Thursday 9 April 2015

PM Lee makes Cabinet changes with effect from 9 April 2015

Masagos promoted to full minister in Cabinet changes
Chun Sing to be labour chief in May, Swee Say to helm Manpower
By Fiona Chan, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

A RESHUFFLING of roles within the Cabinet and the labour movement leadership has resulted in a new minister, a new labour chief and new portfolios for three other ministers.

The changes - the fifth set since the May 2011 General Election (GE) - are mostly adjustments in the wake of Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing moving to head the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

But in a surprise move, Mr Lim Swee Say, the man he is replacing as labour chief, will take over as Manpower Minister.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also took the chance to refresh his leadership bench ahead of the next GE, which must be held by January 2017.

He promoted Mr Masagos Zulkifli to full minister in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) with effect from today, marking the first time Cabinet has two Malay ministers. The other is Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

Witnessed Masagos Zulkifli sworn-in today as a full minister. His sincerity, ability and hard work have earned him the...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mr Masagos, 51, who will also become Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, "has performed well, both in his ministries and as an MP in Tampines", said PM Lee on Facebook yesterday.

Having two full ministers "reflects the progress of the Malay community", he added.

Meanwhile, the labour movement will get a new chief earlier than expected. Mr Chan, 45, who is now NTUC's deputy secretary-general, will take over as secretary-general on May 4. He was previously expected to be voted in as labour chief during the next NTUC central committee elections in October.

Also on May 4, Mr Lim, whom he is replacing, becomes Manpower Minister. Mr Lim, 60, is resigning from NTUC and is also stepping down as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Closing the loop, current Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, 46, will succeed Mr Chan today as Minister for Social and Family Development. He will also hold his current portfolio until Mr Lim takes the helm next month.

In addition, Mr Chan, who will be appointed Minister in the Prime Minister's Office from today, will relinquish his role as Second Minister for Defence.

That will be taken on by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, 53, in addition to his current portfolio as Transport Minister, effective today.

In his Facebook post, PM Lee described yesterday's changes as "part of continuing leadership renewal, to build a strong 'A' team for Singapore".

Political observers noted that the new appointments seem aimed at consolidating and refining the policy changes in recent years rather than taking things in a new direction. The ministers given new portfolios are expected to hit the ground running, they said.

Mr Tan's experience in manpower matters could be useful in handling social and family problems, many of which stem from unemployment or low incomes, said Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan.

Mr Lim will also be dealing with the same issues in the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) as he did at NTUC, from helping low-wage workers to improving retirement adequacy, noted Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Gillian Koh.

Associate Professor Tan added that the appointment of Mr Lim could signal that the MOM will take a greater interest in workers' issues.

"There's always been this longstanding concern that, within tripartism, business interests have a slightly heavier accent than the labour movement."

In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Lim assured unionists that he will continue to be "pro-worker" while also being "pro-business".

"After all, the two are not necessarily in conflict. They are the two sides of a same coin," he said.

Making several Cabinet changes today. I am promoting Masagos Zulkifli to full Minister. He has performed well, both in...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Congratulations to Masagos Zulkifli on his promotion to a full Minister. He is humble, sincere and dedicated. A good...
Posted by MParader on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Malay/Muslim leaders cheer Masagos' promotion
Full minister appointment means two Malay Cabinet members for first time
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

MALAY and Muslim community leaders yesterday welcomed news of Mr Masagos Zulkifli's promotion to full minister, the first time there are two Malay members of Cabinet.

Mr Masagos, 51, will be sworn in as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs today. He has been Senior Minister of State in both ministries since 2012.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who is also Minister- in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said: "I am happy that Masagos has been promoted to a full minister."

Association of Muslim Professionals chairman Azmoon Ahmad said the promotion is further proof that "Malays can stand tall in this meritocratic nation".

"It will create impetus for the community and encourage us and give us the confidence that Malays can succeed," he added.

Former Nominated MP and political watcher Zulkifli Baharudin said the appointment debunks the long-held idea in some quarters that there could be only one Malay minister. The move shows "we have moved forward, progress has been made".

Mr Masagos told The Straits Times that having two Malay full ministers for the first time in the nation's history "reflects the trust and recognition the Government has on the good progress made by the Malay/Muslim community".

"However, our value system puts meritocracy above all when appointments are made. That gives us the assurance that appointment is based on merit, not favour," he added.

"It's a good system that ensures confidence and respect for whoever is appointed."

Mr Masagos was chief executive officer of Singtel Global Offices before he entered politics in 2006. He was also a respected community leader, chairing Muslim welfare group Perdaus, and starting its humanitarian offshoot Mercy Relief.

After the 2006 General Election, he was appointed Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, and later for Home Affairs as well. In 2010, he was promoted to Minister of State, and the following year, gave up his Education portfolio for Foreign Affairs.

He became Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs in August 2012.

Fellow MPs were not surprised at his promotion, citing his diligence and commitment to the job. He has been actively involved in the fight against drugs and extremism, among others. He chairs a multi-agency task force that tackles youth drug abuse, and led a Singapore delegation to the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February this year.

His promotion also means there are now two second ministers at Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs.

Mr Hri Kumar Nair, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Home Affairs and Law, said it was good to have three full ministers for a key portfolio like Home Affairs. He noted Mr Masagos' work in reshaping the rehabilitation systems for prisoners and drug offenders.

Mr Alex Yam, deputy chairman of the GPC for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said as a small country, Singapore placed a lot of emphasis on good relationships with neighbours and partners.

"Mr Masagos has established a wealth of contacts. His role as Second Minister will give additional clout when he negotiates on behalf of Singapore," he added.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in Singapore Ministry of Manpower since 21 May 2011. I had not realised how...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tan Chuan-Jin aims to foster caring society
By Tham Yuen-c, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

NEW Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday he plans to foster a caring society, by building on the work of his predecessor Chan Chun Sing.

People in social service have hailed the changes made by Mr Chan as ground-breaking, for building up the sector's capacity and letting social workers help even more needy families.

In his Facebook post yesterday, Mr Tan said: "Nurturing a strong and caring society is important as we look out for those who need the additional helping hand....

"If we can become a nation that cares for others and those around us, we can be that great nation," he said.

Mr Tan entered politics in 2011 and has helmed the Manpower Ministry as well as been senior minister of state for national development.

He will relinquish his position as Manpower Minister to Mr Lim Swee Say on May 4.

Mr Tan takes over a social service sector that has gone through major shifts in the past four years, initiated by Mr Chan.

Singapore Children's Society executive director Alfred Tan highlighted the setting up of Social Service Offices (SSOs) as a key improvement.

The task of the SSOs is to administer financial aid to needy families. In doing so, they free social workers to focus on ways to fix problems such as mental health or family issues.

Chief executive of Marine Parade Family Service Centre Samuel Ng said the initiatives have built up the sector's capabilities and made it more professional.

"Many of us feel the overall direction is very positive, and we hope the new minister will take us to the next lap," he added.

Political watchers and social service players said Mr Tan is well placed for the job, having cut his teeth in the Manpower Ministry helping workers in an increasingly difficult environment.

Law don Eugene Tan, a former Nominated MP said that naming Mr Tan, one of the fourth-generation political leaders, to head the ministry shows the Government's recognition that social issues are inter-connected and increasingly important to Singaporeans.

Ms Denise Phua, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said: "Although Mr Tan does not have deep prior experience in the social service sector, he has in the past shown interest and a lot of support to the sector's beneficiaries and volunteer worker organisations."

For Mr Tan from the Singapore Children's Society, it is the new minister's "passion to help people" that is key.

"We've had the opportunity to work with him on youth issues, and I can see Mr Tan is someone who's very passionate about helping young people and low-income families. This is a very important criterion for someone who is MSF minister," he said.

Brother Swee Say’s belief that a job is the best welfare and full employment is the best protection for our workers has...
Posted by Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I first joined NTUC in 1996, 18 years ago. I am stepping down as NTUC Secretary General on 4 May. My years in serving...
Posted by Lim Swee Say on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

'Even better business-labour coordination'
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

OUTGOING labour chief Lim Swee Say's wealth of experience in labour issues will be invaluable in his new role as Manpower Minister, business leaders and unionists said yesterday.

His understanding of workers' concerns can help him better steer Singapore through a more challenging phase of economic restructuring and issues such as upgrading workers' skills, while at the same time paying heed to workers' welfare, they added.

The president of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), Dr Robert Yap, noted that Mr Lim's experience in helming the former National Computer Board and the Economic Development Board also helps him understand how businessmen think.

"His experience there and in the labour movement will give him a very deep understanding of the competitiveness issues faced by employers and the concerns of workers," said Dr Yap.

He was commenting on Mr Lim's move to the Manpower Ministry, announced yesterday as part of a larger Cabinet reshuffle and a leadership transition in the labour movement.

Taking his place is outgoing Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, 45, who joined NTUC in January and is its deputy secretary-general.

The changes take effect on May 4.

But Mr Chan's replacement, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, will take over today.

Yesterday, labour MPs, bosses and unionists were unanimous in singling out Mr Lim's ability to strengthen the tripartite relationship among employers, workers and the Government.

The SNEF noted in its statement how Mr Lim's "pro-business and pro-worker position on many issues" had led to solutions that benefited all parties.

Similarly, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Thomas Chua said: "We can expect even better coordination (from Mr Lim and Mr Chan Chun Sing) in looking after the needs of businesses and workers' welfare."

Likewise, Mr Tan's experience in manpower issues puts him in a good position to help shape Singapore's social policies, said Mr Chua.

Unionists at NTUC cheered the new role for their chief.

Said NTUC vice-president and Nominated MP K. Karthikeyan: "He understands our wishlist... I think he will push harder and faster for skills upgrading and the progressive wage model, which the Government supports." The wage model, which links pay increases to training, is to boost workers' productivity and pay in certain sectors.

MP Zainal Sapari, who is also an NTUC assistant secretary-general, said "employers might perceive the Manpower Minister would not be neutral and would favour unions".

But, he added, "that will not be true because, having worked with Mr Lim for three years, I know he always does what is good for Singaporeans and Singapore".

Mr Lim's resignation from NTUC is part of its leadership renewal. He turns 62 in July next year and under an NTUC rule, he cannot serve beyond then.

In his resignation letter, Mr Lim reflected on how NTUC had become more inclusive, embracing white-collar, older and foreign workers as well.

Replying, its president Diana Chia thanked him for his contributions and wished him well.

On Facebook, Mr Chan promised to build on Mr Lim's work.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he would have much work to do building on what Mr Lim had done, "but I am confident that he is up to the task".

Look forward to renewing my interactions with the team in MINDEF.Will do my best to contribute to both transport and...
Posted by Lui Tuck Yew on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lui Tuck Yew takes on second portfolio
By Tham Yuen-c, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

TRANSPORT Minister Lui Tuck Yew takes on a second portfolio today, replacing Mr Chan Chun Sing as the Second Minister for Defence.

His new appointment was announced yesterday as part of the latest round of Cabinet changes.

Commenting on it yesterday in a Facebook post, the former chief of Singapore's Navy said he looked forward to renewing his interactions with the Defence Ministry.

"Will do my best to contribute to both transport and defence portfolios. But you can be sure that I will still continue to pay particular attention to matters related to public transport," he added.

Mr Lui's links with the military go back to the 1980s, when he joined the Navy as a Singapore Armed Forces scholarship holder.

He rose to become Chief of Navy in 1999 and served in the position until he left in 2003 to join the Maritime and Port Authority and later the Housing Board as chief executive.

Mr Alex Yam, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said that with Mr Lui's experience, he would be "well-attuned to the requirements of service and is also known to many of the men serving in the Singapore Armed Forces as well as the other services".

Mr Lui entered politics in 2006 and has since held posts in the Education and Foreign Affairs ministries as well as the former Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. He became Transport Minister in May 2011.

Mr Chan will be the new secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress and a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Cabinet changes aimed at gearing up for next election
By Eugene K B Tan, Published TODAY, 9 Apr 2015

Yesterday’s Cabinet changes are in all likelihood the last before Singapore goes into its 12th General Election, which must be held by Jan 9, 2017. Not so much a reshuffle, the Cabinet changes are deliberately limited and targeted. This should not come as a surprise as they come barely a year since the last reshuffle and is the fifth change to the Cabinet line-up since the last election in May 2011.

Given the imminent shifting of gears to election mode, there will be limited scope and patience for policy experimentation. Nor will there be the pressure for significant changes as much of the across-the-board heavy lifting, such as the Pioneer Generation Package and SkillsFuture, have been done between 2011 and last month’s Budget.

The Ministries of Manpower (MOM) and the Social and Family Development (MSF) welcome new Ministers in Mr Lim Swee Say and Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, respectively. The changes are smart; they seek to have Mr Lim and Mr Tan hit the ground running in their new ministerial coordinates.

Mr Lim’s eight-year tenure as the NTUC Secretary-General will enable him to manage with deep knowledge and nuance the various pressing issues facing the labour movement. These include fine-tuning the local-foreign manpower component and their integration, changes to the Central Provident Fund to make it more robust to better cater to retirement needs, and developing SkillsFuture, the latest initiative in support of the national movement to develop Singaporeans’ fullest potential throughout life.

Likewise for Mr Tan, who takes over at MSF from Mr Chan Chun Sing, who has just been elected NTUC’s Secretary-General. Mr Tan’s appointment demonstrates the Government’s intent to challenge and expose the rising fourth-generation leaders to ministerial assignments in the social and environment portfolios. It also signals the recognition of how familial and societal well-being is intimately tied with gainful employment and opportunities to upgrade. Mr Tan will add a new dimension to the increasingly significant issues of developing societal bonds, enhancing the family’s role in our society, as well as the widening and strengthening of the social safety net.

The new roles for Messrs Lim and Tan indicate the intention to tap their experience and expertise in their former roles, reaffirm the appreciation of the polycentric nature of issues of the day, while valuing the benefits of fresh perspectives.


While the changes may be criticised as being too conservative, they reinforce the policy preference for incremental change and developing the keen eye and ear for systemic effects that come from issues that increasingly cut across the various government ministries and agencies.

Increasingly, the government’s ability to “join the dots” across various policy initiatives is a growing imperative in a more complex governance environment. This also entails better whole-of-government coordination, reaping of synergies across policy domains, and managing trade-offs at a systemic level.

Politically, the government is indicating that younger office-holders should cut their teeth and hone their political acumen in what has been traditionally regarded as not-so-glamorous ministries. Hence, the deployment of Mr Chan to the labour movement and Mr Tan to MSF in this latest round of changes can be seen in that light.

While technocratic expertise and flair are still valued in the Cabinet, the accent in recent years has been on developing political nous and sensitivity as well as nurturing new approaches to reach out to and engage a more demanding electorate.

With the promotion of Mr Masagos Zulkifli Masagos Mohamad to a full Minister, there are now, for the first time, two Malay Ministers in the 17-member Cabinet. This demonstrates the coming of age of the role of Malay politicians in our national leadership. And they are handling significant portfolios at the full ministerial level. While numbers should not be the sole measure of political relevance and effectiveness, the fact that Malay ministers are tasked with handling non-traditional and even sensitive portfolios is significant. There are other Malay political office-holders in a variety of portfolios such as Defence, Transport, Health, National Development, Manpower, and Education. This is another measure of the progress of the Malay community and of multiracialism in Singapore.

Overall, the Cabinet changes signal Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s intent to consolidate and refine the broad swathe of significant policy changes since May 2011 before going to the next polls. The imperative on the political home-stretch is to ensure effective and efficient implementation of policies so that their policy objectives are realised and the benefits accrue to Singaporeans and Singapore.

With this latest round of changes, the signs are that the next GE will probably be called before 2015 comes to a close.

Eugene K B Tan is associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law.

Seeing Cabinet change in perspective
Editorial, The Straits Times, 13 Apr 2015

THE slight change to the Cabinet might raise questions about its utility, given the remaining 20 months of the Government's term, if taken to its utmost limit. All the more, the stated value in renewing leadership would be circumscribed.

Of course, there's often more to Cabinet reshuffles everywhere than is fully articulated. While some moves might be functional or prudential, others are symbolic or tactical in varying degrees.

Singapore's record of top leadership renewal based on ability and character is a strong one. But leaders need to win over the electorate and it's likely the latest move was also conditioned by considerations linked to the next general election.

A case in point is Mr Chan Chun Sing's pointed entry into the labour movement - a signal of the importance of this base to the People's Action Party and the need for key fourth-generation leaders to establish political rapport to gather mass support. Mr Chan was untested at the last election when his team, including founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, was not challenged at Tanjong Pagar GRC.

The logic of the other Cabinet moves becomes clear when Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, another rising minister, is required to continue Mr Chan's Social and Family Development work - one that is assuming greater import, given the social evolution in progress. Filling Mr Tan's post, former labour chief Lim Swee Say is seen as a natural fit for the Manpower portfolio.

In another important area, one would have been surprised if the Prime Minister had not inducted a younger Malay leader sooner rather than later to preserve the inclusiveness of the Cabinet. As Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Mr Masagos Zulkifli will offer the PM more options in shaping his post-GE Cabinet, while Mr Masagos remains engaged at the Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs ministries in the interim. These are both substantial portfolios, given present and emerging security threats as well as significant regional developments. This will also serve the broad objective of exposing the fourth generation to a range of sensitive tasks.

The pragmatism underlying the ministerial reshuffle here deserves to be noted as the change is endogenous - prompted by self-renewal and merit considerations - rather than one that is exogenously induced, for example, when coalition partners or party heavyweights make demands to serve their own political interests. Going forward, managing both leadership continuity and change, in ways that safeguard Singapore's critical interests, cannot be taken for granted as the polity develops. Yet some things unlikely to change are time-tested hallmarks of political leadership, like result-based performance and a people-based approach.

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