 2011, at a time when much of the global economy was still reeling from the financial crisis.

When his three-year term came to an end last year, the IMFC extended it for another year.

He is succeeded by the governor of the Bank of Mexico, Mr Agustin Carstens.

Reflecting on his time at the IMFC, Mr Tharman said he had tried to create a culture that allowed big and small countries to speak with an equal voice.

"The legislative changes in quotas, voting shares and representation on the board are the formal changes in governance and laws, and are important for the IMF's legitimacy. But the changes in culture of the institution are equally important," he said.

"What I have really focused on is building up a culture where peers among ministers from around the world treat each other as equals.

And we have some excellent peers in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and in the small European countries that do not hold large voting shares, who really bring serious thought to our discussions. So, it is now a more level field in our discussions, where it doesn't matter how small your country is or what the income level of your country is, you are taken very seriously in the IMFC."

He said the fact that the IMFC chose a Singaporean as its head was a testament to the country's credibility.

"In fact, we were not even a member of the IMFC over the four years I was chairman."


Singapore's position in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB):

It is too early to talk about who holds which management positions and so on, but we are interested in playing a role...

The first priority is sorting out the Articles of Agreement of this new institution, and we have been very involved in the discussions with the Chinese authorities as well as the other prospective founding members.

We are not pushing for the AIIB to be centred in Singapore. More important is how it is run, that it serves the needs of the region and that Singapore is plugged in. This is more important than location.

The AIIB competing with the World Bank and IMF:

I think a bit of competition doesn't harm either, as long as it is competition that raises the standards of project selection and project monitoring.

It must not be competition that lowers standards as countries play off one development bank against another.

A bit of competition doesn't harm, and the AIIB has made clear its intentions to be run on the basis of the highest international standards.

Now that we have a wide range of countries participating as respective founding members, I think there is a broad interest in making sure that is the case.

The recent Cabinet reshuffle:

One of the strengths of the Singapore Cabinet system is the ability of ministers to move from one portfolio to another. It is a real advantage over time.

For instance, when we discuss a policy on education, apart from the current Education Minister, we have three other former education ministers.

Likewise, when you look at health, transport and other areas, there is knowledge and sensitivity to the complexities of each area of policy that is shared in the Cabinet.

We avoid the lurches back and forth that you often see in countries where a new person takes over and decides on his or her own priorities.

It also builds up our team. This is about building up the individual leaders who have to play an important role in future. Succession and developing future political leaders is a key task in Singapore.

Former Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing taking over as labour chief:

Being in NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) is a position with heavy responsibilities, with broader significance than meets the eye. It is not just representing workers' interests in traditional bargaining.

It is also about helping everyone upgrade and do well, and enabling our whole society to do well. It is not just a traditional role of a union, and Mr Chan has a good sense of that.

This article was first published on April 20, 2015.
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