Indian-origin The eminent economist Tharman Shanmugaratnam was elected president of Singapore with 70.4% of the vote, making him the third person of Indian descent to hold the position for the following six years. As on September 13, when the current president Halimah Yacob's six-year term ends, he will serve as the nation's ninth president.
One of the most competent residents of the resource-scarce city-state that has gone through several stages of growth for more than 50 years is Tharman, a multigenerational Singaporean with Tamil lineage from the 19th century.
The 66-year-old joined a lengthy list of Indian-origin figures who are influencing politics in significant global capitals with his victory in the presidential election on Friday, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Childhood and Background
On February 25, 1957, Tharman was born to Tamil forebears from the Singapore Indian community, which accounts for about 9% of the more than 2.7 million Singaporean voters. Tharman is one of three children born to Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam, a pathologist renowned as the "father of pathology in Singapore" who established the Singapore Cancer Registry and served as the head of numerous international organizations dedicated to cancer research and pathology. Professor Shanmugaratnam is also the father of Tharman.
He is wed to Singaporean attorney Jane Yumiko Ittogi, who is of mixed Chinese and Japanese descent. In Singapore, she is actively involved in social enterprise and the nonprofit arts community. The couple has three sons and one daughter.
Tharman attended the Anglo-Chinese School and holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the London School of Economics (LSE). In 2011, the LSE bestowed upon him an Honorary Fellowship. He then went to Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge and earned a Master of Philosophy in Economics there.
Later, he enrolled in Harvard University's Harvard Kennedy School, where he earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, which is presented to MPA students who exhibit academic excellence and leadership.
Tharman, who was a keen athlete in his youth, has emphasized how sports provide valuable life skills. Children learn the importance of teams through sports, he said while discussing athletics as a form of education. They discover the discipline of repetition and how mastery can only be attained through practice. Additionally, the capacity to stumble or fail in competition and then get back up... with humility. Since 2002, he has started practicing Chinese calligraphy.
Tharman, an economist by training, has spent his whole career working for the government, primarily in positions involving social and economic policies. A number of high-level international councils and committees have been led by him as well.
Between 2011 and 2023, he served as Chairman of the de facto central bank of Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and from 2019 to 2023, he served as Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).
A number of high-level international councils and committees have been led by him as well. A global council of business and financial executives from the public and commercial sectors as well as academics, Tharman formerly served as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Group of Thirty.
In addition, Tharman serves on the boards of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism for the UN Secretary-General, which will make recommendations on effective multilateralism for the UN Summit of the Future in 2024.
He served as the first ever Asian chair of the International Monetary and Financial group (IMFC), the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) policy advisory group, from 2011 to 2014. He co-chaired the Human Development Report (HDR) Advisory Board for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2019 to 2022.
The Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), which aims to improve educational performance and ambitions in the Indian community in Singapore, is one of the non-governmental organizations Tharman has worked for and headed.
In addition, he served as chair of the National Jobs Council and the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute, both of which were created to help Singaporeans regain their skills and employment after the Covid-19 outbreak. He has received numerous honors and prizes, including those from international venues.