In the recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen many companies impose pay cuts as well as hiring and salary freezes.
Airlines, hotels, retail and F&B businesses, and even entertainment venues, have taken a massive hit as their revenue plunged.
To curb the spread of COVID-19, the government has also initiated a “circuit breaker” measure, where all non-essential workplaces are mandated to close for a month.
To help Singapore businesses and households tide over this period, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Monday (April 6) the third set of Covid-19 support measures that will cost $5.1 billion.
This Solidarity Budget will also necessitate an additional drawdown of $4 billion from the national reserves, he said.
Workers’ Party (WP) Chief and Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh gained attention when he questioned DPM Heng on the usage of reserves.
In response, Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, said that ahead of presenting the Budget, he had thoroughly discussed it with President Halimah and the Council and they have both asked “very, very good questions.”
This is why President Halimah has pledged in-principle support for the additional draw.
To support the President in her duties as the “second key” to unlock Singapore’s past reserve, the President relies on the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA).
According to The Istana, the role of the CPA is to “advise the President in the exercise of custodial powers … to safeguard Singapore’s past reserves and the integrity of the public service.”
“It is obligatory for the President to consult the CPA when exercising the discretionary powers related to all fiscal and appointment-related matters.”
In other words, the President of Singapore has to consult the Council whenever the national reserves have to be activated.
Currently, there are 10 members serving in the Council. Here are the individuals who make up the Council of Presidential Advisers:
Eddie Teo (Chairman)
Eddie Teo became a Member in August 2018 and then the Chairman of the Council on 2 January 2019.
He is currently a Senior Advisor of Temasek International Advisors Pte Ltd, Pro-Chancellor of Singapore Management University (SMU), Distinguished Fellow of School of Social Sciences, SMU and a Director of Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellowship.
The Chairman of the CPA also exercises the functions of the Office of the President in the absence of the President. If he is unavailable, this duty falls on the Speaker of Parliament.
S Dhanabalan was a high-profile political leader in Singapore in the 1980s who held several cabinet positions in the 1980s and early 1990s under prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.
During his tenure at the Ministry of Finance from 1960 to 1968, he helped to form the Economic Development Board and DBS Bank.
He subsequently left the Civil Service and joined DBS as a Vice-President from 1968 to 1970. He was promoted to the position of Executive Vice-President and continued to serve from 1970 to 1978
He has been a Member of the CPA since January 2004.
Po’ad Bin Shaik Abu Bakar Mattar
Po’ad Bin Shaik Abu Bakar Mattar started serving as a Member of the CPA in January 2007.
He also serves as a Director of NIE International Private Limited, Hong Leong Finance Limited and Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd. On top of that, he is also the Chairman and Member of the Board of Trustees of Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation Ltd.
Mr Po’ad Mattar has been appointed Pro-Chancellor of National University of Singapore since May 2012.
Goh Joon Seng
A former Supreme Court Judge, Goh Joon Seng currently serves as the Chairperson of the Panel under the Legal Profession (Amendment) Act, Director of Woh Hup Trust, Chairman of the Competition Appeal Board, Chairman of the Independent Review Panel and other key positions in legal bodies.
He has been a Member of the CPA since January 2008.
Lim Chee Onn
Lim Chee Onn chairs the Singapore-Suzhou Township Development Pte Ltd and is an Honorary Chairman of the National Heritage Board. He serves in key positions at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (Asia) Ltd.
He serves key positions in universities, as the Pro-Chancellor of the Singapore Management University, Chairman of the Lien Ying Chow Legacy Fellowship Council, Nanyang Technological University and Senior Adviser to the University of Glasgow in Singapore.
He has been a Member of the CPA since April 2017.
Stephen Lee Ching Yen
Stephen Lee Ching Yen is the Chairman of Shanghai Commercial Bank (Hong Kong), Tripartite Alliance Limited and Deputy Chairman of M+S Pte Ltd (Singapore).
He also serves key positions in Shanghai Commercial & Savings Bank Ltd (Taipei), GMT Investments Pte Ltd, Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd, and so on.
He has been a Member of the CPA since April 2017.
Chua Thian Poh
Chua Thian Poh is currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ho Bee Group, a real estate development and investment company in Singapore.
Being actively involved in the community and social services, he serves on the boards of several other companies and community organisations, such as the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, Board of Trustee of Chinese Development Assistance Council and Ren Ci Hospital.
He has been a Member of the CPA since January 2019.
Bahren Shaari is the Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Singapore, the private banking subsidiary of OCBC Bank. He has more than 30 years of banking experience.
He has been a non-executive and independent director of Singapore Press Holdings since April 2012.
He has been a permanent member of the Council of Presidential Advisers since January 2020 and served as an alternate member from April 2017 to January 2020.
Chua Sock Koong
Chua Sock Koong is the Group CEO of Singapore Telecommunications Limited (Singtel), Asia’s leading communications technology group.
She is also the Deputy Chairman of the Public Service Commission and a member of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council.
She has been an Alternate Member of the CPA since January 2019.
Mildred Tan-Sim Beng Mei
Mildred Tan-Sim Beng Mei is currently the Chairperson of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and Co-Chair for the Council for Board Diversity (CBD) and a Board member of Gardens by the Bay, Community Foundation of Singapore Charity Council among other government affiliated Boards and Councils.
She is also on the Board of Directors of Wing Tai Holdings and AIA Singapore and has been an Alternate Member of the CPA since January 2020.
How Did They Qualify?
Trawling through this list, it’s clear to see that the CPA is made up of leading individuals who have served in various key roles in the public and private sectors.
But how did they qualify to be a member of the CPA?
According to qualifying criteria set out in the Constitution, prospective nominees to the CPA must be Singapore citizens aged 35 and above who reside in Singapore.
They must also not be of unsound mind, insolvent or undischarged bankrupts, or been convicted by court and sentenced to a jail term exceeding one year or a fine above S$2,000.
The President and Prime Minister each nominate two appointees, with the Chief Justice and Chairman of the Public Service Commission each nominating one appointee.
Meanwhile, the two alternate members is individually appointed by the President and nominated by the Prime Minister.
Featured Image Credit: Mdm Halimah Yacob’s Facebook Page