Singapore: Long-Serving Central Bank Chief Steps Down

Veteran central banker Ravi Menon is set to step down as managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Amid a difficult period in which Singapore struggles with high inflation and teetering growth, veteran central banker Ravi Menon is reportedly set to step down as managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore when his term ends on May 31.

Menon, MAS’s longest-serving leader, is tipped to be replaced by one of his former deputies, Chia Der Jiun, according to news reports; Chia is currently Singapore’s permanent secretary for development at the Ministry of Manpower. Menon has steered MAS since 2011; his decision to step down, and the appointment of his successor, will be closely watched outside the island nation.

Singapore has increasingly strengthened economic ties with China, despite rapidly deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing. Last month, the MAS announced that a joint agreement, signed in 2015, to improve financial connectivity between Singapore and the western region of China yielded some $6 billion in cross-border financing deals last year and over $29 billion since the initiative was launched.

Whoever succeeds Menon will have to grapple with the city-state’s outsize role in US-China relations amid the tense stand-off over Taiwan, and will also inherit an economy buckling under pressure from weak external demand. Singapore’s economy will grow just 0.5% this year, Capital Economics forecasts. Competition from other regional financial centers, particularly in cryptocurrencies, will also be high on the MAS agenda, as Hong Kong has recently expressed a desire to become a digital asset hub.

In any case, his successor will have big shoes to fill. Menon successfully steered Singapore’s gradual emergence from the 2008 financial crisis and, more recently, a post-pandemic recovery that saw the MAS tighten monetary policy five times. The central bank conducts monetary policy by targeting the nominal effective exchange rate against a basket of currencies.

While Menon’s next move is unclear, ex-MAS chiefs have typically gone on to become finance ministers. Menon earlier declared disdain for politics, although he previously served as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade & Industry and deputy secretary at the Ministry of Finance. He also spent a year at the Bank for International Settlements.

In an email, a spokesperson for the MAS said the matter of Menon’s successor would be determined by Singapore’s Public Services Division (PSD). At the time of writing, the PSD had not responded to a request for comment.