What Does It Mean to be The President of Singapore?
Sep 7, 2017

Photo: The Business Times

“The President has two roles. Since 1965, the President has held a ceremonial role. He is Head of State and represents all Singaporeans. Since 1991, the President has held an additional custodial role:

a) Safeguarding the Past Reserves, i.e. reserves grown from previous terms of Government.

b) Protecting the Integrity of the Public Service, by being able to veto key public service appointments.

The President exercises these functions in consultation with the Council of Presidential Advisers.

To ensure the President has the mandate to exercise these additional custodial powers, the Constitution was amended in 1991 so that the President would be elected directly by Singaporeans, rather than appointed by Parliament.” – The Singapore Government.

Unlike the American President, the President of Singapore holds no legislative power. Our current president, Dr Tony Tan has technically not done anything of significance during this tenure. The running of the country has been left to the governing party, the PAP, and since there has been no crisis of management, President Tony Tan has had little, if not, nothing to do.

The main role that President Tan has carried out, and successfully, is one of chief ambassador. He has travelled the world, visited and dined with other Presidents and heads of state and waved his hand in a dignified manner at every camera pointed his way.

Being the President of Singapore holds a huge responsibility but let’s be honest, it’s not a demanding or stressful job. You get paid millions of dollars a year to technically be the face of Singapore. With the upcoming Presidential Elections (related: A Lost Opportunity, this Presidential Elections), you’ll be wondering what kind of campaign speeches or promises the potential candidates are going to bank on.

There are not going to be any promises of change because the President cannot make changes. He can veto a bill but Singapore, unlike many other democratic countries, has never done it and will never do it. The PAP is too good for that.

The last time a Singapore President actually did something was during President S.R Nathan’s time. He gave permission to the government to make use of over S$4 billion to help the country during the economic recession. The President did not even strategize or execute any of the plans, he just approved the government’s request to use the reserves.

Important as that is, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to approve that. Now, not anyone can become the President. Yes, the job and role of a Singaporean President is easy during times of peace, however, it can become very different in times of a crisis. That is the only reason why the best candidate, who is capable, can and should become President.

Is Singapore going to war? Are we in the middle of civil unrest or are we a smorgasbord of terrorist activities? No, and it doesn’t appear that the situation will turn to that anytime soon. As long as the President can wave his or her hand at the cameras, give off a great smile and not adverse to constant globe-trotting, we’re safe for now.


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