Tharman receives international leadership award for contributions to global economy

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was speaking at a conference on reducing inequality in advanced economies organised by the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC.
Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was speaking at a conference on reducing inequality in advanced economies organised by the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

WASHINGTON - Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has received an award for his contributions to global financial governance and public service from an international finance industry association.

The Institute of International Finance (IIF) awarded him and Bank of England governor Mark Carney its first Distinguished Leadership and Service Award on Thursday (Oct 17).

The award recognises individuals who have made distinguished and sustained contributions to the health of the global economy and financial system through their leadership, the IIF said in a statement. 

The finance industry’s global association is based in Washington DC. It has more than 450 members from over 70 countries, including commercial and investment banks, sovereign wealth funds, central banks and development banks. 

IIF president and chief executive Timothy Adams presented Mr Tharman the award at the association’s annual meeting in Washington.

Said Mr Adams: “You’re a visionary, there’s no doubt about it, and you should be recognised as a leading proponent of global reforms to de-risk and grow development finance and to achieve more resilient capital flows.

“Your ability to see around the corner and consider both the economic implications and the possibilities from the senior banker’s perspective is incredibly unique and highly valued, and everybody around the world recognises your unique skills and talents.” 

Mr Tharman, who is in Washington until Sunday for the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, said in a statement: “It is my privilege to receive this award from the IIF. It is to the credit of my colleagues at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and in the Singapore Government, and internationally, whom I have been working with to build resilient and growth-oriented financial markets. 

“There is still much to be done to put in place the cooperative international networks and global financial reforms needed for more inclusive and sustainable growth.”
Mr Tharman is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. 

He currently chairs the Group of 30, a group of leading economists and policymakers from around the world.


In a wide-ranging fireside chat with Mr Adams after receiving the award, Mr Tharman said that what was truly unusual in the global economy today was a confluence of different uncertainties, ranging from geopolitical to domestic political concerns, such as the future evolution of liberal democracies.

“We’re profoundly concerned. The prospect of a bifurcation, fragmentation of global supply chains, the way in which tech adds value and creates productivity, is a fundamental uncertainty now facing the global economy,” said Mr Tharman.

Investment is also weak across the global economy because of this confluence of uncertainties that cannot be priced and are dampening investment in a whole set of sectors, he added.

Mr Tharman also warned of what he called slow-burn issues, such as climate change mitigation, the renewal of infrastructure and the pensions crisis – meaning the future inability of governments to fund their public pension systems. 

“It’s a looming crisis across the advanced world, and defined contribution and democratisation of pensions hasn’t worked out the way it was meant to,” he said. “A slow-burn issue, but slow-burning issues eventually end up in a fire.

“There’s a massive need to address the slow-burn pensions crisis, because it’s unsustainable and if we don’t sort it out, it’s going to pose an inequitable burden on the next generation,” he said. 

He called these profound uncertainties over the future – as well as the profound denial over the nature of the problem – a global issue.

Addressing these issues requires a long-term orientation in fiscal policy, but such an orientation is possible only with “faith in the centre of politics”, he said.

“Without trust in politics and institutions, it’s very hard to take a long-term perspective of things. Things reduce themselves to what happens in the next elections.”

But such trust has to be created and earned with policies for inclusive growth – effectively, a new social contract, he added.