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Vivian Balakrishnan

Vivian Balakrishnan
விவியன் பாலகிருஷ்ணன்
Balakrishnan in 2023
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Assumed office
1 October 2015
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Second MinisterJosephine Teo (2017)
Maliki Osman
(2020–present)
Preceded byK. Shanmugam
Acting Minister for Transport
In office
25 February 2019 – 5 April 2019
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byKhaw Boon Wan
Succeeded byKhaw Boon Wan
Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative
In office
2014–2021
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJosephine Teo
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources
In office
21 May 2011 – 30 September 2015
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Second MinisterGrace Fu
(2012–2015)
Preceded byYaacob Ibrahim
Succeeded byMasagos Zulkifli
Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts
In office
30 May 2006 – 31 March 2008
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
MinisterLee Boon Yang
(2003–2009)
Second Minister for Trade and Industry
In office
1 April 2005 – 29 May 2006
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
MinisterLim Hng Kiang
(2004–2018)
Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports
In office
12 August 2004 – 20 May 2011
Acting: 12 August 2004 – 31 March 2005
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byYaacob Ibrahim
Succeeded byChan Chun Sing
Member of Parliament
for
Assumed office
27 April 2006
Preceded byConstituency established
Majority34,991 (32.72%)
Member of Parliament
for
In office
4 November 2001 – 27 April 2006
Preceded byLim Boon Heng (PAP)
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born1961 (age 62–63)[1]
State of Singapore
Political partyPeople's Action Party
SpouseJoy Balakrishnan
Children4
Alma materNational University of Singapore (MBBS)
Occupation
  • Politician
  • diplomat
  • ophthalmologist

Vivian Balakrishnan (Tamil: விவியன் பாலகிருஷ்ணன், romanized: Viviyaṉ Pālakiruṣṇaṉ; born 1961)[1] is a Singaporean politician, diplomat and former ophthalmologist who has been serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2015. A member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), he has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Cashew division of Holland–Bukit Timah GRC since 2006, and previously the Ulu Pandan division of Holland–Bukit Panjang GRC between 2001 and 2006.

He previously served as Second Minister for Trade and Industry between 2005 and 2006, Minister for Community, Youth and Sports between 2005 and 2011, Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts between 2006 and 2008, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources between 2011 and 2015, and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative between 2014 and 2017.

A President's Scholar, Balakrishnan studied medicine at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore and underwent postgraduate specialist training in ophthalmology before he was admitted as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. From 1999 to 2002, he served as the commanding officer of the Second Combat Support Hospital of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), while holding the positions of medical director of the Singapore National Eye Centre and chief executive officer of the Singapore General Hospital concurrently.[2]

Balakrishnan made his political debut in the 2001 general election as part of a five-member PAP team contesting in Holland–Bukit Panjang GRC and won by an uncontested walkover.[3] He was subsequently appointed as Minister of State for National Development in 2002, and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry in 2004.[1]

Early life and education

Vivian Balakrishnan was born in 1961 in Singapore to an Indian Tamil father and a Chinese mother with ancestry from Fuqing, Fujian.[4]

He was educated at Anglo-Chinese School and National Junior College before he was conferred the President's Scholarship in 1980 to study medicine at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore. He served two terms as the president of the NUS Student Union, and later the chairman of the union council.

Balakrishnan chose a postgraduate specialisation in ophthalmology and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1991.[citation needed]

Medical career

Balakrishnan had worked at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London between 1993 and 1995 as a specialist senior registrar, where he subspecialised in paediatric ophthalmology.

When Balakrishnan returned to Singapore, he became a consultant ophthalmologist at the Singapore National Eye Centre and National University Hospital, and an associate professor of ophthalmology at the National University of Singapore in 1998.

In 1999, he became the medical director of the Singapore National Eye Centre, and later the chief executive officer of the Singapore General Hospital in 2000.[5] Balakrishnan was also the commanding officer of the 2nd Combat Support Hospital of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) between 1999 and 2002.

In the 1990s, he hosted the series Health Matters on Singapore television.[6]

Political career

Balakrishnan with Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop in 2017
Balakrishnan speaking at the 2018 East Asia Summit

Balakrishnan made his political debut in the 2001 general election as part of the five-member PAP team contesting in Holland–Bukit Panjang GRC and won by an uncontested walkover.[7] He was subsequently appointed Minister of State for National Development, and Chairman of the Remaking Singapore Committee in 2002. He was later appointed Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry in 2004.[8]

In 2004, Balakrishnan was appointed acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports. He was made a full member of the Cabinet in 2005.[8]

During the 2006 general election, Balakrishnan was part of a five-member PAP team led by Lim Swee Say, contesting in Holland–Bukit Timah GRC and won by an uncontested walkover.[9][10]

During a Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on 9 March 2007 regarding the estimates of expenditure for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, Lily Neo asked Balakrishnan whether the ministry would consider raising the Public Assistance rates for the purpose of ensuring recipients are able to have three meals a day, to which Balakrishnan replied with "How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?"[11][12][13]

As Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Balakrishnan raised the public assistance scheme from $260 for a single-person household in 2007, to $400 for a single-person household in 2011.[14]

During the 2011 general election, Balakrishnan led the four-member PAP team which includes Liang Eng Hwa, Christopher de Souza and Sim Ann contesting in Holland–Bukit Timah GRC and won 60.1% of the vote.[15] This was the first time Holland–Bukit Timah GRC were being contested since its formation in 2001.[16]

During the political campaign for the 2011 general election, Balakrishnan said that the candidates from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) did not have any plans for the constituency, and their selection of Holland–Bukit Timah GRC was an opportunistic act.[17] He suggested that they were trying to suppress a certain YouTube video featuring a member of their team[18] and that it raised questions about their agenda and motivation.[19][20] It was later discovered that the video included Vincent Wijeysingha at a forum discussing issues surrounding gay rights and section 377A of the Penal Code in Singapore.[21][22] The PAP team issued a statement asking the SDP team whether they were pursuing a "gay agenda".[20][23] The SDP denied it, saying that they were not pursuing the gay agenda[22] and the issue was put to rest.[23][24] The PAP drew criticism from internet users in Singapore for their election strategy.[25]

At the same election, the SDP candidates raised the issue of government spending for the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics, which Balakrishnan had overseen as Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, saying that the budget exceeded the initial estimates of S$104 million by over three times.[26][27] Balakrishnan acknowledged that they had got the initial estimates wrong as it was the first time that an event of that scale was organised in Singapore.[26] He asserted that the increased budget did not affect other programmes of the ministry, and that 70% of the spending for the event went into paying local firms for their services.[28] He declared that his team had spent less than the finalised budget amount and did not waste money.[26][28]

On 21 May 2011, Balakrishnan was appointed Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, taking over from Yaacob Ibrahim.[29] After the 2015 general election, Balakrishnan was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.[30]

In response to a parliamentary question on 5 January 2021 regarding the use of data from the contact tracing app developed during the COVID-19 pandemic known as TraceTogether, the Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan replied that under the Criminal Procedure Code, the Police can access TraceTogether data for the purpose of criminal investigations,[31] despite Balakrishnan's assurance to the public 8 months earlier in June 2020 that TraceTogether data will only be used for contact tracing purposes.[32] Balakrishnan later said in Parliament "I take full responsibility for this mistake. And I deeply regret the consternation and anxiety caused".[33]

In September 2021, during a debate in Parliament about the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, a hot mic picked up Balakrishnan referring to NCMP Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party as "illiterate" and questioning how Leong got into Raffles Institution (RI) in a conversation with fellow PAP MPs on the front bench. Balakrishnan was subsequently called by Leong to apologise.[34][35]

Ridout Road rentals

In 2023, Balakrishnan and K. Shanmugam were investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for their rentals of state-owned bungalows at Ridout Road. The CPIB reported that they did not find any criminal wrongdoing or improper conduct.[36][37]

Personal life

He is married to Joy Balakrishnan, and they have a daughter and three sons.[38] He is a Christian.[39]

References

  1. ^ a b c "Dr Vivian Balakrishnan". Parliament of Singapore. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Dr Vivian BALAKRISHNAN". Prime Minister's Office Singapore. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  3. ^ "2001 PARLIAMENTARY GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS". Elections Department Singapore. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  4. ^ "Coming to India is like coming home". Rediff. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  5. ^ "About Vivian Balakrishnan – Vivian Balakrishnan". Vivian.balakrishnan.sg. 22 June 2011. Archived from the original on 29 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Dr Vivian BALAKRISHNAN". Prime Minister‘s Office Singapore. 20 October 2014. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Singapore Elections Department". Elections.gov.sg. 3 January 2011. Archived from the original on 1 March 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan profile Archived 28 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine. cabinet.gov.sg, April 2018.
  9. ^ "2006 Parliamentary Election Results". Singapore Elections Department. 2006. Archived from the original on 5 April 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  10. ^ "Walkovers 2006". General Elections. 2011. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  11. ^ "ESTIMATES OF EXPENDITURE FOR THE FINANCIAL YEAR 1ST APRIL, 2007 TO 31ST MARCH, 2007". www.parliament.gov.sg. Singapore Parliament. 9 March 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2022. (Column: 3536) Dr Lily Neo: Sir, I want to check with the Minister again on the strict criteria on the entitlement for PA recipients. May I ask him what is his definition of "subsistence living"? Am I correct to say that, out of $260 per month for PA recipients, $100 goes to rental, power supply and S&C, and leaving them with only $5 a day to live on? Am I correct to say that any basic meal in any hawker centre is already $2.50 to $3.00 per meal? Therefore, is it too much to ask for just three meals a day as an entitlement for the PA recipients? Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?
  12. ^ "50 memorable lines that can only be Made in S'pore". www.mothership.sg. Mothership. 10 August 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2022. 31. "How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?" - Then Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
  13. ^ "What's Really Behind A Minister's Real Happiness?". www.theindependent.sg. The Independent News & Media Pte Ltd. 10 January 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2022. The gap between have and have nots, between Minister and ordinary Singaporean, is ironically best illustrated with remarks made by Vivian Balakrishnan himself some years ago. In an exchange in Parliament with MP Lily Neo, who was asking the government to allocate more money to the poor so they could afford three meals a day, the Minister retorted: "How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?"
  14. ^ "More cash allowance for families on the Public Assistance scheme". XIN MSN News. 8 March 2011. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  15. ^ "PAP wins Holland–Bukit Timah GRC". The Straits Times. 8 May 2011. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  16. ^ Derrick Paulo (7 May 2011). "Drama over video, YOG and economic policies". Today. Archived from the original on 8 May 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  17. ^ Judith Tan (23 April 2011). "'Strange bedfellows' in SDP team". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  18. ^ Julia NG (25 April 2011). "GE: Reform Party former vice-chairman Alec Tok joins SDP". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  19. ^ Faris Mokhtar (24 April 2011). "SDP, PAP clash over mystery video". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 28 April 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  20. ^ a b Hoe Yeen Nie (25 April 2011). "GE: PAP questions Wijeysingha's political agenda in light of video". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  21. ^ Rachel Chan (26 April 2011). "PAP seeks SDP's position on video". AsiaOne News. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  22. ^ a b Hoe Yeen Nie (26 April 2011). "GE: SDP says it is not pursuing gay agenda". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  23. ^ a b "GE: SDP team raises objection against PAP's Sim Ann". Channel NewsAsia. 27 April 2011. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  24. ^ Julia Ng (27 April 2011). "GE: "Gay video" saga put to rest". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  25. ^ "Low expectations". The Economist. 12 May 2011. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  26. ^ a b c Chitra Rajaram (4 May 2011). "GE: Balakrishnan on YOG, teammates counter SDP's proposals". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 19 August 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  27. ^ Ong Hwee Hwee (5 May 2011). "MCYS minister defends YOG budget". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 25 December 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  28. ^ a b Ewen Boey (5 May 2011). "MCYS minister: We miscalculated on YOG budget". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  29. ^ "The Singapore Cabinet Office: Cabinet Appointments". Cabinet.gov.sg. Archived from the original on 23 June 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  30. ^ superadmin (20 October 2014). "Dr Vivian BALAKRISHNAN". Prime Minister‘s Office Singapore. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  31. ^ "Police can use TraceTogether data for criminal investigations". www.straitstimes.com. SPH Media Limited. 5 January 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2022. The police can obtain any data under Singapore's jurisdiction for the purposes of criminal investigations, and this includes TraceTogether data, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan told the House on Monday (Jan 4).
  32. ^ "I didn't think of Criminal Procedure Code when speaking earlier about TraceTogether: Vivian Balakrishnan". www.sg.news.yahoo.com. Yahoo News Singapore. 5 January 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2022. During a Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) press conference in June last year, Dr Balakrishnan emphasised that the TraceTogether app and token are not meant to be used to detect offences and breaches of rules, but rather for effective contact tracing. "(The) TraceTogether app, TraceTogether running on a device, and the data generated (are) purely for contact tracing. Period," he said at the time.
  33. ^ "Vivian Balakrishnan takes 'full responsibility' over TraceTogether saga". www.sg.news.yahoo.com. Yahoo News Singapore. 2 February 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2022. The Singapore government has acknowledged its error in failing to state that TraceTogether (TT) is not exempt from the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). "I take full responsibility for this mistake. And I deeply regret the consternation and anxiety caused," said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, in Parliament on Tuesday (2 February). "Perhaps I was so enamoured by what I thought was the ingenuity and brilliance of (the TT system) that I got blindsided."
  34. ^ "Vivian Balakrishnan apologises to Leong Mun Wai after 'He's illiterate' comment picked up by Parliament live mic". mothership.sg. Mothership. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2022. Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has apologised to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai for private comments made in Parliament yesterday (Sep. 14) where he allegedly called the latter "illiterate".
  35. ^ "Vivian Balakrishnan apologises to Leong Mun Wai for 'private comments' made during Parliament session". www.channelnewsasia.com. Mediacorp Pte Ltd. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 8 December 2022. In a video of the sitting, which was livestreamed on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Communications and Information, a voice can be heard saying "he's illiterate", after Manpower Minister Tan See Leng replied to a question from Mr Leong.
  36. ^ Ho, Grace (28 June 2023). "Ridout Road bungalow rentals: CPIB finds no corruption or wrongdoing by Shanmugam, Vivian". The Straits Times. Retrieved 3 August 2023.
  37. ^ Goh, Yan Han (4 July 2023). "Shanmugam, Vivian have done nothing wrong and retain my full confidence: PM Lee on Ridout Road saga". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 July 2023.
  38. ^ Chew, Hui Min (1 January 2016). "Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is now a grandpa, possibly the youngest in Cabinet". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 9 August 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  39. ^ "Two former First Ladies attend Girl Guides event". AsiaOne. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
Political offices Preceded byYaacob Ibrahim Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports 2005 – 2011 Acting: 2004 – 2005 Succeeded byChan Chun Singas Acting Minister Preceded byYaacob Ibrahim Minister for the Environment and Water Resources 2011 – 2015 Succeeded byMasagos Zulkifli New office Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative 2014 – 2021 Succeeded byJosephine Teo Preceded byK. Shanmugam Minister for Foreign Affairs 2015 – present Incumbent Parliament of Singapore Preceded byLim Boon Hengas MP for Bukit Timah GRC (Ulu Pandan) Member of Parliament for Holland–Bukit Panjang GRC (Ulu Pandan) 2001 – 2006 Succeeded byChristopher de Souzaas MP for Holland–Bukit Timah GRC (Ulu Pandan) New constituency Member of Parliament for Holland–Bukit Timah GRC (Cashew) 2006 – present Incumbent Party political offices Preceded byLim Swee Say Chairman of Young PAP 2004 – 2008 Succeeded byTeo Ser Luck
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Vivian Balakrishnan
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