Vivian Balakrishnan (Tamil: விவியன் பாலகிருஷ்ணன்; born 25 January 1961), FRCS, is the Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs and a member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP). He is also the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Programme Office. He has previously held appointments in the Singapore Cabinet as Minister for Environment and Water Resources and Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, as well as the Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, and Trade and Industry. In 2002, Balakrishnan was appointed a Minister of State at the Ministry of National Development, and the chairman of the Remaking Singapore Committee. He was also the chairman of the Young PAP from 2004 to 2008. He is a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency.
Balakrishnan studied medicine at the National University of Singapore on a President's Scholarship. He later pursued postgraduate education in ophthalmology and was admitted as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He was appointed as an associate professor at the National University of Singapore and became the medical director of Singapore National Eye Centre. He was also the chief executive of Singapore General Hospital. Prior to the commencement of his political career, he served as the commanding officer of second Combat Support Hospital of the Singapore Armed Forces.
His team was elected uncontested during his first and second candidacy for the Parliament at Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC respectively. In the 2015 general election, Balakrishnan's team, including Liang Eng Hwa, Christopher de Souza and Sim Ann, defeated the opposing team from Singapore Democratic Party with 66.62% of the votes. He joined the cabinet on 12 August 2004 when Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as Singapore's 3rd Prime Minister.
Balakrishnan was born in 1961 to a Indian Tamil father and a Chinese mother with ancestry from Fuqing, Fujian. He had his primary and secondary education at Anglo-Chinese School, before going on to National Junior College. After graduating from junior college in 1980, he was awarded a President's Scholarship to study medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He served two terms as the president of the NUS Student Union, and later served as chairman of the union council. He chose a postgraduate specialisation in ophthalmology and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1991.
From 1993 to 1995, Balakrishnan worked at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London as a specialist senior registrar, where he subspecialised in paediatric ophthalmology. He later returned to Singapore, where he was appointed as a consultant ophthalmologist at the Singapore National Eye Centre and National University Hospital, and an associate professor of ophthalmology at the National University of Singapore in 1998. In 1999, he was appointed the medical director of the Singapore National Eye Centre, and later became chief executive officer of the Singapore General Hospital in 2000.
Balakrishnan was also the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Combat Support Hospital of the Singapore Armed Forces from 1999 to 2002.
In the 1990s, he hosted the series Health Matters on Singapore television.
Early political career
Balakrishnan's political career began at the 2001 general election, when he was part of the PAP's five-member team in the Holland-Bukit Panjang Group Representation Constituency (GRC), which was elected uncontested. In 2002, Balakrishnan was appointed a Minister of State at the Ministry of National Development, and the chairman of the Remaking Singapore Committee. Two years later, he became the Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
In office as full minister
In 2004, Balakrishnan was made the Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports. He was made a full member of the Cabinet in 2005.
At the 2006 general election, Balakrishnan was a PAP candidate in the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency, and was elected in a walkover. During the time he was Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Balakrishnan raised the public assistance scheme from $260 for a single-person household in 2007, to $400 for a single-person household in 2011.
In the 2011 general election, Balakrishnan's team, including Liang Eng Hwa, Christopher de Souza and Sim Ann, defeated the opposing team from Singapore Democratic Party with 60.1% of the votes. This was the first time since the seats for the constituency were contested since it was formed in 2001.
During the political campaign running up to the 2011 elections, Balakrishnan said that the opposition candidates from the Singapore Democratic Party did not have any plans for the constituency, and their selection of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was an opportunistic act. He suggested that they were trying to suppress a certain YouTube video featuring a member of the opposition team and that it raised questions about their agenda and motivation. It was later discovered that the video included opposition member Vincent Wijeysingha at a forum discussing issues surrounding gay rights and section 377A of the Penal Code in Singapore. The People's Action Party team issued a statement asking the opposition whether they were pursuing a "gay agenda". The opposition denied it, saying they were not pursuing the gay agenda and the issue was put to rest. The People's Action Party drew criticism from Internet users in Singapore for their election strategy.
The opposition candidates raised the issue of government spending for the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics, which Balakrishnan had overseen as the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, saying that the budget exceeded the initial estimates of SGD 104 million by over three times. Balakrishnan acknowledged that they had got the initial estimates wrong as it was the first time that an event of that scale was organized in Singapore. He asserted that the increased budget did not affect other programs of the ministry, and that seventy percent of the spending for the event went into paying local firms for their services. He declared that his team had spent less than the finalized budget amount and did not waste money.
On 21 May 2011, Balakrishnan was appointed Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, taking over from Yaacob Ibrahim. After the 2015 General Elections, Balakrishnan was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.