Home singapore Sworn in as Singapore's 9th President, Tharman pledges to be 'scrupulous and independent' in safeguarding reserves

Sworn in as Singapore's 9th President, Tharman pledges to be 'scrupulous and independent' in safeguarding reserves

Sworn in as Singapore's 9th President, Tharman pledges to be 'scrupulous and independent' in safeguarding reserves
In his inauguration speech, President Tharman Shanmugaratnam pledged to be “scrupulous and independent” in holding the second key to Singapore’s reservesHe also said he will use his strong mandate to work with the Government, community groups and the whole nation to strengthen our multi-racialism and nurture a more inclusive societyAs for Singapore’s interests abroad, President Tharman said he will represent the Republic “in line with the objectives and priorities of the Government”Mr Tharman was sworn in as Singapore’s ninth President at the Istana on Thursday (Sept 14)

By Ng Jun Sen Published September 14, 2023 Updated September 15, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

SINGAPORE — Sworn in as Singapore’s ninth President on Thursday (Sept 14), Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam pledged to be “scrupulous and independent” in making judgements that involve the second key of the reserves, whether in times of crises or in ensuring that Singapore remains a safe and liveable home over the longer term.

He also pledged to use his strong mandate to work with the Government, community groups and the whole nation to “strengthen our multiracialism and nurture a more inclusive society”.

In his inauguration speech, which was televised and streamed live, President Tharman promised to support initiatives that deepen respect for fellow citizens of all backgrounds, stating that “respect for all” — the slogan used during his presidential campaign — is at the heart of Singaporeans’ solidarity. 

“As I stand before you as your newly elected President, I pledge to discharge my duties diligently, faithfully, and to the best of my abilities, for the betterment of Singapore and Singaporeans,” he declared. “I will serve with all my heart.”

He spoke after a busy evening as President-elect, inspecting the guards at the Istana’s ceremonial plaza before taking his oath of office at the State Room. Earlier in the afternoon, outgoing President Halimah Yacob and her husband Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee had also inspected the guards before departing the Istana, the official presidential residence and office.

Also present at the ceremony were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and Mr Tharman’s wife Jane Ittogi Shanmugaratnam. Mr Lee’s spouse, Madam Ho Ching, could not attend the function as she was recovering from a respiratory infection, Mr Lee’s press secretary said in response to media queries.

Mr Tharman secured 70.41 per cent of the votes on Polling Day, while Mr Ng Kok Song, former chief investment officer of sovereign wealth fund GIC,received 15.72 per cent and Mr Tan Kin Lian, former chief executive officer of NTUC Income insurance cooperative, garnered 13.87 per cent of the votes.

Reiterating his post-victory speech, President Tharman on Thursday said that his election was “a vote of confidence in Singapore’s future”, adding that such a future is one where all of Singapore progresses together.

He added that as the head of state, the President holds a non-partisan office and can stand above the political fray.

This is precisely why he can be a symbol of the nation and be effective in uniting all Singaporeans, regardless of race, religion or other differences, he said.

On the use of the country’s financial reserves, he noted that Singapore has drawn on the funds during the Global Financial Crisis in 2009, and again during the Covid-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022.

“Unfortunately, Covid-19 will not be our last crisis. We must gird ourselves for more crises in a far more uncertain and volatile world,” Mr Tharman continued.

“There are also longer-term threats to Singapore’s existence and the lives of future generations. Climate change will be a defining challenge for the world, and especially so for a low-lying island.”

The past reserves are a result of many years of diligent saving, especially in Singapore’s earlier phase of economic development, he said, adding that the reserves have now become “a very significant resource and advantage in securing our future”.

On this, he said that he will be “scrupulous and independent in making judgements that involve the use of the ‘second key’ on our reserves”.

The first and second keys refer to the Government and the presidency working together to unlock financial reserves during a crisis.

“Should the need arise in future to use the reserves to tackle such crises and existential threats, we will weigh the matter carefully. We will have to balance between meeting immediate needs and preserving the reserves so that every generation, now and in the future, enjoys their benefits,” he said.


Apart from the President’s custodial powers, Mr Tharman said that the head of state has to act on the advice on the Cabinet on most matters, including foreign relations.

However, within this framework, there is also “room” for the President to take a special interest in specific issues or champion causes close to his heart, he noted.

Although Singapore has built a cohesive, multiracial society with a high level of trust and unity, it is not assured or permanent, given the “tides of change” occurring in many countries.

With the country’s own society also maturing, people must expect a greater diversity of views and preferences as well.

“We must not allow any of our differences to divide us,” he added. “Now, more than before, we must grow our sense of togetherness as fellow Singaporeans. It will make us a better society and add to our ballast as we face a more turbulent world.”

To this end, he said that he will work to “add depth and resilience” to Singapore’s hard-won multiracialism and to never let this fray. 

This involves strengthening people’s connections and emotional ties with each another, as well as deepening the experience of growing up together. Doing so would enhance mutual respect and appreciation among the people, and would also buttress the Singaporean identity, which Mr Tharman described as the nation’s “most precious asset”.

“As President, I will promote greater interactions between our different communities, even as we ensure the vibrance of our different cultures.” 

He also said that he will continue his life’s purpose of making Singapore a more inclusive and socially just society.

“Government policies have shifted significantly to help us achieve this, and they remain essential. But to build a truly inclusive society, we need something more — that involves all of us.

“We must build a strong culture of kinship and respect, where we empathise with our fellow citizens, bring out the best in each other, and feel that we only truly succeed when we succeed together.”

Mr Tharman pledged to encourage the building of “active community stakeholders” and a thriving civil society to help grow a culture of kinship and respect, and he also  promised to lend active support to the arts and sports.

“We can do more to nourish the soil for ground-up and purpose-driven initiatives to sprout and grow. From giving confidence to disadvantaged youth; to supporting those who need a second or third chance; to helping those among us who face mental health challenges; and to neighbourhood initiatives to support our caregivers and befriend seniors at risk of being lonely,” he said.