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Singapore’s New President Is Indian-origin Tharman Shanmugaratnam

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Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a renowned economist and Singapore’s ninth president, is the third person of Indian ancestry to hold the position for the next six years.

Tharman, who was born to Tamil ancestors from the Singapore Indian community, which accounts for around 9% of the more than 2.7 million Singaporean voters, is one of the most qualified residents of the resource-scarce city-state that has gone through several stages of growth over the course of more than 50 years.

The 66 years old new president is an economist, a poet and a sportsman. Before the elections were held on Friday, he said, “I have been deeply privileged to serve you in many ways over the decades – working on the ground as well as shaping national policies for a fairer and more inclusive society, and flying the Singapore flag high internationally.”

In the first contested presidential election since 2011, Tharman won with over 70% of the vote, defeating Ng Kok Song, a former chief investment officer with the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC), and Tan Kin Lian, a former chief of the state-owned union-based insurance group NTUC Income.

The six-year tenure of current President Halimah Yacob expires on September 13. The elected president is in office for six years.

Tharman, a multi-generational Singaporean with Tamil heritage dating back to the 19th century, was born there on February 25, 1957. Tharman is one of three kids born to Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam, a pathologist regarded as the “father of pathology in Singapore” who established the Singapore Cancer Registry and oversaw a number of global initiatives.

Jane Yumiko Ittogi, a Singaporean lawyer with mixed Chinese and Japanese heritage who works actively in social business and the non-profit arts sector in Singapore, is the spouse of Tharman. The couple has three sons and one daughter.

Before earning a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the London School of Economics (LSE), Tharman attended the Anglo-Chinese School. In 2011, the LSE bestowed upon him an Honorary Fellowship. Later, he continued his education at Wolfson College, the University of Cambridge, where he earned a Master of Philosophy in Economics.

Later, he enrolled at Harvard University’s Harvard Kennedy School, where he earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and was honoured with the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award.

Tharman, an economist by profession, has spent his whole career working for the government, mostly in positions involving social and economic policy. A number of high-level international councils and committees have been led by him as well.

Between 2011 and 2019, Tharman was Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister. From 2019 until 2023, he was a Senior Minister in the Cabinet. As the President is a non-partisan job, Tharman stated in June 2023 that he will run for president in the 2023 election. He resigned from all of his roles in the government and as a member of Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in July 2023.

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