Tony Tan is a Singaporean politician who served as the country's seventh president from 2011 to 2017. He was also a former deputy prime minister, defense minister, finance minister, education minister, and trade and industry minister. He was born in Singapore on February 7, 1940, to a Chinese immigrant family. He attended the Universities of Singapore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Adelaide. Before entering politics in 1979, he worked as a general manager at OCBC Bank. In 2011, he won the presidential election by a slim margin of 0.34%. He is billionaire banker Wee Cho Yaw's uncle.
Tony Tan was born in Singapore on February 7, 1940, to a Chinese immigrant family. His father worked in banking, and his mother worked as a housewife. He grew up in Geylang with three siblings in a modest home. He went to St Patrick's School and St Joseph's Institution, where he excelled academically and participated in extracurricular activities like debating, chess, and sports. From a young age, he was also interested in politics and current events.
Tony Tan attended the University of Singapore, where he received a scholarship and graduated with a bachelor's degree in physics in 1962. In 1964, he received a master's degree in operations research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1968, he also received a doctorate in applied mathematics from the University of Adelaide. He was Singapore's first PhD recipient in mathematics. From 1964 to 1969, he returned to Singapore and taught physics and mathematics at the University of Singapore. From 1980 to 1981, he served as the university's vice-chancellor.
Tony Tan began his career as a physics and mathematics lecturer at the University of Singapore from 1964 to 1969. In 1969, he became a general manager at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC). In 1977, he rose through the ranks to become executive director. He was in charge of the bank's operations, investments, and international business. He was also the chairman of both OCBC Securities and OCBC Asset Management.
Tony Tan entered politics in 1979, when he was elected to the People's Action Party (PAP) as a member of parliament for Sembawang SMC. In the same year, he was appointed as a senior minister of state for education. He joined Singapore's Cabinet in 1980 and held various portfolios over the years, including:
As a minister, he initiated and carried out numerous policies and reforms that aided Singapore's economic and social development. Among his accomplishments are:
- Minister for Trade and Industry (1980-1986)
- Minister for Finance (1983-1985)
- Minister for Education (1980-1981, 1985-1991)
- Minister for Health (1985-1986)
- Minister for Defence (1995-2003)
- Deputy Prime Minister (1995-2005)
From 1993 to 2004, he was also the chairman of the PAP, where he oversaw the party's organization, recruitment, and outreach. From 1980 to 1981, he was the vice-chancellor of the University of Singapore, where he oversaw the merger with Nanyang University to form the National University of Singapore.
- Creating the Skills Development Fund and the Economic Development Assistance Scheme to improve workers' skills and productivity.
- Creating the National Computer Board and promoting the use of information technology in a variety of industries.
- Enforcing the bilingual policy and expanding educational opportunities for all students, particularly those from low-income families.
- Establishing the Edusave Scheme and School Advisory Committees in order to encourage parental involvement and community support for schools.
- Implementing the Total Defence concept and bolstering Singapore's defense capabilities and readiness.
- Leading the Singapore 21 vision and involving the public in shaping the city-state's future.
Tony Tan resigned from his Cabinet posts and parliamentary seat in 2006 to become chairman of OCBC Bank. He also became the chairman of Singapore Press Holdings, the National Research Foundation, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, the Deputy Chairman of Temasek Holdings, and a director of a number of other corporations.
He decided to run for president as an independent candidate in 2011. He won by a slim margin of 0.34% over his closest competitor, Tan Cheng Bock. On September 1, 2011, he was sworn in as Singapore's seventh president.
As president, he had custodial authority over Singapore's reserves and key appointments. He was also an advocate for a number of causes, including education, social cohesion, volunteerism, philanthropy, innovation, and environmental sustainability. He launched a number of initiatives, including:
He also entertained many foreign dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth II, Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe, Francois Hollande, and Angela Merkel. He also traveled to China, India, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Vatican City, the United Kingdom, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Chile on state visits.
- The President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award honors social enterprises that have a positive social impact.
- The President's Award for Teachers, which recognizes outstanding educators who inspire their students and colleagues.
- The President's Science and Technology Awards, which recognize outstanding research and innovation in science and technology.
- The President's Environmental Award, given to organizations that exhibit environmental leadership and best practices.
- The President's Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards honor individuals and organizations that make significant contributions to society through volunteerism and philanthropy.
On August 31, 2017, he completed his six-year presidency. On September 14, 2017, he was succeeded by Halimah Yacob.
"The president is a president for all Singaporeans. Not only for those who have voted for me, but even for those who have not voted for me." ~ Tony Tan
"I plan to work my utmost for Singaporeans, whatever be their political affiliation. The presidency is above politics." ~ Tony Tan
"I will work in partnership with the Government, all political parties, and civil society to safeguard and advance the future of all Singaporeans." ~ Tony Tan
"Whatever initiatives we launch, we must always put the interests of Singaporeans and Singapore first." ~ Tony Tan
"Singapore is an international city, and it would be a grave mistake to close our doors." ~ Tony Tan
"Singapore is a natural gateway for international firms looking to access Asia and for Asian businesses to access the world."~ Tony Tan
"Every clinical encounter is an opportunity to generate social capital. Even in situations where patient needs are complex or seemingly insurmountable, it is the empathy and goodwill which makes the difference" ~ Tony Tan
Tony Tan is a Singaporean politician who served as the country's seventh president from 2011 to 2017. He was also a former deputy prime minister, defense minister, finance minister, education minister, and trade and industry minister. Before entering politics in 1979, he earned a PhD in applied mathematics and worked as a general manager at OCBC Bank. He is billionaire banker Wee Cho Yaw's uncle. Through his policies and reforms, he has made significant contributions to Singapore's economic and social development. He has also advocated for a variety of causes, including education, social cohesion, volunteerism, philanthropy, innovation, and environmental sustainability. For his accomplishments and leadership, he has received numerous awards and honors.
"Families represent the basic building blocks of our society, and primary care a foundational piece of any healthcare system."~ Tony Tan
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