Vivian Balakrishnan, FRCS (born 25 January 1961), is Singapore’s Minister for Environment & Water Resources, and a member of the governing People’s Action Party (PAP). He has previously held appointments in the Singapore Cabinet as the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and as the Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, as well as Trade and Industry. He is a MP (Member of Parliament) 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 at Edinburgh. He started off with his political career much later, when 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 2011 general election held on 7 May, his team won against the Singapore Democratic Party. He is married to Joy Balakrishnan, and they have a daughter and three sons.
Balakrishnan was born in 1961 to a Telugu father, and a Chinese mother with ancestry from Fuqing, Fujian. He had his primary and secondary education at the 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 at Edinburgh (FRCS) in 1991.
From 1993 to 1995, Balakrishnan worked at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London as a specialist senior registrar, where he sub-specialised 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 then as 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 the CEO 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 had also had a fling with television, where he hosted a series ‘Health Matters,’ on Singapore TV.
Balakrishnan’s political career began with 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 Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade and Industry. 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.
In 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 had raised the public assistance scheme from SG $ 260 for a single-person household in 2007, to SG $ 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 the seats for the constituency were contested, after it was formed in 2001. On 21 May 2011, Balakrishnan was appointed Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, taking over from Yaacob Ibrahim.