Finance Ministers' Bio

Since our nation’s independence, 8 past and present Finance Ministers have been put in charge of managing the nation’s finances and have helped to transform Singapore into what it is today.

Here’s some interesting information about our Finance Ministers which you may not know about.



Mr Lim Kim San (1st Finance Minister)

Source: nas.gov.sg

Term: 1965-1967

Budget Focus: Developed export-oriented, labour-intensive industries to create jobs for Singaporeans

Also served as: Minister for the Environment, Minister for Education, Minister for Interior and Defence, Minister for National Development

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • Announced Five-Year Development Plan at Budget 1965
  • Focused on provision of employment opportunities for the 95,000 persons which were predicted to enter the labour force during that period
  • Emphasised on building up the industrial base largely with export markets in view
  • Allocated to funding HDB’s 12,000 units of low-cost housing
  • Launch of National Productivity Drive in 1966 Budget, to aim towards high quality and lower production costs

Other facts:

  • Credited for his significant contributions to public housing programmes during his term as the first Chairman of HDB
  • Was previously Chairman of Council of Presidential Advisers, Executive Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Chairman of Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), Chairman of Public Utilities Boards (PUB) and Deputy Chairman of Public Service Commission (PSC)
  • First person to be awarded the state’s highest honour, Darjah Utama Temasek (Order of Temasek) in 1962


Dr Goh Keng Swee (2nd Finance Minister)

Source: nas.gov.sg

Term: 1967-1970

Budget Focus: Create the right conditions in Singapore to attract foreign investment

Also served as: Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Minister for Education, Minister for Defence, Member of Parliament for Kreta Ayer

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • Initiated the transformation of Jurong from a swamp to Singapore’s first industrial estate
  • Due to the large influx of tourists and shortages in hotel accommodation, he announced the development of five large first-class hotels with 1,509 rooms at Budget 1967
  • Following the withdrawal of the British, he placed extensive focus on Defence, allocating $337.5 million to the Armed Forces in Budget 1968

Other facts:

  • Served as Minister for Finance before and after Singapore’s independence
  • Was Singapore’s First Defence Minister and implemented compulsory National Service
  • Established the Economic Development Board (EDB)
  • Was responsible for the construction of projects such as Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, and Singapore Symphony Orchestra
  • Served different roles in other organizations, including Deputy Chairman of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and various other government led companies
  • Awarded Order of Temasek (First Class) in 1985


Mr Hon Sui Sen (3rd Finance Minister)

Source: nas.gov.sg

Term: 1970-1983

Budget Focus: Emphasised on industries with world-wide markets, with scope for progressive growth in technological content and greater capacity to contribute towards the development of modern skills

Also served as: Member of Parliament for Havelock

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • Announced the development of Sentosa Island as part of tourist industry
  • Initiated the Bases Economic Conversion Department to oversee the conversion and commercialization of lands and facilities left behind by the British following their withdrawal
  • Announced the Product Development Assistance Scheme in Budget 1978
  • The government would provide dollar-for-dollar grants for approved product development of local companies
  • Announced expenditure of $577 million on Education and Manpower training in Budget 1983
  • This was for the School and Junior College Building Programme, construction of a new complex for Nanyang Technological Institute (merged with National Institute of Education to form Nanyang Technological University) and expansion of the Kent Ridge Campus of the National University of Singapore, Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic as well as vocational and industrial training institutes

Other facts:

  • Was the first Chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB) and first Chairman and president of the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS)
  • Was named Economic Minister of the Year by Euromoney Magazine in 1982
  • He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award for civil servants in 1967, and was awarded the Order of Temasek (First Class) posthumously in 1984


Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam (4th Finance Minister)

Source: nas.gov.sg

Term: 1983-1985

Budget Focus: Focused on moving from labour-intensive to high-tech, skilled industries

Current Appointment: 7th President of Singapore

Also served as: Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence, Minister for Defence, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Minister for Education, Minister for Trade and Industry and Minister for Health

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • In Budget 1984, Dr Tan announced that local companies which invested in approved venture capital projects in new technology industries would be able to write off 50% of the equity invested in such projects if the projects incur losses. This was part of the efforts to assist enterprising local companies in venturing into fields like computer equipment and robotics
  • Announced the set-up of The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) in Budget 1984. The board was established to:
  • Review standards and building regulations to adapt to industrialized building technologies. Encourage private sector to set up factories to produce prefabricated and precast components.

Other facts:

  • Studied at University of Singapore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Adelaide
  • Led the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) from 1991-1995 before returning to the Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister
  • Also served as Executive Director and Deputy Chairman of GIC and Chairman of SPH
  • He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Singapore Academy of Medicine in 2006 and the King Charles II Medal by the Royal Society of United Kingdom in 2014, among numerous other awards


Dr Richard Hu Tsu Tau (5th Finance Minister)

Source: nas.gov.sg

Term: 1985-2001

Budget Focus: Helping Singaporeans cope with changes, both local (Singapore’s first recession, introduction of GST) and regional (Asian Financial Crisis)

Also served as: Minister for National Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Trade Industry

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • Introduced the Goods and Service Tax in 1993 as part of a larger tax restructuring exercise to enable Singapore to shift its reliance from direct taxes to indirect taxes
  • Was instrumental in steering Singapore through the Asian financial crisis and helping it recover
  • Re-introduced the Liberalised Investment Allowance Scheme at Budget 1999 to spur more investments in manufacturing and services
  • Announced the Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund in 2000 to help equip workers with the skills to take on existing and new jobs, create new products and services and capture new markets

Other facts:

  • Joined Royal Dutch Shell and eventually became its Chairman and Chief Executive in Singapore
  • Oversaw privatisation of Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) and subsequent sale of POSB to DBS
  • Was Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and GIC
  • Elected Chairman and independent non-executive director of the CapitaLand board between 2004 and 2012
  • Chancellor of Singapore Management University from 2002 to 2010
  • He was made Honorary Fellow of Singapore Institute of Directors (SID)


Mr Lee Hsien Loong (6th Finance Minister)

Source: nas.gov.sg

Term: 2001-2007

Budget Focus: Engaging in economic restructuring through tax changes and offsets, to deal with the 21st century competitive global atmosphere

Current Appointments: Prime Minister of Singapore, Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC and Secretary-General of the People’s Action Party

Also served as: Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Second Minister for Defence, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister for Trade and Industry

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • Introduced measures to promote the spirit of philanthropy, including double tax deductions for donations to Institutions of a Public Character (IPC)
  • Announced SARS Relief Package in 2003 for the tourism and transport-related sections, to help tide over the difficult period and save jobs
  • Introduced Re-Employment Assistance Programme to help workers avoid falling into long-term unemployment
  • Announced a $2.6 billion Progress Package, a surplus sharing initiative for Singaporeans

Other facts:

  • Graduated from the University of Cambridge with a B.A. in Mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science
  • Was a Brigadier General in the Singapore Armed Forces
  • Also served as Chairperson of ASEAN and APEC
  • Awarded the President’s Scholarship and SAF Scholarship, was a Senior Wrangler in Cambridge (top mathematics score), and was a Mason Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University


Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam (7th Finance Minister)

Source: nas.gov.sg

Term: 2007-2015

Budget Focus: Pushing for greater productivity, and promoting an inclusive society

Current Appointments: Deputy Prime Minister & Co-ordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies and Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC and Chairman of MAS

Also served as: Minister for Manpower and Minister for Education, Senior Minister of State

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • Allocated $900 million over five years to Singapore’s healthcare through upgrades in NUH, SGH, the National Heart Centre and to build Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. $1 billion was also invested to recruit and train more healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals in the public sector.
  • Announced a $20.5 billion Budget Resilience Package at Budget 2009, to counter the effects of the 2008 global recession
  • Introduced Pioneer Generation Package at Budget 2014, to honour and thank Pioneers for their hard work and dedication
  • Announced the SkillsFuture initiatives in Budget 2015, targeted at helping Singaporeans learn and develop new skills

Other facts:

  • Appointed as Chairman of the Group of Thirty (G-30), a body of top financial experts, for 5 years from 1 Jan 2017
  • Was the Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) between 2011 and 2015
  • Was named a Lucius N Littauer Fellow at Harvard University, is an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Economics, and was made a fifth Honorary Fellow of the Economic Society of Singapore in 2010
  • Official Chinese translation of his name is Shang Da Man (尚达曼)


Mr Heng Swee Keat (8th Finance Minister)

Source: Channel NewsAsia

Term: 2015-Present

Budget Focus: Pushing for enterprise and innovation, while striving to build a caring and resilient society

Current Appointment: Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC

Also served as: Minister for Education

Major announcements made as Finance Minister:

  • Announced the Industry Transformation Programme in Budget 2016, aimed at helping firms and industries to create new value and drive growth through:
  • Integrating different restructuring efforts
  • More targeted and sector-focused approach
  • Deepening partnerships between government, the industry and among industry players
  • Stronger emphasis on technology adoption and innovation
  • Announced social policies and schemes to care for the young, the low wage workers, persons with disabilities, seniors and other measures to support households

Other facts:

  • Was managing director of MAS, Principal Private Secretary to the then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Chairman of SG50 Steering Committee
  • Studied at the University of Cambridge and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Awarded Asia-Pacific Central Bank Governor of the Year from British banking magazine the Banker
  • He was awarded the Gold Medal in Public Administration in 2001 and the Meritorious Medal in 2010 for his contribution to the public service in Singapore
Last updated on 11 Jan 2017
 
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