President Halimah Yacob: I will use my independent judgment in exercising my custodial powers

Former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob was sworn in today (Sept 14) as Singapore's first woman president. In her speech, she pledged to exercise independent judgment in her role as steward of Singapore's reserves.
President Halimah Yacob (front row, centre), together with (front row, from left) Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, along with other me
President Halimah Yacob (front row, centre), together with (front row, from left) Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, along with other members of Cabinet, at the Istana on Sept 14, 2017.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Madam Halimah Yacob walking out of the hall in the Istana after being sworn in as Singapore's eighth president, on Sept 14, 2017.
Madam Halimah Yacob walking out of the hall in the Istana after being sworn in as Singapore's eighth president, on Sept 14, 2017.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon reacting after Madam Halimah Yacob took her oath of office at the Istana on Sept 14, 2017.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon reacting after Madam Halimah Yacob took her oath of office at the Istana on Sept 14, 2017. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
President Halimah Yacob's husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, and Mrs Lee Hsien Loong walking out of the hall, after the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on Sept 14, 2017.
President Halimah Yacob's husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, and Mrs Lee Hsien Loong walking out of the hall, after the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on Sept 14, 2017.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Madam Halimah Yacob standing between Prime Mininster Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Mininster Teo Chee Hean as they prepare to take a group picture at the Istana, on Sept 14, 2017.
Madam Halimah Yacob standing between Prime Mininster Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Mininster Teo Chee Hean as they prepare to take a group picture at the Istana, on Sept 14, 2017.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Madam Halimah Yacob at the welcome ceremony at the Istana on Thursday, Sept 14, 2017.
Madam Halimah Yacob at the welcome ceremony at the Istana on Thursday, Sept 14, 2017. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Guests watching President Halimah Yacob speaking live on a screen in the Istana's reception room, on Sept 14, 2017.
Guests watching President Halimah Yacob speaking live on a screen in the Istana's reception room, on Sept 14, 2017.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - President Halimah Yacob pledged on Thursday (Sept 14) to exercise independent judgment in her role as steward of Singapore's reserves and the integrity of the public service.

"In exercising my custodial powers, I will use my independent judgment, consulting the Council of Presidential Advisers, and working closely with the Prime Minister and the Government," she said in her inaugural speech after she was sworn in as President at the Istana. She was elected unopposed the previous day.

Besides being a symbol of national unity, the President holds the second key to Singapore's hard-earned reserves and significant appointments in the public service.

President Halimah addressed this aspect of her role when she spoke on stewardship, a value shared by Singaporeans and embodied by the presidency.

She noted that Singaporeans have benefited from the hard work of earlier generations, and inherited a prosperous and well-developed city, a clean and efficient system, and shared values.

"Now it is our responsibility to steward this island-nation well, so we can pass on to future generations a better country, a more robust system and a stronger commitment to our values," she said.

Guarding the reserves and public service

To plan for the future and build for the next generation, Singapore has to invest in its economy and people, President Halimah said.

She cited infrastructure, education and healthcare as programmes that will improve the lives of Singaporeans, make them more productive and create more opportunities for the next generation.

"But they also cost billions of dollars. Budgets will be tight,'' she added.

"We need to grow our economy so as to generate more resources to afford these programmes and investments. We will also need to husband our reserves carefully," she said.

These reserves have been built through the hard work and careful stewardship of successive governments and generations of Singaporeans, she noted.

"Income from the reserves is an important source of government revenue. But the reserves themselves must not be used, except for very good reason," she said.

Another asset of Singapore is its honest and capable public service.

It enables Singapore to perform well as a nation and hold its own against international competitors, President Halimah said.

"I will do my duty to ensure that new appointments to critical posts measure up to our high standards of integrity and ability. The public service must maintain its high quality and standing in order to continue to serve Singapore well," she added.