Richard Hu Tsu Tau (Chinese: 胡赐道; pinyin: Hú Cìdào; 30 October 1926 – 8 September 2023) left an indelible mark on Singapore’s financial and political landscapes. With an impressive career spanning several decades, he served in various prestigious roles, both in the corporate sector and public office.
Early Years and Education
Born in Singapore to parents Hu Tsai Kuen, a respected doctor, and Margaret Kwan Fu Shing, Richard Hu’s foundation in education was solidified in the country. He attended the renowned Anglo-Chinese School before flying overseas to further his studies. Completing a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952, he then advanced his education with a PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Birmingham.
Hu’s career in the corporate world started with the Royal Dutch Shell Group of Companies in 1960. Demonstrating commendable leadership and vision, he climbed the ranks and served as Chairman and Chief Executive in Singapore from 1977 to 1983.
Following this, in 1983, he took on a dual role as Managing Director of both the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) until 1984.
1984 was a significant year for Hu as he entered the political arena, contesting in Kreta Ayer SMC under the banner of the governing People’s Action Party (PAP). His victory marked the beginning of a long political journey.
While his appointments ranged from Minister for Health to Minister for National Development, his most notable role was as the Minister for Finance from 1985 to 2001. This made him the longest-serving Finance Minister, delivering a record 16 Budget speeches. During his tenure, he made a significant impact by introducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1993 and overseeing major financial transitions, including the privatisation of POSB and its sale to DBS in 1998.
His influence wasn’t just limited to public office. On 13 April 2004, CapitaLand welcomed him as their Chairman of the Board until his retirement in 2012. He also served in various roles with organizations such as GIC Real Estate Pte Ltd, Asia Financial Holdings Pte Ltd, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), and Buildfolio.Com.Inc. Furthermore, he held the title of Chancellor at the Singapore Management University between 2002 and 2010.
Personal Life and Legacy
On the personal front, Richard Hu was married to Irene Tan Dee Leng, and they were blessed with two children. With roots tracing back to Hakka Chinese ancestry, he was a proud representation of Singapore’s diverse culture.
The nation mourned the loss of this stalwart when Richard Hu Tsu Tau passed away on 8 September 2023, at the age of 96. His legacy, both in the world of finance and politics, will continue to inspire generations in Singapore.