BY BY MASSITA AHMAD
SINGAPORE: Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday announced a cabinet reshuffle effective May 15 that will see seven portfolios change hands while Heng Swee Keat remains as the deputy prime minister.
The reshuffle comes two weeks after Heng said he will step aside as the leader of the fourth-generation People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership team.
“Two weeks ago, I told you that we were planning a cabinet reshuffle. 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,” Lee told a press conference at the Istana. A transcript of Lee’s remarks at the press conference was made available to the media.
The reshuffle will also see Heng continue to serve as the Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies but relinquish the portfolio of Finance Minister which will now go to Lawrence Wong.
“Lawrence has been assisting Swee Keat as Second Minister since 2016, so he has the experience, and is a natural fit for the job,” Lee said, adding that the Ministry of Finance team is otherwise unchanged. Indranee Rajah will remain as the Second Minister.
Lee also said that when the finance minister changes, there are many repercussions for the other appointments, and added that he is also moving the ministers for health, manpower, and trade & industry.
“These are frontline ministers dealing with Covid-19 and its consequences. I considered making these changes after the GE (General Election) last year, but we were then still in the thick of Covid-19.
“I decided that we need to let the ministers concentrate on fighting Covid-19 at that point. Now that the Covid-19 situation is more stable, although by no means over, I am able to make these changes,” he said.
Lee said relinquishing the finance portfolio will free Heng to concentrate more on the whole-of-government economic agenda, including chairing the Future Economy Council, and incorporating the recommendations of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce into the work of the council.
Elaborating on the reshuffle, Lee said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing will be the new Minister for Education, taking over from Lawrence Wong while Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong will be appointed Trade and Industry Minister.
Ong Ye Kung will take over from Gan as Minister for Health and relinquish his Transport portfolio to S. Iswaran who will continue as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations in the Ministry of Trade and Industry but relinquish his appointment as Minister for Communications and Information.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo will take over as Minister for Communications and Information but will continue as Second Minister for Home Affairs.
Dr Tan See Leng will be the new Manpower Minister. He will continue as the Second Minister for Trade and Industry.
“The rest of the ministers and ministries are unchanged,” Lee said, and added that most of the 4G (fourth-generation) 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. They have to get to work quickly, because although our Covid-19 situation is stable now, we are still in the midst of a public health and economic crisis.
“The reshuffle is also 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 Lee. – Bernama