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Netizens question Mdm Halimah’s role in reserves withdrawal decision and oversight of former PAP colleagues

Mdm Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s 8th President, stressed the “robust and intense” of discussions on tapping into the nation’s reserves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, questions linger about her role in the decision and her capacity to oversee former PAP colleagues. Bertha Henson, former Associate Editor of The Straits Times, highlighted that Mdm Halimah did not address whether she had discussed the potential replenishment of reserves.



SINGAPORE: In a comprehensive interview with state media Channel News Asia, Mdm Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s 8th President, elaborated on the challenges and intense discussions surrounding the decision to draw on the nation’s reserves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had many, many meetings. And those meetings actually don’t just (last) half an hour. They lasted a few hours because we need to ask questions, we need to be satisfied, we wanted more information,” Mdm Halimah detailed.

She reflected on the gravity of the situation, as Singapore was poised to make its most significant withdrawal from its reserves since the 2009 global financial crisis.

Back then, Singapore extracted S$4.9 billion (US$3.6 billion) to support the economy. Fast forward to the pandemic years between 2020 and 2022, and Singapore had to tap into about S$40 billion from the reserves to combat the unprecedented crisis.

Despite the logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mdm Halimah shared that discussions on the reserves were conducted rigorously with half of the participants in separate rooms and others joining via Zoom.

The deliberations were marked by a high level of respect for each other’s roles, ensuring a “very thorough” process during this critical crisis.

Mdm Halimah stressed, “We have our role to protect the reserves and to make sure that the government’s request is reasonable.”

“I’m very clear in my mind, I’m only authorized to release past reserves for very exceptional circumstances,” she emphasized.

She grappled with the weighty responsibility of assessing the government’s request to utilize reserves for pandemic support, ultimately recognizing the dire necessity due to the dual health and economic crisis.

She offered a glimpse into her decision-making process, describing it as a “very intense process.”

Mdm Halimah recalled the rigorous briefings with ministers and officials, where she would prod them with questions to justify the funds they requested. “If you say the health situation is critical, what do you mean by that? Hospitals, if you say it’s going to be overwhelmed, what do you mean by that?”

The meticulous process ensured the government presented a clear breakdown of their needs.

“Once they provide that, then we understand better the situation, then we can talk about whether we want to support the government’s request to draw down the past reserves.”

Mdm Halimah’s unconventional path to Presidency raises questions of independence and public representation

Mdm Halimah’s presidential election was somewhat controversial because it was the first reserved race election.

In the backdrop of her term, Mdm Halimah’s rapid transition from a prominent member of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 2017 as both a Member of Parliament and Speaker of Parliament to her role as the non-partisan President in just over a month had garnered significant attention.

Questions arose about her ability to act independently from the PAP and serve as an effective check on the government.

Her being the sole eligible candidate in the presidential race – after two potential candidates from the Malay community were disqualified – had left many Singaporeans shocked, feeling deprived of their political voice.

The President receives the same monthly salary as the Prime Minister, which includes the 13th month and the annual variable component, but excludes the performance and national bonuses. This totals S$1.54 million.

Henson: Tendency to glorify a person at the end of the term

When discussing the CNA’s interview with Halimah, Bertha Henson, the former Associate Editor of The Straits Times, pointed out that Mdm Halimah did not address whether she had discussed the potential replenishment of reserves.

Ms Henson found this omission unusual, given the importance of preserving resources for future generations.

Additionally, there was no mention of whether Mdm Halimah’s lack of financial expertise posed any challenges or clarification about the role played by her Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) in financial matters.

“I think the tendency is for us always to glorify a person at the end of the term. Rather than ask hard questions.”

Netizens scrutinize Mdm Halimah’s involvement in reserves withdrawal decision

Commenting on CNA’s Facebook post and official TikTok account, numerous netizens raised valid concerns regarding Mdm Halimah’s role in the decision to withdraw the reserves.

They questioned whether she had voiced objections to her former colleagues when disagreements arose with the current government’s choices.

Additionally, some comments called for Mdm Halimah to provide a detailed account of her contributions to Singapore, as many believe that transparency is essential to assess her performance during her term.

Netizens express scepticism over the President’s ability to oversee her former colleagues

One comment astutely highlights the striking contrast between Mdm Halimah, a former member of the PAP, winning the presidency in a walkover election in 2017, and the fact that the Prime Minister also hails from the ruling party, the PAP.

This raises the question of the effectiveness of a President in a situation where it may seem like a case of “ownself checking ownself.”

Considering the limited power held by Singapore’s President, certain netizens have raised more probing questions about the extent of Mdm Halimah’s involvement in the decision to access past reserves.

Some have even questioned whether these decisions were primarily made by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, prompting queries regarding whether Mdm Halimah had voiced objections to the government’s recommendations.

A netizen pointed out that Mdm Halimah’s role appears to be more about monitoring processes rather than making decisive policies on significant issues.

Another netizen expressed the sentiment that they couldn’t recall any substantial contributions made by the current president over the past 5 or 6 years, possibly due to the limited authority within her role.

She pointed out that the president does not have significant authority to protect the nation’s reserves.

In the event the president was to reject a proposal to access reserves (which they believe is unlikely with the current president),  the proposal would likely return to parliament for further action.


Parliament may overrule the President’s decision with two-thirds majority vote

In fact, In addition to its ceremonial role, the President is required to seek the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) on all fiscal matters related to Singapore’s reserves and the appointment or removal of key public service officials and Fifth Schedule entities.

In other areas involving the President’s discretionary powers, consultation with CPA is optional.

If the President vetoes any fiscal matter touching on Singapore’s reserves or the appointment/removal of any key office holder in the public service or Fifth Schedule entity, and the President’s decision is contrary to CPA’s advice, Parliament may overrule the President’s decision with a two-thirds majority vote.

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We had many, many meetings. And those meetings actually don’t just (last) half an hour. They lasted a few hours because we need to ask questions …

I guess her questions were …
(1) “Is it really necessary?
(2) “Sign where?

And those lasted a few hours.

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they have been so seriously dumb in handling the pandemic . the early signs were there.But instead they thought it will be like SARS…d one stupid MP said : dont need to wear mask.. ect ect.. the situation then ballooned to big proportion they start waking up. … … When u see a pandemic just breaking out.. what u should do is close all entry into the country..and deal with those already infected through isolation

State controlled media claimed in the news that it’s 73 billion and now u claim is 40 billions ? U all dont even have the sums consistent how? Worst is that there is no detailed report on how the sums breakdown. In this view , what’s the role of the president then when it’s not transparent

. COVID pandemic cost 40 billion? This figure is already questionable . Does the president have any financial advisors to assess the amounts presented to her ?

How is Tharman gonna outperform herlimah ?

“…Back then, Singapore extracted S$4.9 billion (US$3.6 billion) to support the economy. Fast forward to the pandemic years between 2020 and 2022, and Singapore had to tap into about S$40 billion from the reserves to combat the unprecedented crisis...” ———————– So, actually how much of our reserves was actually drawn during the covid period VERSUS how much was actually used to combat the covid situation. Recall a sia suay minister said during the covid that they already drew about 90b from the reserves; another minister indicated “close to 100b”. Yet now mentioned only about 40b to combat the crisis. So… Read more »

Tomorrow the Mee Rebus stall will resume operations after the hiatus for 6 years and teh Prata Stall will instaed sell Pineapple.

Jia liao nasi lemak not-my-presdamn. A puppet is more useful and more productive than this useless not-my-presidamn.

The Greatest Lie & Crime Against Humanity!

Bye bye !!!

Forever remember you.: Eat Fish is Chicken is Expensive.

Goodbye and good riddance Madam

Look at the number of Covid-19 test kits and face masks given to all households, numbering over a million, just imagine how much wastage beside setting up ad-hoc centres to house close contact, or paying tonnes of money to hotels, etc to house these people. And how much public money were given out to businesses and corporations due to Covid-19 disruptions? A number of these companies are huge with revenue or assets in the tens, hundreds of millions $ or billions. Now we ordinary citizens and businesses are paying for all these sometime lavish and huge wastage expenditures for years… Read more »

Let’s be honest. So long as the President and the government of the day originate from the same political party, no matter how they try to spin it, the fact remains both are “of one mind”. This, notwithstanding the standout Ong Teng Cheong situation. Can we assume that since HY agreed to dip into the past reserves, she was in a position to know the then current status of the reserves and thus be able to determine whether doing so would endanger the future with a lessened reserves? If she did not know the status of the reserves, how then… Read more »

70.4% have spoken. Its a hopeless case

Anyway pineapple lovers already voted.

Time to have a spine !!!

Nowadays you think they talk about responsibilities? Whose money is it? Isn’t it tax payers money?

Food cost rising? High cost of living? You think they what they gave its enough? Why increase cost in the first place?

Nice spin by Halimah but watered down by Bertha.
Hmmm, wonder what she is going to do with $12M paycheck.
Now, it looks like Singaporeans will give 1/3 seats to Oppositions.
Thanks to Makcik & Lee.

Seriously, … what d’ya expect any interview to yield, if it’s conducted, recorded and broadcasted via a “state tool” !!!

“Comprehensive” wouldn’t be my description of the “wayanged” interview !!!

Enjoy the show people, … especially, having your leg pulled and pockets emptied, if you’re not careful !!!

All these are but their usual antics and rhetorics under their banner. Her watch is over as water under the bridge -a non event as when she was appointed 6 years ago. Perhaps the 70% over will give her a standing ovation. More importantly is for everyone to keep a log on the present incumbent as to how he is going to uplift and unify the citizens.

Noticed the local ” compliant ” media have been singing praises on how robust HY were when deliberating drawdown of SG’s reserves to save SG and all true blue 💙 SG’s during the pandemic and HY being role models of SG’s many little girls.Why now and not immediately after the pandemic??Hope the “independent thinking” just minted SG’s most popular President TS can look into why SG citizens only received just only S$600.00cents each from that hugh drawdown of. S$40,000,000,000.00cents made after that “robust discussion” undertaken by HY.TS should look into this case and let those voters who supported him know… Read more »

Why is there a need to write or discuss the presidency?
Approval granted upon advice by CPA and the Government ( PAP’s)

70% already won.
No need for debate.
Why need to debate with the 30%?
Does not even involve USA or UK or anyone outside.

Why need to write up in media..?

PAP already won.
Who wants to read all this shit?

Just annoying the 30% who falls for this goading every time..