Dr Vivian Balakrishnan studied Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS) after being awarded the President’s Scholarship in 1980. He was elected President of the NUS Students’ Union from 1981 to 1983 and Chairman from 1984 to 1985.
After graduation, he specialised in Ophthalmology. He was appointed Associate Professor of the National University of Singapore and Deputy Director of Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) in 1997. He led several clinical research trials to control the progression of myopia in children. In 1999, he became the Medical Director of SNEC. He was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore General Hospital in 2000.
Dr Balakrishnan has been a Member of Parliament since 2001. He is currently the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is also the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative. He previously held appointments as the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister responsible for Entrepreneurship, Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts and Minister of State for National Development.
During the early years of his political career, he served as Chairman of the “Remaking Singapore” committee and Chairman of the National Youth Council. He also served two terms as Chairman of the Young PAP.
In Parliament, he has moved several pieces of new legislation. These include the Competition Act, Community Care Endowment Fund Act, Mental Capacity Act, the International Child Abduction Act, the Energy Conservation Act and the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. He has also moved amendments to the Children Development Co-Savings Act, Children and Young Persons Act, Women’s Charter, Charities Act, Hindu Endowments Act, Postal Services Act, Animals and Birds Act, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority Act, Sale of Food Act, the Public Utilities Act, the Sewerage and Drainage Act, the Environmental Public Health Act, and the Radiation Protection Act.
At the Ministry for Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Dr Balakrishnan oversaw the policy to build new hawker centres, the establishment of the Centre for Climate Research Singapore and the Department of Public Cleanliness, the implementation of a mandatory licensing scheme for the cleaning industry, and the adoption of higher air quality targets based on World Health Organisation’s Air Quality Guidelines as well as a revised air quality reporting index which incorporates PM2.5. Whilst at the Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Dr Balakrishnan oversaw the establishment of the Comcare Endowment Fund; refinement of the Comcare Social Assistance framework; the Enabling Masterplan for persons with disability; the establishment of the Central Youth Guidance Office; the expansion of Family Service Centres and the accreditation of social workers. He has also led the upgrading of the Childcare sector; establishment of National Family Council, Charities Council, Community Foundation of Singapore, National Steering Committee on Racial & Religious Harmony, the National Integration Council, the Council for Third Age, and the National Council against Problem Gambling. He supervised the successful hosting of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games; and the redevelopment of the National Stadium.
Whilst at the Ministry for Trade and Industry (MTI), he oversaw tourism and coordinated the Project team that facilitated the development of the two Integrated Resorts. At the Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), he was deeply involved with the design and rollout of the Next Generation National Broadband Network.
A conversation with Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, on how this city-state has tackled the coronavirus.