Richard Hu Tse Tau

Singapore Infopedia


Richard Hu Tsu Tau (Dr) (b. 30 October 1926d. 8 September 2023)1 was a former politician who held several key ministerial positions, most notably as the minister for finance. Hu presented 16 budgets to Parliament during his term as finance minister. After retiring from politics in 2001, he took up key corporate positions.2

Education and early career
Hu was educated at the Anglo-Chinese School and in 1952 graduated with a degree in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in the United States. After receiving a doctorate in chemical engineering in 1957 from the University of Birmingham, Hu lectured at the University of Manchester (1957–60).3

In 1960, Hu returned to Singapore and joined the Shell Group.4 Within a decade, he became the director of marketing (Shell Singapore) and general manager (West Malaysia). At the time, he was the first Asian to be appointed a director in the Shell Group. Hu was then promoted to chairman and chief executive of all Shell companies in Malaysia in 1975, and moved to the same position at Shell Singapore in 1977.5

Political career
Hu served on the board of the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 1971 to 1997, and became its managing director in 1983 upon his retirement from Shell.6 In 1983, he was concurrently the managing director at the Government Investment Corporation (GIC), where he had been director since 1981.7

In 1984, he successfully contested as a member of the People’s Action Party at the Kreta Ayer constituency during the general election and became a member of parliament (MP).8 After the election, he was appointed to the cabinet as the minister for trade and industry.9 He was the first MP to be appointed to the cabinet right after winning an election.10 The following year, in May 1985, Hu was appointed the minister for finance (1985–2001) and health (1985–87). He also became chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore that year, a position he held until 1997.11 In addition, Hu also served briefly as the minister for national development (1992–93).12

During his term as finance minister, Singapore took steps towards deregulation and reform of its financial and banking sectors to support the island’s development as a financial centre.13 Among the changes he spearheaded was privatising the previously government-run Post Office Savings Bank and selling it to the Development Bank of Singapore.14

In 1993, Hu introduced the goods and services tax (GST).15 The key reasons for the introduction of the GST, according to Hu, were to reduce the government’s reliance on direct taxation as a revenue source and to broaden the tax base. The GST would also offer the government flexibility in adjusting income tax and corporate tax rates, as lower rates would translate into an economic advantage. Hu was credited for the smooth and gradual implementation of the GST.16

Hu’s term as finance minister generally coincided with periods of prosperity for Singapore, although he had to deal with times of economic uncertainty, including the mid-1980s, when he steered the economy through a recession.17

In response to the 1998 Asian financial crisis, the government issued two off-budget stimulus packages – S$2 billion in June and S$10.5 billion in November – which helped bring about an eventual recovery.18 Hu was also instrumental in drawing up an S$11.3-billion off-budget package in response to another recession in 2001.19

Retirement from politics
After retiring from politics in 2001, Hu continued to serve on the board of GIC and as the chairman of GIC Real Estate Pte Ltd until June 2009.20 He then remained an adviser to the GIC Group executive committee until 2012,21 after which he was appointed the senior adviser to the board of Fraser & Neave in March 2013.22 Between 2004 and 2012, he was also the chairman and independent non-executive director of the CapitaLand board. 23 In addition to his other business-related positions, Hu was chancellor of the Singapore Management University from 2002 to 2010.24

Hu passed away on 8 September 2023 at the age of 96.25

Wife: Irene Tan Dee Leng


Alvin Chua


1. John Victor Morais, Who’s Who in Malaysia, and Profiles of Singapore (Kuala Lumpur: Who’s Who Publications, 1982), 48 (Call no. RCLOS 920.0595 WWM); “Richard Hu, S’pore’s Longest-serving Finance Minister, Dies at 96”, Straits Times, 9 September 2023. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

2. “Richard Hu to be Next CapitaLand Chairman,” Straits Times, 13 March 2004, 35. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Morais, Who’s Who in Malaysia, 48.
4. Morais, Who’s Who in Malaysia, 48. (Call no. RCLOS 920.0595 WWM)
5. Conrad Raj, “Richard Hu to Head Both MAS and GIC,” Straits Times, 3 December 1981, 1; “Dr Hu is Head of Shell in S’pore,” Business Times, 11 March 1977, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “New Managing Director for the MAS,” Straits Times 27 December 1970, 8; “Leadership Change at MAS Expected Soon,” Straits Times, 15 June 1983, 23 (From NewspaperSG); “Richard Hu, S’pore’s Longest-serving Finance Minister, Dies at 96.”
7. Raj, “Richard Hu to Head Both MAS and GIC”; “Leadership Change at MAS Expected Soon.”
8. “Dr Hu Attributes Big Win to Predecessors,” Straits Times, 23 December 1984, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Loong Swee Yin, “Who’s Who,” Singapore Monitor, 31 December 1984, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Davie, S. (2011, October 5). Second new MP to step straight into cabinetStraits Times, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Richard Hu to be Next CapitaLand Chairman”; Not so good. (2004, April 27). New Paper, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Low Kar Tiang ed., Who’s Who in Singapore 2006, 3rd ed. (Singapore: Who’s Who Pub, 2006), 193. (Call no. RSING 920.05957 WHO)
13. “Finance Minister Hu Steps Down After 16 Years,” Straits Times, 26 October 2001, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Bills to Pave Way for POSBank, DBS Bank Merger Passed,” Business Times, 13 October 1998, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Finance Minister Hu Steps Down After 16 Years.”
16. “GST Prevents an Over-reliance on the Direct Tax System,” Straits Times, 10 February 1993, 24; “Finance Minister Hu Steps Down After 16 Years.” (From NewspaperSG)
17. “1985–1986: The ‘Bitter Pill’ Budgets,” Straits Times, 17 January 2009, 72. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “1998: The ‘Playing Safe’ Budget,” Straits Times, 17 January 2009, 72. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Michael Richardson, “Singapore Hands Its Citizens a Stake in Recovery,” International Herald Tribune, 17 October 2001. (From Factiva via NLB’s eReso'urces website)
20. Lynette Khoo, “Lim Siong Guan, Tony Tan Get Key Roles at GIC,” Business Times, 19 June 2009, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
21. “Additions to GIC board as Hu Retires,” MyPaper, 2 November 2012. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
22. Jonathan Kwok, “Former F&N Veteran Back to Help Steer Firm,” Straits Times, 4 April 2013, 14 (From NewspaperSG); Kenneth Lim, “F&N Appoints Richard Hu as Senior Adviser to Board,” Business Times, 3 April 2013. (From Newslink via NLB’s eResources website)
23. “Richard Hu to be Next CapitaLand Chairman”; CapitaLand Chairman Richard Hu to Step Down,” Straits Times, 16 February 2012, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Jalela Abu Baker, “Ex–Chief Justice is SMU’s New Chancellor,” Straits Times, 1 September 2010, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “Richard Hu, S’pore’s Longest-serving Finance Minister, Dies at 96.”
26. Low, Who’s Who in Singapore 2006, 193.

Further resources

A New Era Budget for All,” Straits Times, 26 February 2000, 1. (From NewspaperSG)

GST Milestones: The Road to the White Paper,” Straits Times, 5 February 1993, 28. (From NewspaperSG)

It’s a People’s Budget,” Straits Times, 24 February 1994, 5. (From NewspaperSG)

Minister Addresses Main Concerns,” Straits Times, 11 March 1998, 39. (From NewspaperSG)

Narendra Aggarwal, “Through the Years,” Straits Times, 3 March 1990, 34. (From NewspaperSG)

Narendra Aggarwal, “Budget Looks Toward the Future,” Straits Times, 3 March 2000, 76. (From NewspaperSG)

Walter Fernandez, “Off-budget Goodies or Election Sweeteners? Straits Times, 29 September 2001, 12. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of August 2023 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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