Friday 30 August 2013

Changes to Cabinet and Other Appointments from 1 Sep 2013

PM makes 3rd round of Cabinet changes
Chan Chun Sing made full minister; 2 new office-holders; more women
By Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2013

TWO years after entering politics, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, 44, is being promoted to full minister, charting one of the fastest rises in recent times.

The former army chief's elevation was among several moves the PM's Office announced yesterday, including enlisting of two backbenchers to the front bench and a record number of promotions for women office-holders.

The changes underscore the gathering pace of transition to the fourth-generation leadership, as Mr Chan joins Education Minister Heng Swee Keat as the two full Cabinet ministers among those who entered politics in May 2011. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he wanted to reinforce his team and promote those who have done well.

The changes also reflect a strengthening of the team looking at social policies which have become more complex, he told reporters yesterday during his official visit to China.

And while these are a third set of changes since 2011, PM Lee made clear that he is not done. "After the election, I had a new Cabinet. It was a very lean team and since then, gradually, year by year, I've been building up, reinforcing, adding one or two here and there, and this is another step in that direction," he said.

Mr Chan thanked the PM and his colleagues, adding that "there is much for us to work together in the coming years to realise the direction that PM has charted out in National Day Rally 2013".

The rise of Mr Chan, who will also become Second Minister for Defence, outpaces that of the stars of previous cohorts, including Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who joined politics in 2001 and was made full minister in 2004.

The DPM was from the class of the "Super Seven" which has since formed the backbone of the third-generation leadership.

After the 2011 General Election, Mr Chan was among the "Fabulous Five" selected for political office. Leading the team, Mr Heng Swee Keat, at age 50, made it to full minister then. Mr Chan was made Acting Minister while Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Lawrence Wong became Ministers of State, before moving up to be Acting Ministers a year later.

Also in that batch, Ms Sim Ann became Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, and Communications and Information. Yesterday, she was promoted to Minister of State.

Mr Tan will give up his second appointment as Senior Minister of State for National Development. The PM said it was so he "can concentrate on his responsibility at MOM" as "taking on two portfolios is too heavy".

Backbenchers Desmond Lee of Jurong GRC and Low Yen Ling of Chua Chu Kang GRC will join the front bench. Mr Lee will be Minister of State for National Development. Ms Low will be a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Apart from Ms Low and Ms Sim, two other women, Dr Amy Khor and Mrs Josephine Teo, moved a notch higher to become Senior Ministers of State in their current portfolios. Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman was also promoted from Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and National Development to Minister of State.

Observers noted that the latest moves continue a deliberate but urgent process of leadership renewal begun in 2011.

Nominated MP Eugene Tan said: "It demonstrates confidence to the public that 'we have brought in people who can be part of the fourth- generation leadership, we are testing them and putting them in place'."

The changes take effect on Sept 1, except for Ms Low's which will be on Oct 1.

Leadership team being reinforced: PM
By Kor Kian Beng, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2013

THE latest Cabinet changes are aimed at reinforcing Singapore's leadership team in the face of increasingly complicated and intense policy challenges, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

There is also a need for political leadership at the various ministries and departments, so as to help the Government engage and understand Singaporeans as well as get its own views across, he added.

Speaking to the Singapore media on the sidelines of his official visit to China yesterday, he said: "I'm reinforcing the team. I think the tasks have become more complicated and intense.

"For that, we need a team which has a varied range of talents and abilities, and which you build up gradually over time."

He further noted that the latest Cabinet changes would not be the last.

Topping the list of changes announced yesterday was Mr Chan Chun Sing's promotion from acting minister to a full minister. He will continue to helm the Ministry of Social and Family Development and serve concurrently as Second Minister for Defence.

Two backbenchers are taking up offices too.

Mr Desmond Lee will be appointed as Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development from Sept 1 and Ms Low Yen Ling will be Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Social and Family Development from Oct 1.

Asked if the changes mean that he is closer to identifying his successor, PM Lee said it is not his call to make but for "the younger ministers in the team to work out amongst themselves whom they will support as their leader".

He added: "The people who are in the Cabinet now will be an important part of the next generation of leaders for Singapore.

"I hope we will be able to reinforce them further in the next round, but I think we have a significant number of them already in the team, whom I have brought in in the last election."

PM Lee, who arrived in China on Sunday for a week-long visit, will travel to Kashgar today before heading to north-eastern Shenyang city in Liaoning province in the evening.

Four women now in senior positions
Number hits a record, but observers want more women as full ministers
By Rachel Chang And Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2013

SINGAPORE will have the highest number of women politicians in senior positions in its legislative history, following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's decision to promote four of them yesterday.

Moving into the senior ranks are Mrs Josephine Teo, 45, and Dr Amy Khor, 55, who will be Senior Ministers of State from Sept 1. Both are now Ministers of State.

They will continue to hold their current portfolios of Finance and Transport, and Health and Manpower respectively.

Their promotions will also double the number of senior women office-holders from the current two: Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, 49, and Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah, 50.

Yesterday also saw Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Communications and Information Sim Ann, 38, moving up to be Minister of State, with the same portfolios.

In addition, backbencher Low Yen Ling, 39, will join the Government on Oct 1 as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

With the four new promotions, six out of the 32 office-holders will be women. This is an increase from five, which resulted from Madam Halimah Yacob leaving the front bench to be Speaker of Parliament in January this year.

The greater female representation was cheered by Dr Khor.

She told The Straits Times: "I am very happy. It bodes well for women in politics. It is an affirmation of the meritocratic principles that Singapore has been built on."

She added: "I hope that more women who are interested to serve and join politics will be encouraged to step forward."

The changes also pleased observers like former Nominated MP Paulin Straughan, who saw them as part of a "very carefully calibrated" move to groom more women for senior levels of decision-making by the next election.

"It is hard to envision you can jump from very little experience to the very pinnacle of the (government) hierarchy," she added.

But many also noted there was a way to go. One milestone has yet to be reached: a full woman minister with her own ministry.

Singapore's first full woman minister, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, was Second Minister for Finance and Transport when she lost the 2011 General Election in Aljunied GRC. She left politics after the defeat.

In 1991, Dr Seet Ai Mee had barely taken charge as Acting Minister for Community Development when she lost her Bukit Gombak seat in the general election.

The promotions are "definitely good news", said former Nominated MP Kanwaljit Soin, "but somehow or other, we seem to have women only at the lower levels of ministerial ranks, and not many seem to make it all the way up".

"I would also like to see the women more spread out in the Government, and not just in what are perceived to be 'soft' areas," she added. "Why can't we have a woman in Defence?"

Ms Corinna Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research, noted that with so many talented women, "we should actually see more appointments as full ministers."

Desmond Lee, Low Yen Ling join front bench
By Janice Heng And Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2013

THE son of a former Cabinet minister and a businesswoman with a keen interest in family issues will move from the backbench to become office-holders.

Jurong GRC MP Desmond Lee, who entered the political arena only in the last general election, has been appointed Minister of State for National Development.

Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Low Yen Ling, who also joined the People's Action Party at the last GE, will become Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development.

Both were described as "outstanding backbenchers" by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Mr Lee, 37, is following in the footsteps of his father Lee Yock Suan, whose first appointment was as Minister of State for National Development in 1983 when he was a year younger.

The elder Mr Lee retired from politics in 2006, after helming several ministries, including Finance, Labour and Education.

His son was a lawyer in the civil service before entering politics, when he then became associate director of Temasek Holdings' subsidiary Temasek International.

Heritage, conservation and "keeping places green" are areas he wants to pay attention to, he told The Straits Times yesterday.

PM Lee said of his appointment: "Looking at his experience and what he's able to do, I think that's a right place to peg it."

Meanwhile, Ms Low, 39, is the third chief executive officer from networking group Business China to become an office-holder. Her appointment was due to her good contacts and her interest in MSF issues, PM Lee said.

She has raised issues such as early childhood education, families and supporting those at risk in Parliament previously. "I hope in some ways, being a mother or parent, wife and daughter will bring me closer to the issues that we need to tackle," she said.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, promoted from Acting Minister for Social and Family Development to full minister. Also promoted from Senior Minister of State to Second Minister for Defence

"I would like to thank PM for this opportunity to serve. Will also like to thank colleagues and partners who have constantly supported and guided me in the work to build a better Singapore for our families and children. There is much for us to work together (on) in the coming years to realise the direction that PM has charted out in this year's National Day Rally."

Dr Amy Khor, promoted from Minister of State for Health and Manpower to Senior Minister of State

"As PM (Lee) has noted, Singapore is at a turning point and we need to work together to forge a new way forward to ensure that Singapore continues to thrive and remain relevant."

Mrs Josephine Teo, promoted from Minister of State for Transport and Finance to Senior Minister of State

"I see this as an encouragement for women who are juggling work and family, that we can make progress in Singapore through hard work and the support of family and friends. There are now more women in Cabinet and there will certainly be more women in our boardrooms."

Ms Sim Ann, promoted from Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, and Information and Communications, to Minister of State

"Having more women office-holders, in addition to a woman Speaker of Parliament, reflects growing participation by women in public life. It also shows that PM Lee is consistent in valuing women's viewpoints and contributions. I particularly appreciate this inclusive aspect of his leadership."

Swimming at the deep end
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 29 Aug 2013

FOR a country used to seeing its top politicians groomed over years or even decades, former chief of army Chan Chun Sing's ascendancy from political newbie to full minister has been meteoric.

Even the highest of the high-fliers of 2001's "Super Seven" batch of politicians - Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan - had about four years between entering politics and reaching the same milestone.

Of the current ministers, Mr Chan's rise is outpaced only by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who managed the rare feat of catapulting straight into full ministership in 2011. This was last accomplished by former finance minister Richard Hu in 1984.

But Mr Heng entered politics at age 50 - a decade older than Mr Chan and the other fourth-generation leaders.

What the accelerated pace of the careers of Mr Chan and his two peers - Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong - reflects is an urgency created by uncertainty.

Mr Chan became Acting Minister immediately after the 2011 General Election while Mr Tan and Mr Wong were made Ministers of State, before moving up to their current acting roles a year later.

Even with these moves, Singapore politics has never before had so little clarity on the ruling party's succession planning.

In 2011, as he inducted the fourth-generation leaders into his Cabinet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the faster pace of political appointment was due to the urgency of leadership succession.

He has since said that he hopes not to be PM beyond 70 years old - he is currently 61 - and has set himself a deadline of 2020 to hand over to Singapore's fourth-generation leadership. That is just seven years away. At the corresponding moment in Mr Goh Chok Tong's premiership, it was quite clear who his successor would be.

This is why the young ministers have had to endure the political equivalent of being dropped into the deep end of the pool.

They do not have the luxury of a few years in the baby pool of more junior appointments, observing their predecessors and learning the strokes, before they will be called on to lead the country. This is what the second and third generation, including PM Lee, had.

Instead, they have had to be propelled straight away into key decision-making roles, because it is in the crucible of highest responsibility that leaders are forged. It is only then that it can become clear who the next PM could be.

But this compressed process of political maturation is already showing signs of stress. Yesterday, PM Lee also announced that Mr Tan would relinquish his second portfolio as Senior Minister of State for National Development, to focus on the Manpower Ministry.

In an interview with reporters in China, Mr Lee said he had previously been asked to take on too much.

Some have taken it as a demotion of sorts, or even as a public insult to Mr Tan's abilities. But that is unfair. Both Mr Chan and Mr Wong are effectively helming half a ministry each - the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports was split last year - while the Manpower portfolio that Mr Tan is grappling with is at the centre of Singapore's economic restructuring.

Instead, what this reveals is the downside of a compressed political timeline. A baptism of fire will burn even men of the highest calibre, and all of the fourth-generation leadership will likely have already felt some form of this, public or not.

But it can also reveal their mettle. In a way, an intense, accelerated ascension befits a prime minister who will have to deal with a vastly more competitive political landscape than his predecessors did. Governance will be complex and unpredictable at every turn.

But it will also be replete with opportunities for a leader with a maverick vision for a country in transition, and the steely persuasion required to take the people along. The kind of leader who, when he is thrown in at the deep end, surfaces, swims and wins.

Political service does not depend on appointments: Tan Chuan-Jin
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 31 Aug 2013

Political service does not depend on appointments, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said in a Facebook post on Saturday, and he will continue to make a difference where he can.

The young ministers are all on the same team serving the same cause and not in a competition, he added, in his first comments on the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

The former army general, who will relinquish his appointment as Senior Minister of State for National Development from Sunday, wrote: "There is a reason why we serve, and it doesn't depend on our appointment.

"I'm already blessed to have this opportunity and will continue to make a difference where I can."

He is widely seen as part of the PAP's fourth generation of leaders, all of whom entered politics in the 2011 General Election. The others are Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, and Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.

From Sunday, Mr Chan will become a full minister at MSF, and Second Defence Minister.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said on Wednesday that the changes to Mr Tan's appointments was so he could "concentrate on his responsibility" at the Manpower Ministry as "taking on two portfolios is too heavy".

Mr Tan, in a response to comments which mentioned competition among future leaders or a "promotion race" on his Facebook page, said on Saturday:

Race to find PM Lee's successor is on
Quick ascension of Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing is a nod to their ability but also borne out of necessity
By Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 31 Aug 2013

WHILE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that his successor has not yet been chosen, his actions over the last few weeks suggest that, at the very least, the field is starting to narrow.

First, there was the appointment of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat - already two years into helming his ministry, and fresh from organising the Our Singapore Conversation - as the chair of a yet another key national committee, one to commemorate Singapore's 50th year of independence.

Then on Wednesday, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing was promoted to full minister and made Second Minister for Defence.

The class of 2011 is meant to form the nucleus of the fourth-generation leadership that is slated to take over in 2020 (depending on a People's Action Party win, of course).

With these recent moves, it would seem clearer who the front runners to be the next PM are.

In Singapore politics, history would suggest that speed matters.

Those who make it to the very highest echelons of political leadership seem to have a few things in common: They are identified very early on, given a lot to do, and rarely look back.

Out of nearly 40 Cabinet ministers since the 1970s, those who rose to the very pinnacle, first became full ministers the fastest among their cohorts and typically in under three years.

To be exact, the two prime ministers after Mr Lee Kuan Yew had been elected for a little over two years before they were made full ministers.

In the case of President and former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan Keng Yam, who was identified as being of PM calibre, the length of time was just one year and three months.

If history is to be a gauge, Mr Heng and Mr Chan - who will become full minister next month after two years and four months since being elected - are being set apart from the rest of their cohort.

The others with them include Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Lawrence Wong, who were both made Ministers of State in 2011, then promoted to Acting Minister last year in their manpower and culture, community and youth ministries respectively.

PM Lee said the lack of a promotion for them this time round does not reflect that they have not performed and he said that they "may be a step behind".

So while the Prime Minister says the choice of his successor will be left to the younger ministers to make, his actions suggest he is helping steer the sorting out along.

Yet, caution is required when trying to read the tea leaves based on these historical precedents.

The numbers paint a fascinating picture but past patterns are not necessarily predictive of the future.

Each generation of leadership comes in under largely different circumstances and contexts.

Some will, for instance, argue that the quick elevation of Mr Chan and Mr Heng has also been out of necessity. And here several other observations need to be made about the leaders of the fourth generation.

One, that our next PM could likely be the oldest ever. Two, he and his team will have the least electoral battle experience. And three, they will have a much smaller window of time for teething.

How did the PAP's leadership renewal reach this stage?

It can be traced back to the 2001 cohort, which yielded the "super seven", one of the largest infusion of ministers in history, all of whom were also already in their 40s.

That core of that class - headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam who entered politics at the age of 44 and is now 56 - is deemed by observers as a little too old to be in the running as PM Lee's successor. In any case, Mr Tharman has also ruled himself out.

Among the seven, of whom only four are still in Cabinet, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, at 40 then, was the youngest and the only one born in the 1960s.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, two years older than Dr Balakrishnan, is also part of that cohort though not of the original seven.

The crop from the 2006 polls has yielded only two Cabinet ministers for the PAP since - Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu. Mr Lui was promoted in 2011, and Ms Fu last year.

The ages of the class of 2001, and the small crop from 2006, put immense pressure on the 2011 cohort to produce the bulk of the fourth-generation core going forward with only seven years until the unofficial deadline.

That will affect the teething time and electoral experiences of the current class.

Mr Heng was already 50 when he entered politics, making him just the fourth man to enter politics at age 50 or older.

Of the three who did, going back to the 1970s, all were made full minister immediately. But two of them - Mr Teh Cheang Wan and Mr Howe Yoon Choong - stepped down after just two terms. The third, Dr Richard Hu, was Finance Minister for four terms.

If Mr Heng becomes the next PM in 2020, he will be 59. Mr Chan will be 51. Moreover, they will have contested in only three general elections come 2020.

Compare this situation to previous leadership successions.

The core of the second generation of leaders were all in their 30s when they entered politics.

Mr Goh Chok Tong was 35, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam and Mr S. Dhanabalan were 39, and Mr Lim Chee Onn was just 33.

They contested four general elections before Mr Goh took over as Prime Minister in 1990 at the age of 49.

Similarly, among the third generation, PM Lee Hsien Loong entered politics at the age of 32, former DPM Wong Kan Seng at 38, former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo at 34, and DPM Teo Chee Hean at 37.

PM Lee fought five electoral battles before taking over the helm in 2004, at the age of 52.

Even though these men were given heavy responsibilities quickly, there was time to test them out, let them gain experience, and weed out the weak.

These differences from the current batch's situation bring home the great sense of urgency for leadership renewal from the PM's perspective.

And if the timing of Mr Chan's and Mr Heng's ascent seems to point to bigger things in the future, what of their portfolios?

That Mr Heng has been entrusted to lead two important committees is telling, but some observers had questioned Mr Chan's position when he was put in charge of a smaller ministry.

In the past, the most promising young ministers were typically blooded in the ministries of trade and industry, as well as education - key pillars of Singapore. Mr Chan's posting to the Social and Family Development Ministry (MSF) is therefore conspicuous.

Perhaps it is an indication from the PM that the next generation's leaders have to prove their understanding and empathy with the social needs of Singaporeans, and not just their economic goals.

It is also perhaps telling that the broadened social safety nets under the "new way forward" announced at the National Day Rally will require key contributions from the MSF.

Indeed, from handling ageing population and fertility issues, to tackling income inequality and stubbornly low wages, the social needs of Singaporeans are increasingly many and varied.

With the times a-changing, the rapid ascension of Mr Heng and Mr Chan is a nod to their qualities.

But equally, it is a decision borne out of necessity, with both eyes firmly looking at the window for which the next leaders have to get ready, and seeing it shrinking with each passing day.

NGOs happy Tan Chuan-Jin remains their govt point man
He is 'unofficial point person' as he is passionate about these causes: Khaw
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 4 Sep 2013

SOME environmental and animal rights groups welcomed the announcement that Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin will continue to be their Government point man even after he leaves the Ministry of National Development (MND).

Leaders of non-governmental organisations told The Straits Times yesterday that Mr Tan had built up familiarity and goodwill with the sector.

Said Nature Society president Shawn Lum: "He has made a sincere effort to engage with us, and he has built up a lot of experience in the past two years. It would have been a shame to lose that."

Mr Louis Ng, president of animal rights group Acres, described Mr Tan as "open to dialogue and feedback", noting that he recently helped push through policy changes on animal welfare based on groups' recommendations.

Though he is no longer in MND, "he remains in the Cabinet, so he can still relay our concerns to the other ministers", said Mr Ng.

Singapore Heritage Society's vice-president, Dr Chua Ai Lin, said Mr Tan's presence "may offer some continuity in the state-NGO engagement process" and added that the group is also looking forward to sharing its views with Minister of State Desmond Lee.

Mr Tan oversaw NGO issues when he was Senior Minister of State for National Development, a role which he officially relinquished on Monday as part of a Cabinet reshuffle.

Commenting on Mr Tan's departure on Monday in a blog post, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said while the new Minister of State Desmond Lee will take over some of the portfolio, Mr Tan will remain as their "unofficial point person" for the NGOs as "he feels passionately for these causes, and we too".

"He walked, jogged, cycled, dived, and of course Facebooked, to build up a strong and productive relationship between MND and the interested NGOs," said Mr Khaw.

Mr Khaw said projects such as the Rail Corridor and Bukit Brown, animal welfare and biodiversity conservation issues were among many which benefited from Mr Tan's suggestions.

Mr Tan has said little on his change in duties since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the Cabinet reshuffle last week.

PM Lee said he wanted Mr Tan to drop his MND role so he could concentrate on helming the Manpower Ministry.

But last Friday, Mr Tan posted the following message on his Facebook page: "For your many kind thoughts and messages, thank you very much. I'm deeply humbled. There is a reason why we serve, and it doesn't depend on our appointment. I'm already blessed to have this opportunity and will continue to make a difference where I can."

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