Who is he?
Tharman Shanmugaratnam is Singapore’s deputy prime minister, minister of finance, and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He is also the chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee and a member of the Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs, or Group of 30.
Shanmugaratnam previously served as minister of manpower, minister of education, and second minister of finance. He has served in parliament since 2001, and has served as the second assistant secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party since 2011.
Why is he in the news?
Shanmugaratnam unveiled Singapore’s 2013-2014 budget plan on February 25. The budget focuses on economic restructuring and providing an affordable standard of living to Singaporeans by limiting the number of foreign workers, introducing benefits to small and medium sized enterprises, and increasing the availability of affordable housing.
Singapore continues to face difficulties in balancing its dependence on foreign workers and high cost of living, while businesses feel the government is not addressing labor constraints. They argue that further restrictions on the import of foreign workers will affect their competitiveness and productivity. However, many ordinary citizens welcome the budget, which introduces a more progressive tax system for property and automobile purchases, while enhancing support for the elderly and the poor.
What can we expect from him?
Although the budget’s policy impact remains unclear and seems to contradict Singapore’s White Paper on Population released earlier this year, it clearly indicates that the government is trying to respond to citizens’ demands. As Singaporeans become more critical of the government, Shanmugaratnam will likely use his important portfolios to introduce more populist policies. He argued in a February 25 budget speech that “the property tax is a wealth tax” and the rise in property taxes is “fair.” He and Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin also recently called for Singaporeans to be considered ahead of foreigners as candidates for managerial and professional positions in banks and other firms.