SINGAPORE: Seven ministers will switch portfolios in a major Cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Friday (Apr 23), two weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had said that he will step aside as the leader of the fourth-generation People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership team.
This means that about half of the 15 ministries will get new ministers.
“Today I am announcing the new line-up. It will be a more extensive reshuffle than is usual this early in the term of government,” said Mr Lee.
“I have two reasons for this: One is that the Minister for Finance is changing. Following Budget 2021, DPM Heng is relinquishing the Finance portfolio. Finance is a key ministry, so when the Finance Minister changes, there are many repercussions for the other appointments.”
Mr Lawrence Wong, 48, who was just appointed Education Minister last July and has also been Second Minister for Finance since 2016, will take over the Finance Ministry from Mr Heng.
Mr Heng, 60, remains Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Economic Policies.
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Mr Lee added that he is moving the ministers for health, manpower, and trade and industry, which he had considered making after last year’s General Election, but did not at the time as Singapore was still “in the thick” of fighting COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 situation has become more stable, Mr Lee said he is now able to make these changes.
“With these major moves, there are inevitably other consequential adjustments to the appointments,” said Mr Lee. “I am therefore taking this opportunity to redeploy some of the other ministers, to give them fresh responsibilities, and gain different exposure and experience.”
Mr Chan Chun Sing, 51, who is Minister for Trade and Industry, will be appointed Minister for Education.
Mr Ong Ye Kung, 51, will move from the Transport Ministry to take over as Minister for Health.
Mr Ong will co-chair the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, together with Mr Wong.
Mr Gan Kim Yong, 62, who has been the Health Minister for almost a decade, will be moved to lead the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
READ: Cabinet reshuffle: Gan Kim Yong to head Ministry of Trade and Industry, S Iswaran appointed Transport Minister
The Transport Ministry will now be helmed by Mr S Iswaran, 58, while Mrs Josephine Teo, 52, will step down as Manpower Minister and take over the Ministry of Communications and Information.
Dr Tan See Leng, 56, will be Manpower Minister in her stead.
“Most of the 4G ministers have already accumulated experience in a wide range of portfolios. This round of Cabinet changes will allow them to gain new experience and exposure,” said Mr Lee.
“They have to get to work quickly because although our COVID-19 situation is stabler now, we are still in the midst of a public health and economic crisis.”
He added that the reshuffle is an opportunity for them to work together in new capacities, so that “they can understand each other better, and strengthen their cohesion as a team”.
“This will make the new team readier to take over from me and my older colleagues,” said Mr Lee.
READ: Cabinet reshuffle: Chan Chun Sing, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung get new portfolios; no new DPM
READ: Cabinet reshuffle: Josephine Teo to head Smart Nation Initiative; new roles for political office holders
CHANGES MADE AFTER LESS THAN A YEAR
Addressing reporters’ questions on why some ministers were being moved out of their ministries less than a year into their new roles, Mr Lee said that the appointments made after the General Election were an “interim set of changes” and he is now making the full set of changes.
“Some of the interim changes led up to here, and therefore the ministers who are appointed remained, for example, MND (Ministry of National Development), but unfortunately (for) some of the other interim changes, (we have) had to make adjustments to the situation then,” he said.
This was why he has had to move two ministers, Mr Wong and Mr Ong, so quickly after their previous appointments, he said. Mr Desmond Lee is the Minister for National Development, and he remains at the ministry.
“Unfortunately it can’t be helped, I think it’s a bit disruptive for the ministries,” said Mr Lee. “But I hope that after this adjustment, the new ministers in those two posts will be able to settle down for some time.”
Ms Sim Ann will be appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She will continue as the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development but relinquish her appointment as Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information.
Mr Chee Hong Tat will continue as the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport but relinquish his appointment as Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr Koh Poh Koon will be appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Manpower and continue as the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Health.
Mr Tan Kiat How will be appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information. He will continue as the Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development but relinquish his appointment as Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Ms Rahayu Mahzam will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Information and continue as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health.
Mrs Josephine Teo will also be appointed as Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative – taking over from Dr Vivian Balakrishnan – and Minister-in-charge of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, taking over from Mr S Iswaran.
Mr Edwin Tong will also be appointed deputy chairman of the People’s Association, taking over from Mr Chan Chun Sing.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has accepted the proposal for Mr Chee Hong Tat to join the labour movement, as Dr Koh Poh Koon will be returning to the Government full-time.