Obituary: Dr Richard Hu

12/09/2023

Deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Richard Hu, one of Singapore’s longest-serving Finance Ministers. 

Richard was a close colleague and friend for many years. We entered politics in the same year — 1984. From the beginning we worked closely together, in MTI and MOF, managing the Singapore economy and the nation’s finances. I will always warmly remember his wise counsel, strong sense of stewardship, and deep concern for Singaporeans. 

Richard left a lasting legacy in the field of finance. He joined the GIC Board when it was first formed in 1981 and was its first private sector member. When GIC’s real estate arm, GIC RE, was corporatised into a separate entity in 1999, he was concurrently appointed its Chairman. With him at the helm, the GIC real estate team made its first foray into the region, and has since grown into a global real estate institutional investor. 

When Richard retired from Shell in 1983, he joined MAS as its Managing Director. He became its Chairman when he entered the Cabinet. Under his leadership during these formative years, MAS established its credentials for stringent supervision and regulation of the financial sector, and sound monetary policy. The 1980s and 1990s saw episodes of volatility in international financial markets. Throughout, MAS steadfastly maintained its exchange rate-centred monetary policy, emphasising the role of a stable Singapore dollar in preserving the purchasing power of Singaporean households, and saw off a few speculative attacks on the exchange rate. He also oversaw the overhaul of our securities regulatory framework, which facilitated the subsequent development of our capital markets and laid the foundation for Singapore to become a thriving global financial hub. 

Richard was also Singapore’s longest serving Finance Minister, having tabled in Parliament a record 16 budgets, overseeing a period of high growth and substantial budget surpluses. Under his prudent management, these surpluses steadily accumulated in our reserves, to become the unique resource that Singapore can now rely upon, both for routine budget spending, and in crises with the permission of the President. 

One key policy Richard oversaw was the introduction of the goods and services tax in 1994. This enabled us to lower income and corporate taxes at a time when many other countries were doing the same, challenging our international competitiveness. It also created a resilient source of revenue which became increasingly important as the government’s spending needs grew. But Richard did not just push through the GST. He introduced a comprehensive package of support and offset to help businesses and households cope. This was the model for many subsequent assistance packages from the government that have benefitted generations of Singaporeans. 

Singapore owes Richard our gratitude for a lifetime of contribution and service to nation. I offer my deepest condolences to his family in this time of loss and grief. He will be deeply missed. 

— Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong