Vivian Balakrishnan is the Foreign Minister of Singapore. He is also the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative.
He has been a Member of Parliament since 2001. He has previously served as the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources; Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports; 2nd Minister for Trade and Industry; Minister responsible for Entrepreneurship; 2nd Minister for Information Communications and the Arts; and Minister of State for National Development.
Before politics, Dr Balakrishnan was an Ophthalmologist and the CEO of Singapore General Hospital.
His early education was at the Anglo-Chinese School and National Junior College. He was awarded the President’s Scholarship in 1980 to study Medicine at the National University of Singapore. He was elected President of the NUS Students’ Union from 1981 to 1983 and Chairman from 1984 to 1985. He pursued post-graduate specialist training in Ophthalmology and was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1991.
Between 1993 and 1995, Dr Balakrishnan underwent further training as a Specialist Senior Registrar at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, where he sub-specialised in Paediatric Ophthalmology. He was appointed Associate Professor in the National University of Singapore, and was appointed Deputy Director of Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) in late 1997. In 1999, at age 38, he became the Medical Director of SNEC. Shortly after, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore General Hospital in 2000.
Concurrently, he was also the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Combat Support Hospital of the Singapore Armed Forces from November 1999 to January 2002.
From 1999 to 2001, he chaired the Specialist Training Committee, which was responsible for the accreditation and training programme for all ophthalmology trainees. He also led several clinical research trials to control the progression of myopia in children.
Dr Balakrishnan was active in diverse community activities. He was the Honorary Treasurer of the Singapore Medical Association, member of the National Library Board, member of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority Programmes Advisory Committee and National Volunteer Centre. He served as Co-chairman of a MND Concept Plan 2001Focus Group. He was also a well-known debater from the 80s, and host of the television series “Health Matters” in the 90s.
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.
Dr Balakrishnan lives within the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. He believes in working closely with fellow residents to protect our natural greenery, to upgrade our living environment, and to help foster friendships in a happy neighbourhood where our children can grow up safely and fulfil their potential; and seniors age with dignity.
His parents, the late Mr GD Balakrishnan and the late Mdm Ong Yong Sang, met whilst both were teachers at Bukit Panjang Primary School in the 50s and 60s.
He has been married for 29 years to his wife, Joy. He enjoys spending precious time with his daughter and three sons. To keep fit, he runs and cycles.
He is also a computer enthusiast and an avid reader. He maintains this blog, a twitter and facebook account to keep in touch with his friends and the residents of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.