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Only 165 CEOs of 413 firms with $500 million-equity in Singapore are citizens, reveals Finance Minister

SINGAPORE – As of 31 December 2022, of the 413 companies registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority with shareholders’ equity exceeding $500 million, 165 are headed by CEOs or managing directors who are Singaporean citizens.

This information was disclosed by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in response to a question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Leong Mun Wai from Progress Singapore Party.

The private-sector requirement for presidential hopefuls mandates that a candidate must have served as a CEO for a minimum of three years. During this time, the company must demonstrate an average shareholders’ equity of at least S$500 million and consistent profitability after tax.

However, in response to a question from Associate Professor Jamus Lim, MP for Seng Kang GRC, on why an equivalent criterion to measure successful leadership is not included for public service candidates, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing expressed that it would be inappropriate to compare or impose the same requirements on both sectors.

He suggested that while the performance of private sector candidates can be objectively assessed through financial indicators, such as profitability, measuring the performance of public sector candidates presents more challenges.

The criteria for presidential candidates was revised in 2017, following the recommendations of the Constitutional Commission’s report.

The commission suggested including performance criteria for private-sector candidates, but deemed it impractical to do so for public-sector candidates due to the lack of comparable measurable standards.

The upcoming presidential election in Singapore will have to be held before 13 September as Mdm Halimah Yacob’s six-year term ends.

President aspirant George Goh shared his views on this matter on Facebook, noting the relatively small pool of private-sector CEOs meeting the $500 million equity threshold.

He argued that the eligibility criteria may overlook the potential capabilities of candidates who have built successful companies from the ground up, as opposed to those who were placed in already profitable entities.

The tightened criteria in recent years have made it challenging for private-sector candidates to qualify for the Presidential Elections.

This was evident in the 2017 reserved presidential election for Malays, which saw Mdm Halimah elected as President following the disqualification of two aspirants for failing to meet the shareholders’ equity criteria.

Since the inception of the elected presidency, all Presidents have emerged from the public sector who are connected to the People’s Action Party.

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