On Friday morning, Mr Tan Kin Lian, the former CEO of Income and a contender in the 2011 presidential race, unveiled his decision to step into the ring for the forthcoming presidential elections, setting the stage for a political showdown.
Addressing the media, Mr Tan Kin Lian shed light on two critical duties he sees as paramount for his potential role as President.
Regarding the safeguarding of our vast reserves, he stated, “Given the scale of our past reserves, which could be in the range of hundreds of billions or more, their investment strategy is crucial. We aim for long-term gains, over at least five years, while mitigating high risks.”
He emphasized collaborating with professional investment managers, outlining a strategy that ensures optimum returns.
Mr Tan Kin Lian also addressed concerns many Singaporeans have shared over the significant losses experienced by our sovereign funds in the previous year.
“We must understand that these values fluctuate with the global economic climate,” he explained, cautioning against the pitfalls of retrospective analysis without a full understanding of the conditions influencing those decisions.
Yet, he emphasized the importance of extracting lessons from these fluctuations. “We must identify and internalize these lessons, to refine our policy-making and operations in the future. While the board will be hands-on in monitoring, I plan to offer advice and direction in our investment approach.”
Further, Mr Tan Kin Lian emphasized using the past reserves judiciously for the betterment of current and future generations, pledging to cooperate with the government on this.
Switching gears to discuss the appointments at the top echelons of our public service, he opined, “While academic excellence is valuable, we must equally acknowledge the rich insights that come with on-ground experience accumulated over years.”
Mr Tan Kin Lian envisions a diverse team, blending scholarly prowess with hands-on expertise. “In endorsing appointments to upper-tier public service roles,” he concluded, “I’ll consider both educational and practical credentials, ensuring those with years of service also find pathways to leadership.”
In a heartfelt reflection, Mr Tan Kin Lian shared insights from his personal journey. “Born and raised in a humble environment, my 75-year-long journey has kept me deeply connected with the everyday Singaporean. Their struggles, their dreams – I’ve been a witness to it all,” he expressed.
If bestowed with the honour of serving as President, Mr Tan Kin Lian committed to retaining this bond. “It’s by staying attuned to the very pulse and heartbeat of our people that I believe I can fulfill the responsibilities of the office in the most effective way,” he added.
At the press conference, Mr Tan Kin Lian was flanked by Mr Tan Jee Say, his proposer, and Mr Lim Tean, leader of People’s Voice and his seconder. Both, in their spirited speeches, made a strong case for Mr Tan Kin Lian’s candidacy.
Mr Tan Jee Say, who previously stood against Mr Tan Kin Lian in the 2011 elections, elucidated on the importance of Mr Tan Kin Lian’s leadership qualities.
He pointed out the profound courage it takes for a candidate to return after a loss, emphasizing, “For someone who lost his deposit in the 2011 presidential election 12 years ago, to stand again is nothing short of valiant.” – Mr Tan Kin Lin had secured only 4.9% of the vote in the 2011 Presidential Election while Mr Tan Jee Say won 25.04%.
Mr Tan Jee Say reflected on his history with Mr Tan Kin Lian. “It’s significant to remember that I was one of his adversaries in the 2011 Presidential Election,” he mused.
“Yet, for him to reach out and ask me to be his proposer, it’s a testament to his humility and broad-mindedness.” Mr Tan Jee Say further expressed confidence that, if elected, Mr Tan Kin Lian would carry this same spirit of humility and bravery, ensuring he listens to diverse perspectives and genuinely serves the Singaporean populace.
In his endorsement of Mr Tan Kin Lian’s candidacy for the Presidency, Mr Tan Jee Say lays significant emphasis on Kin Lian’s qualifications, painting a picture of a candidate not only well-suited for the role but also one who surpasses the stipulated requirements.
One of the most notable highlights is Mr Tan Kin Lian’s tenure as the CEO of NTUC Income, a position he held from 1977 to 2007. Under his leadership, the organization not only sustained but flourished, boasting of a shareholder equity surpassing $500 million during the last three years of his helm, and consistently turning a profit throughout his 30-year leadership.
Besides former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who announced his bid for the upcoming presidential election and qualifies outright under the public sector criteria, two other presidential aspirants – entrepreneur George Goh and former GIC investment chief Ng Kok Song – do not meet the high standards set for candidates from the private sector.
They will likely rely on the discretion of the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC), even though this is not permitted under the constitution amended in 2016.
Recalling his experiences with Mr Tan Kin Lian, Mr Lim brought to light his progressive and innovative ideas from the mid-90s when he was a board member of POSB.
“His overriding objective,” said Mr Lim, “was always to improve the lives of his fellow Singaporeans.”
Mr Lim also voiced the collective disillusionment felt by Singaporeans due to past uncontested presidential elections, advocating for the imperative need of an independent President, untied to governmental or governmental-linked entities.
He elaborated, “The President, armed with a mandate from the masses and the office’s prestige, is uniquely positioned to offer the government insights on policies and their implications for Singaporeans.”
Drawing parallels with the UK’s system, Mr Lim stated, “Singapore’s governmental structure is reminiscent of Britain’s Westminster model. Just as the British Monarch—though devoid of executive authorities—routinely shares perspectives with the Prime Minister, our President can similarly engage in constructive dialogues.”
In emphasizing the need for an assertive leader, Mr Lim commended Mr Tan Kin Lian, “I believe Singaporeans seek a President like Mr Tan Kin Lian, who is proactive in advocating for their welfare, rather than someone who merely aligns with every governmental decree.”
When questioned about his proclaimed independence in light of his past association with the PAP as a former member, Mr Tan Kin Lian stated, “I am indeed proud of my contributions to the PAP during its early years, a time when it clearly resonated with a substantial portion of the public.”
He observed a shift in the party’s ethos, remarking, “The present-day PAP seems to lean more towards elite interests, sidelining the concerns of ordinary citizens.” This transformation prompted his departure from the party a decade and a half ago.
Reflecting on his 2011 presidential bid, Mr Tan acknowledged, “Perhaps 2011 wasn’t the right moment for me.” However, with a competent team rallying behind him for the 2023 elections, he is optimistic about his prospects. “Yet,” he added, “we must remain diligent and persistent in our efforts.”
The upcoming presidential election must be held by 13 September, marking the end of Madam Halimah Yacob’s six-year term. Since almost all elections take place on Saturdays, polling day is anticipated to be on 9 September.
The writ of election is expected to be announced within the next week, and the deadline for aspiring candidates to apply for the Certificate of Eligibility is five days after the Writ is issued.
In 2017, Mdm Halimah was appointed president through a walkover during the controversial reserved race election, after two potential candidates from the private sector were denied the COE by the PEC for not meeting the criteria.