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Presidential Candidate: Tan Kin Lian

By Joshua Ng

Introduction & Background

Presidential Candidate Mr Tan Kin Lian came from a humble family background. When he was a child, Mr Tan lived in a rented room and had to move residence a few times. Later, he lived in a HDB flat for 7 years. Today, he lives in an ordinary house and like many Singaporeans, has a car but often travels by bus and MRT. In this aspect, Mr Tan says he can empathize with the many people struggling to earn enough to meet the cost of living, have to travel in crowded public transport daily and have to face the competition for jobs.

Regarding his capability in handling the Presidential role, the public can rest assured. He was previously NTUC Income’s chief executive officer (CEO), and from 1992 to 1997, was Chairman of the International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), an international organisation representing 123 insurance groups in 65 countries. Thus, he surely would have the mental proficiency, financial and management expertise to carry out the Presidential duties.

Besides his corporate successes, he also has had many awards conferred upon him, such as: the Friend of Labour Award in 1978, the Public Service Medal in 1983, the Rochdale Medal Award in 1992, the Financial Personality of the Year Award in 2000, the 2001 International Management Action Award, the Public Service Star in 2004, the Leading CEO Award in 2005 and the Friend of I.T Award in 2007.

According to Mr Tan, his main reason for contesting is to respond to the call from many readers of his blog and friends. Additionally, he says it is his “public duty”. More than 100 people have e-mailed him over the past months, urging him to stand for election. They felt that Singaporeans should be given the chance to vote and they think that he may represent that chance. Mr Tan also thinks his experience in insurance and the financial sector makes him “more qualified”.

His Strengths and Weaknesses as a Candidate:


Firstly, according to the Constitution, the President must primarily safeguard the past reserves. As said earlier, Mr Tan is well versed in financial matters, having chaired NTUC Income and ICMIF. He should then have no difficulty safeguarding our CPF money and the national reserves.

Secondly, the President chooses key personnel in the Government, such as the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, the Attorney-General, and so on. As a former CEO, he would have had experience selecting people for various positions within the company. Therefore, he should be able to make wise decisions.

Lastly, Mr Tan has not been associated to the PAP, or any other political party. This is a clear advantage, seeing that the other Candidates are closely related to the PAP, which has been criticized for maintaining a chokehold over Singapore politics. Because of this, people will probably choose a President that will not be inclined to the policies of any one party. This will reassure the public that politics in Parliament is fair play.


As stated in a Statement by the Minister of Law, the President is the Head of State, not the Head of Government. Mr Tan Kin Lian has previously acted in various Government-related positions, such as being: the CEO of NTUC Income and a PAP member (until 2008). It is likely that Mr Tan will take interest in Government affairs if he becomes President, and might go unnecessarily beyond his non-executive role. This might be seen as meddling and interfering with the Government.

Also, Mr Tan has an unconventional way of doing things. For example: During the Lehman Brothers collapse, Mr Tan went to Speaker’s Corner to advocate for the people who were affected. For this, Mr Tan might very well be deemed “provocative” by the Government for aggravating the populace, who in turn vent their frustrations in various Internet forums. If he comes into conflict with the Government during his Presidential term, it is conceivable for him to use the same tactics.


Mr Tan Kin Lian has both strengths and weaknesses. The various important appointments he held is an advantage to him as it gives people confidence in his capabilities. If he becomes President, he will be able to contribute to Singapore in a more significant way as it tries to keep abreast of the ever-changing economic and political world.

Read More in this Spotlight Series

The Roles & Powers of the President of Singapore

How Then Should I Vote?

Presidential Candidate: Tan Cheng Bock

Presidential Candidate: Tony Tan


Tan, K. L. Tan Kin Lian for President. Retrieved from Tan Kin Lian for President website:

Homepage: Tan Kin Lian and Associates. Retrieved from Tan Kin Lian and Associates Website:

The Singapore Government. Retrieved from Constitution of The Republic of Singapore:

The Online Citizen. (2009, July 21). Minibonds fiasco settled “without political pressure”, says Lim Hng Kiang. Retrieved from The Online Citizen:



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