Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s Election and the Future of Cryptocurrency in Singapore


Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s newly elected president, boasts an impressive 70.4% victory, succeeding Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s premier female head of state. Formerly a finance minister and central bank chairman, Shanmugaratnam’s views on crypto have been notably critical, terming it as “purely speculative” and “somewhat crazy.”

Is There a Ceremonial Role with Real Influence?

At 66, while his presidential role remains mostly ceremonial, Shanmugaratnam’s vast experience suggests potential sway in future financial policies. Topics on his radar likely include cryptocurrencies, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), and related sectors.

Historically, Singapore was an early crypto enthusiast. However, its stance changed post the decline of local crypto leaders like Terraform Labs and Three Arrows Capital. These shifts transpired during Shanmugaratnam’s tenure as Singapore’s central bank chairman.

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As the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) chairman from 2011-2023, Shanmugaratnam’s governance coincided with his finance minister role (2007-2015). His career was initiated at MAS in 1982, after achieving notable degrees from global institutions such as the London School of Economics, University of Cambridge, and Harvard University. Moreover, his 22-year parliamentary service, including a deputy prime minister role, showcases his vast political landscape.

Initial Laissez-Faire Approach to Cryptocurrencies in Singapore

In 2018, Shanmugaratnam voiced no apprehensions about crypto harming Singapore’s financial structure, thus seeing no prohibition necessity. Echoing this in 2023 at the World Economic Forum, he emphasized crypto’s speculative nature, advocating for a clear risk understanding instead of stringent regulations.

By November 2022, his perspective began evolving. He highlighted Singaporean banks’ obligation to maintain significant capital against crypto exposures, highlighting the stringent risk management these assets demand. Further, he differentiated between high-risk cryptos and their less risky counterparts, like tokenized bonds, which parallel traditional assets.

Vision for Crypto Beyond Speculation

In 2021, Shanmugaratnam proposed crypto’s potential role, extending beyond sheer speculation. He forecasted a future where regulated stablecoins become integral to traditional payment infrastructures.

By August 2022, under Shanmugaratnam’s guidance, MAS began reconsidering its stance on stablecoins, especially after the terraUSD fiasco. Consequently, the following month witnessed MAS unveiling a comprehensive stablecoin regulatory framework.

President Shanmugaratnam’s election indicates an intriguing time ahead for Singapore’s crypto policies. As the nation traverses its evolving financial landscape, eyes remain keenly set on the president’s impending moves.

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