Tuesday 29 September 2015

Post GE2015: PM Lee Hsien Loong names Cabinet aimed at leadership succession

Cabinet changes take effect 1 October 2015; Khaw Boon Wan to be new Transport Minister
Coordinating ministers will help tackle complex matters, mentor younger ministers
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Sept 28) announced a renewed and restructured Cabinet with the aim of readying a team to lead Singapore soon after the next general election.

Mr Lee said he had moved boldly to put fourth-generation leaders in roles of heavy responsibility to test and train them. Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam will act as Coordinating Ministers and mentors.

Mr Teo will oversee national security and strategic planning, while Mr Tharman will oversee economic and social policies. Outgoing National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan will be Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, as well as Transport Minister. Mr Lee said the appointment of coordinating ministers was made with an eye on a more complex policymaking environment, and the need to coordinate responses to broad challenges that involve multiple ministries.

For example, Mr Khaw's role overseeing infrastructure will let him "tie together closely the different aspects of urban planning and infrastructure provision", Mr Lee said, citing elements such as housing and rail and IT infrastructure.

Two ministries whose scope of work has expanded will have two ministers each: Education, and Trade and Industry. Each will have different responsibilities but work closely together, he said at a press conference at the Istana to announce the 20 Cabinet members and 17 other office-holders.

New MPs, former defence chief Ng Chee Meng and former senior civil servant Ong Ye Kung will both be Acting Ministers for Education. Mr Ng will oversee schools while Mr Ong will oversee higher education and skills training.

Both are seen as key members of the fourth-generation leadership team, and Mr Lee said of the group: "I want people tested, I want people developed, I want people exposed and known to the public, and confidence built up, and the team shaken down, so that within the team, they know who can do what, how they can work together, and who can emerge as a leader of the team."

His successor as Prime Minister would "most likely" come from among the members of this new Cabinet, if not, something has gone "very, very unexpectedly", he said.

Other ministers tipped to form the core of the next leadership team will also take on heavier roles.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong will take over National Development, while Education Minister Heng Swee Keat will take over from Mr Tharman as Finance Minister.

The new Cabinet is one of the youngest in recent history, with over half under 55 years of age.

Ms Grace Fu will be Singapore's first female full minister to helm a ministry - Culture, Community and Youth. Mr Masagos Zulkifli will be Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan will become Minister for Foreign Affairs, taking over from Mr K. Shanmugam, who helms Home Affairs and Law.

The presence of seasoned coordinating ministers also gives him the confidence to put newer ministers in tough roles, Mr Lee said.

Both DPMs emphasised mentorship in their roles. Said Mr Teo: "A major responsibility now is to help PM to develop a new team, to help, guide, mentor, share our experiences and to help them to succeed."

Mr Tharman said a five-year runway to prepare a new team is more than what most countries have. "Here we've got five years, shorter than has been the normal practice in Singapore, but I think in time doable, because these are good men and women, and we've got experienced hands still in Cabinet."

Announced my new Cabinet Line-up today. The changes will provide Singapore with a competent team to lead us beyond...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, September 28, 2015

Find out who is in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s new line-up for the 13th Parliament and who is responsible for each...
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, September 28, 2015

PM Lee makes ‘decisive move’ with Cabinet for next phase
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 28 Sep 2015

In the most sweeping changes to Cabinet in recent years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Sept 28) announced the line-up that will take Singapore into its next phase, post-SG50. Describing it as a “transition team” that is bigger than usual — there will be 37 office holders, up from 33 currently — Mr Lee stressed the urgency of preparing the team to take over from him and his senior colleagues.

“The task is urgent and we do not have the luxury of time. Therefore, I am making a decisive move in my new Cabinet, and not just an incremental change,” Mr Lee said at a press conference at the Istana.

With half of the office-holders aged 50 and below, the changes will help prepare the next team of leaders for Singapore. “I am pushing the time-table, I have a deadline to meet. I want to have a team ready to take over soon after the next election. So I want people tested, I want people developed, I want people exposed and known to the public, and confidence built up, and the team shaken down so that within the team they know who can do what, how they can work together ... who can emerge as the leader of the team,” he said.

Bigger changes could be in store when a reshuffle takes place mid-term, in two to three years’ time, he added. “Several ministers have spoken to me to say they are happy to go once we can find suitable successors. But I said that we have to see through this changeover, this transition, and they are fully with me on that. And I think we will make further changes during the term,” he said.

The new Cabinet line-up will take effect from Thursday, when the ministers are sworn in.

There will be changes in the political office holders at all but one of the 15 ministries. The Law Ministry is the only ministry where its political office-holders will stay put. Eight ministries will be led by new Cabinet Ministers.

In fact, the Education Ministry will be helmed by two newly-elected Acting Ministers, former Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng and Keppel Corporation director of group strategy and development Ong Ye Kung.

Coordinating ministers have been appointed to guide and mentor younger ministers helming key ministries. The three co-ordinating ministers are Deputy Prime Ministers Mr Teo Chee Hean and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as Mr Khaw Boon Wan. They will oversee national security, economic and social policies, and infrastructure, respectively. Apart from Mr Khaw, who will take over the transport portfolio that had been described as a poisoned chalice by analysts, the other co-ordinating ministers will not be helming any ministries so as to focus on their roles.

With Singapore entering a new phase in nation-building and more complex challenges and issues involving multiple ministries arising, tighter coordination is needed across ministries for a more coherent government response to broad important issues, said Mr Lee. Coordinating ministers will allow him to take a chance by having new ministers helm specific ministries and master the job, as they help to “bring the pieces together”, he said.

For the first time, two ministries — education, and trade and industry — will be headed by two ministers each. Mr Lim Hng Kiang and Mr S Iswaran, who are currently the Minister and Second Minister for Trade and Industry respectively, will remain with their ministry but their roles will be redefined, with the two of them splitting the responsibilities of running the ministry.

As for Mr Ong and Mr Ng helming the education ministry, Mr Lee said he has worked with them previously and knows them. They need the experience and exposure to do the job, and will have “enough sources of advice” in the form of Mr Lee himself and former Education Ministers in the Cabinet.

A handful of ministers, including Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, will retain their portfolios.

Mr Lim Swee Say, appointed Manpower Minister in May, will continue in the role. Similarly, Mr Chan Chun Sing and Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, who were respectively appointed labour chief and Minister for Social and Family Development earlier this year, will remain in their current capacities.

For those who have recently been appointed to their portfolios or are doing good work in their current portfolios and cannot be spared, I have asked them to carry on,” said Mr Lee in his opening remarks at the press conference. “They will be valuable in providing stability and continuity to their ministries in the time of transition.”

The appointments reflect the four priority areas of safety and security, jobs and opportunity, taking care of Singaporeans and transforming our home, said Mr Lee.

Safety and security, for example, is vital and a prerequisite for everything else to work, he said. And Singapore will continue to have a strong and experienced team in security. Mr Teo will continue to coordinate national security while Dr Ng and Mr Shanmugam retain their defence and law porfolios respectively. Mr Shanmugam will swop his foreign affairs portfolio — which will be taken over by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan — for home affairs, which he had briefly helmed previously. Mr Lee had repeatedly framed the recent General Election as one where leadership renewal was the most important issue.

On the issue of succession, Mr Tharman, who was also at the press conference, noted that “we are never in an ideal situation”. “But this is as good as it gets, where we have experienced people still in Cabinet and we have a new team, each of them solid people with their own track records both in and out of government,” he said.

“In most countries, you’re given one or two years to take over, sometimes not even a year. Here we’ve got five years — shorter than has been the normal practice in Singapore, but I think entirely doable, because these are good men and women and we’ve got experienced hands still in Cabinet.”

PM Lee Hsien Loong’s new Cabinet

Seasoned trio to take bird's-eye view and oversee complex issues
Teo Chee Hean, Tharman, Khaw Boon Wan will also mentor younger and newer ministers
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Three seasoned ministers will take a bird's-eye view of government and oversee issues involving multiple ministries.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will oversee national security, while Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will coordinate economic and social policies.

Rounding out the group is new Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who will tie urban planning and infrastructure together.

Such "coordinating ministers", as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong termed them, are needed as Singapore faces complex issues that demand a more coherent response from the Government as a whole. They can also mentor younger, newer ministers, he added at the press conference in the Istana where he unveiled the new Cabinet.

"With a coordinating minister overseeing them, I can take the chance on a new person and let him find his feet and master the job. And we can be sure that they will work out," he said.

Mr Tharman's successor as Finance Minister is Mr Heng Swee Keat, who entered politics in 2011 and was the Education Minister.

Mr Heng's batchmate, outgoing Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, succeeds Mr Khaw as National Development Minister.

Mr Teo and Mr Tharman will relinquish their posts as Home Affairs Minister and Finance Minister respectively to focus full-time on their roles as coordinating ministers.

Explaining why he made the appointments, Mr Lee said more and more issues cut across ministries and departments. Population, for one, is influenced not only by economic incentives but also social and housing policies.

Further illustrating his point, Mr Lee said infrastructure includes roads and rail lines, houses, schools and even information technology infrastructure - involving at least four ministries.

"Not easy to coordinate, but it all has to come together. I cannot have one ministry for each of these cross-cutting things. And even if I did, they would all have to link up with one another,'' he said.

This is where coordinating ministers can come in and "help to bring the pieces together", he added.

He also said the introduction of coordinating ministers is not new.

For instance, Britain has secretaries of state. Indonesia has "menko", short for "menteri koordinator" or "coordinating minister" in Bahasa Indonesia. Multiple ministers work under a menko.

"We are going some way in that direction," Mr Lee said.

He added that he had not designated which ministers report to which coordinating minister, as they may have to report to more than one.

Elaborating on the need for such ministers, Mr Khaw said there has always been coordination among government officials.

"But what is critical now is that we inject this political leadership, to make sure political considerations are fully factored in too."

Mr Teo, when asked about his priorities as coordinating minister, said he wanted to focus on tackling new challenges of terrorism in the light of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group's activities.

As for Mr Tharman, he noted that Singapore had started on economic and social programmes, such as economic restructuring, the SkillsFuture drive to upgrade workers' skills, and strengthening the social safety net.

The choices ahead were not simple, he said. "We have to think very hard about what can we afford, how we provide the right incentives, what shake-ups can we accept in the economy."

He added: "I am not going to be peering over the shoulders of ministers, but it's continual consultation, advice, before we actually come to an agreement in (the) Cabinet."

4th generation leaders to play key roles
Move is significant as it underscores the urgency of leadership renewal for the Govt
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Two political newcomers will be acting ministers in the new Cabinet, in a significant move that underscores the urgency of leadership renewal for the Government.

Mr Ong Ye Kung, 45, and Ng Chee Meng, 47, both elected in the Sept 11 polls, will jointly helm the Education Ministry.

With ministers from the 2011 batch taking on heavier responsibilities, and several other new MPs also being appointed to office, the fourth-generation leaders are all in place in the new Cabinet.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, unveiling the line-up yesterday, said he wanted a team ready to take over soon after the next election, due in five years' time."I'm making a decisive move in this new Cabinet and not just an incremental change... I'm putting many of the younger ones into the key ministries so that they can broaden their experience, learn the ropes and establish themselves quickly with each other and with the public."

Mr Lee, 63, who has said he hopes not to continue as PM beyond age 70, had made leadership renewal a key message in GE2015 which his People's Action Party (PAP) won with 69.9 per cent of the vote.

Mr Ong, a former top civil servant who was in the PAP team that lost in Aljunied GRC in 2011, and Mr Ng, the former Chief of Defence Force, will handle different portfolios at the Education Ministry.

They will also be Senior Ministers of State at the Defence and Transport ministries respectively.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Lee said he had known both men before they entered politics, and felt they were well-placed to head the ministry that will play a key role in creating more opportunities for Singaporeans.

"I've put them there because this is a substantial job and also because I'm able to supervise or oversee and mentor them in this job," he said.

Political leaders primed to rise to the top are typically identified early and given important portfolios.

Both men, touted as being of ministerial calibre in the recent election, will round out the core group of the fourth-generation team put in place after the 2011 polls.

Some in the 2011 batch, already into their second term, will also be given other roles in the Cabinet.

Mr Heng Swee Keat will head the Finance Ministry while Mr Lawrence Wong will lead the National Development Ministry. Both ministries will play key roles as PM Lee has identified economic restructuring and the transformation of Singapore's physical environment as priorities in the next term of government.

Meanwhile, Mr Chan Chun Sing, labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development, will continue in their roles given in April.

Ms Grace Fu and Mr Masagos Zulkifli, who entered politics in 2006, will helm their own ministries for the first time, a signal that they too are part of the fourth-generation team. Ms Fu will head the Ministry of Culture Community and Youth, while Mr Masagos will lead the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Other new MPs, said to have leadership potential, were also made office-holders. Among them are Mr Chee Hong Tat, who will be Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health, Dr Koh Poh Koon, who will be Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, and Mr Amrin Amin, who will be Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs.

Yesterday, PM Lee said "it is most likely the future successor is in this Cabinet because there is no time".

"And if somebody else has to come from outside this Cabinet, it would mean something has gone very, very unexpectedly."

Khaw Boon Wan on why he said yes to Transport Minister post
By Ong Hwee Hwee, Deputy Digital Editor The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2015

Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who will be the new Transport Minister, said he agreed to take up the challenge because Singapore's public transport network, including the MRT system, can be improved.

"When PM Lee asked me to be the next Transport Minister, I readily said yes." Incoming Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan stresses that he's ready to contribute to the vision of making Singapore a city where people can travel by foot, bicycles and the public transport with ease, and in a car only occasionally, if need be. bit.ly/1VieYk4
Posted by 938LIVE on Monday, September 28, 2015

Mr Khaw, in a blog post on Monday (Sept 28) after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled the line-up for the new Cabinet, cited three strong beliefs for his decision to step into the hot seat despite his friends advising him against it.

"First, I believe in raising Singaporeans' quality of life further in a city where public transport is so convenient, accessible and reliable, much like public utilities, and that Singapore can be car-lite," he wrote.

He cited the example of European cities where "the young no longer bother to learn to drive".

"In Tokyo, New York, Sydney and London, it is common for bankers, lawyers, businessmen, students, hawkers, tourists and all, to walk, cycle, and take the trains and buses for most of their journeys. This is not yet our lifestyle here, but it can be," he added.

Second, he said Singapore's train lines can be made more reliable, even though some of the trains and infrastructure are no longer new. This can be done by focusing and investing in the engineering and maintenance department.

"In hospitals, we put our doctors, nurses and allied professionals ahead of others. In schools, we put priority in our teachers and principals," he wrote. "In public transport, we must put priority in our drivers, engineers, technicians and maintenance crew. They are our most precious. They deserve our 'sayang', as a clear corporate culture."

Third, Mr Khaw said public transport issues can be resolved if Singaporeans work together.

"That was how we tackled Sars, and the 2011 housing crisis. That is what I will bring to the table. Let's drop silos. The train reliability problem is not an SMRT problem, or an LTA problem, or an MOT problem; it is everyone's problem," he pointed out.

Appealing to Singaporeans for some "honeymoon" period when he takes up the Transport post on Oct 1, he said: "If my term turns out to be a thankless job, the loss is personal. But if we succeed collectively in transforming the city, the benefits will go to millions of Singaporeans. In such a cost-benefit equation, I will be selfish to say 'no' to PM."

He added: "I just hope that my heart, my own body train, can withstand the stress and do not breakdown."

Lawrence Wong to lead National Development
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Cabinet's youngest minister, Mr Lawrence Wong, 42, will helm the Ministry of National Development (MND), which is responsible for national land-use planning and development.

His role will also include overseeing the Housing Board, as well as property cooling measures, which have been in place for some years.

Although there are fewer complaints about costly homes, some Singaporeans still worry that they cannot afford a HDB flat, while others wonder if the cooling measures could affect their property values in the long run.

Announcing this yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "(MND) will be a new area for him. It is an important portfolio that impacts all our lives."

"Already, he is overseeing master-planning for the Jurong Lake District but that is a very finite project," he said yesterday, referring to the steering committee for the development of the upcoming Jurong Lake Gardens and its surroundings, of which Mr Wong is chairman.

But Mr Wong will not go into the ministry, which also oversees statutory boards like the HDB and NParks, completely cold.

Said PM Lee: "Khaw Boon Wan hands over the portfolio in a good state, with the housing shortage largely solved and, as Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, will be able to guide Lawrence in his new responsibilities."

Mr Khaw, 62, leaves MND to head the Transport Ministry and takes up the new post of Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.

The MND will also lose Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan, 53, who is leaving political office but will be a backbencher.

But Mr Wong will be aided by Mr Desmond Lee, 39, who has been at MND, but is promoted to senior minister of state, and newly-elected MP Koh Poh Koon, 43, who will be appointed minister of state.

Mr Wong hands over the reins of the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) to Ms Grace Fu, 51.

PM has just announced the new Cabinet appointments. I will be leaving MCCY and moving to MND. I still remember...
Posted by Lawrence Wong on Monday, September 28, 2015

Mr Wong entered politics in 2011 and was appointed minister of state before becoming acting minister of the then newly created MCCY a year later. He was made full minister in May last year.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Wong, identified as a key member of the fourth-generation leadership, recounted the work he undertook over the last three years, including implementing free entry to museums for Singaporeans and ActiveSG credits to encourage more to take up sports.

The highlights of SG50 , he added, was hosting the South-east Asian Games and bringing home the Unesco World Heritage Site inscription for the Botanic Gardens .

As for his new portfolio, he said: "In MND, the key issues revolve around housing and physical infrastructure. But it also deals with the softer aspects of creating emotional bonds.

"So as I move to MND, I look forward to building on what I have learnt - to build a better home with Singaporeans, and to create better living spaces for all to enjoy, well beyond SG50!"

Grace Fu finds place in history with two firsts
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

For the first time in Singapore's parliamentary history, a woman will helm a ministry of her own as a full minister.

Ms Grace Fu, 51, will be the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, taking over from Mr Lawrence Wong, who will head the National Development Ministry.

In addition, Ms Fu will be the new leader of the House, the first woman to be given the appointment.

I have had a good 4 years working alongside my colleagues in NPTD, MEWR and MFA. There were many highlights in my career...
Posted by Grace Fu on Monday, September 28, 2015

The new government line-up, announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, will also have the highest number of senior women office-holders, following the promotion of Ms Sim Ann to Senior Minister of State.

Ms Sim, 40, will swop her current portfolios for jobs in two ministries: Ms Fu's MCCY and the Finance Ministry. She is now Minister of State for Education as well as Communications and Information. The changes will take effect on Oct 1.

With Ms Sim's promotion, the number of women in the senior ranks of government rises from four to five. Apart from Ms Fu, the other women are Senior Ministers of State Indranee Rajah, 52; Josephine Teo, 47; and Amy Khor, 57.

Both promotions were cheered by Dr Khor, who told The Straits Times they were well-deserved.

"They are, once again, an encouragement and inspiration for women in Singapore," she said.

Ms Fu's promotion is a singular achievement as she will head a ministry of her own in the new five-year term.

Although Mrs Lim Hwee Hua was Singapore's first full woman minister, she was Second Minister for Finance and Transport when she lost her Aljunied GRC seat in the 2011 General Election.

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 latest moves, however, do not go far enough in the eyes of women's groups like the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware). Ms Fu's promotion represents progress, but at "a rather leisurely pace", Aware's executive director Corinna Lim said, adding that the number of office-holders remains at six, with Ms Low Yen Ling as parliamentary secretary.

On the other hand, the total number of office-holders has risen by four, to 37. "The under-representation of women in government remains very, very stark... the Government has the capacity to show leadership in making women leadership a strong priority," she said.

Aware was hoping for at least 22 per cent of full ministers in the new Cabinet to be women.

MOE to get two new acting ministers
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is set for a major change in leadership as it welcomes two new acting ministers next month, both of whom will be on an equal footing.

Newly elected Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung will share the ministry's workload, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Mr Ng, 47, a former defence chief, will oversee pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, and the junior college level.

Mr Ong, 45, a former top civil servant, will be in charge of matters related to higher education and skills training. This covers the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics, universities, private education, and continuing education and training.

In their new positions, they face a range of programmes already under way, as the ministry continues the work of ensuring that every child has access to opportunities regardless of family circumstances.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who has held the post since 2011, has pushed for every school to develop areas of strength, be it in aesthetics or sports.

PM Lee had said two years ago that the Primary School Leaving Examination would be revamped, but no details have been released since.

In the higher education sector, new universities such as Singapore Institute of Technology have been set up, and the Government is still in the midst of implementing its SkillsFuture initiative to better prepare students for the world of work.

Mr Lee said yesterday that he has known Mr Ng and Mr Ong before they joined politics and that they "have potential but need the exposure and experience. I'm able to supervise and oversee and mentor them".

Mr Ong served as Mr Lee's principal private secretary from 2002 to 2005 and was also NTUC deputy secretary-general.

Mr Ng retired from the Singapore Armed Forces last month after some three decades in service.

Both outlined their priorities but without going into detail.

Mr Ng said: "Singapore and Singaporeans recognise that education is one of the best gifts we can give our children and we've consistently invested in this area."

His immediate priority is to work with Mr Ong to understand issues in education.

Mr Ong is looking forward to being part of the MOE family.

"My top priority is to really know how the ministry works, get to know our people and partners," he said, adding that it is a "complex and very important role".

The ministry is also getting three other new office-holders.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Ms Low Yen Ling will take up parliamentary secretary positions there next month.

In January, Dr Janil Puthucheary joins as minister of state, a position he will also hold in the Communications and Information Ministry.

Education experts said it is useful to divide the responsibilities so ministers can tackle different issues.

Professor Simon Marginson, from University College London's Institute of Education, said it is not an uncommon practice in Australia and Europe to have more than one education minister as "it is a large area of government responsibility".

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said having two ministers signals the Government's continued emphasis on education. "At the lower levels, it's building the foundation, and at higher levels, it's preparing students for jobs. Both ministers can be more focused and pay more attention to different issues," he said.

Commentator Ho Kwon Ping said the move signals, among other things, the emphasis "on using education as a lever for change and restructuring society".

He described the education portfolio as "one of the most important ones and is usually a prerequisite for someone en route to being a PM".

He added later: "Splitting the portfolio also allows for both ministers to be tested simultaneously."

Role on world stage not new to Vivian Balakrishnan
Analysts see Shanmugam taking 'activist approach' as new Home Affairs Minister
By Walter Sim and Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's new role as Singapore's chief diplomat will not be entirely foreign to him, as he has played key roles in brokering environmental deals on the world stage.

The experience underlies his move to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Oct 1, he indicated in a Facebook post on Monday (Sept 28).

"I have learnt that so many of the most pressing and complex challenges of the future will require patient but purposeful negotiations and deep collaboration with multiple stakeholders," said the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. "In this spirit, I look forward to my next posting at the MFA and am very grateful to the Prime Minister for his confidence."

It has been a very fulfilling time working with my colleagues at MEWR. I am deeply grateful for all their commitment and...
Posted by Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday, September 28, 2015

Dr Balakrishnan, 54, succeeds Mr K. Shanmugam, who will be the new Home Affairs Minister.

At the same time, Mr Shanmugam will continue to head the Law Ministry, where he undertook groundbreaking legal reforms like removing the mandatory death penalty for specific cases of drug trafficking or murder.

These moves by Mr Shanmugam have led analysts to expect him to take an "activist approach" in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Said law don Eugene Tan: "That activist approach towards law reform, I think we can expect him to bring with him, and for which he will have a larger canvas to paint on because MHA is a larger portfolio than the Law Ministry."

In announcing the new Cabinet line-up yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said "the (MHA) portfolio will be familiar to him".

Leaving MFA----------I became Foreign Minister, in May 2011. In the past four-and-a-half years, the external...
Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mr Shanmugam was Second Minister for Home Affairs in 2008 but took charge in 2010 when Minister Wong Kan Seng got a new portfolio. But it was a brief posting as, soon after, he became Foreign Minister, after Mr George Yeo's defeat in the 2011 General Election.

With the latest change, Mr Shanmugam follows in the footsteps of retired senior minister S. Jayakumar, who held both the MHA and Law posts from 1988 to 1994.

Analysts said the combination made good sense. "It's a natural affinity... Home Affairs, which is largely about domestic security, and Law go hand in hand," said Dr Alan Chong of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

A top lawyer, Mr Shanmugam entered Parliament in 1988 at age 29. Fellow MP and lawyer Edwin Tong said he is well suited to head the two ministries. "He's got a tremendous eye for detail but, at the same time, he has a very long-term view of things."

Dr Balakrishnan, meanwhile, was praised by PM Lee for doing a "good job at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, including the international aspects".

"He has represented Singapore ably at international fora, for example, the climate change talks," said Mr Lee, as well as dealt with transboundary issues like the haze.

Dr Balakrishnan, a former eye specialist, entered politics in 2001 and the Cabinet in 2004.

Dr Eduardo Araral of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said Dr Balakrishnan's role in Peru and in dealing with Malaysia and Indonesia on issues like water policy and haze "gives him the training and, most importantly, the gravitas to become a foreign minister".

"Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the most important relationships that Singapore has to manage and Dr Balakrishnan's nuanced understanding of domestic politics in these countries is important," said Dr Araral.

Masagos to take charge of MEWR, help handle Muslim affairs
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Six months after being promoted to a minister, Mr Masagos Zulkifli will be given a ministry of his own to helm from Thursday: Environment and Water Resources.

With his appointment as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office in April, the 52-year-old had also moved up to be Second Minister in the Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs ministries.

In his new appointment, he will have to deal with the tough environmental challenges that lie ahead of and extend beyond Singapore. At the top on his mind is the haze.

"I hope to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international bodies so we can deal with whoever pollutes the air and affects our health, and overcome this well and thoroughly," he said yesterday.

When announcing Mr Masagos' new appointment yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said water will always be a strategic resource for Singapore, and climate change and sustainability are high on the international agenda.

Mr Masagos will also help Dr Yaacob Ibrahim handle affairs relating to the Muslim community and is expected to become deputy chairman of self-help group Mendaki.

He said yesterday that he has engaged the community on behalf of the Government to address the issue of extremism, and that he hopes to work with Dr Yaacob and the Malay MPs to cover a wider range of issues.

Dr Yaacob, 61, remains Communications and Information Minister and oversees Muslim affairs and cyber security.

He holds an important and sensitive portfolio, Mr Lee said.

IT and technology are enablers in upgrading the economy and transforming Singapore, and new media is rapidly changing the industry landscape and the way people share and consume news, Mr Lee added.

Other Malay MPs will take on new responsibilities as well.

Dr Maliki Osman, 50, will be promoted to Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, while Dr Faishal Ibrahim, 47, will be Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Social and Family Development.

Newly elected MP Amrin Amin will be Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs. At 36, he is the youngest office-holder.

Said Mr Lee: "I hope this opportunity will be the starting point for him to make larger contributions."

Heng to helm Finance, MTI to have 2 ministers
By Yasmine Yahya, Assistant Money Editor, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat is leaving his portfolio and returning to his roots in finance.

As part of Cabinet changes, Mr Heng, a former managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has been named Minister of Finance.

He takes over from Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who - in addition to maintaining his role as Deputy Prime Minister - is now Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

Finance professionals who spoke to The Straits Times said Mr Heng, 54, was a natural choice for finance minister. He led the MAS from June 2005 to April 2011 and has been credited with helping steer Singapore through several financial crises. He was also a key player in Singapore's development into an international financial centre.

In his announcement of the new Cabinet line-up yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Mr Heng "will oversee our national finances, allocate resources to implement our agenda, work closely with economic ministries to continue creating opportunities and jobs, make sure that we spend within our means".

To give Mr Heng time to "decide on his priorities" within his new role, PM Lee said the annual Budget - usually unveiled in February - will be announced later than usual next year.

Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho said Mr Heng certainly has his work cut out for him.

"He will have to follow through on the Government's productivity drive and its push to boost innovation, while balancing that with its plans to increase social spending as it unveils MediShield Life and plans to build more healthcare facilities," he said.

DBS chairman Peter Seah said Mr Heng is well-suited to the task. "The financial crisis reinforced how closely interlinked the real economy and financial sector are, and thanks to Swee Keat's leadership, Singapore emerged from it quickly and relatively unscathed."

Sharing with you a letter I wrote to the educators today: Dear Colleagues,In my first week as Education Minister,...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Over at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the task of raising productivity while negotiating multilateral trade deals amid an economic downturn will no longer be Mr Lim Hng Kiang's duty alone.

There will now be two Ministers for Trade and Industry - Mr Lim, to focus on trade, and Mr S. Iswaran, who takes charge of industry.

Mr Lee said the move reflects the MTI's expanding responsibilities over the years.

In his redefined role, Mr Lim, 61, will oversee Singapore's trade negotiations, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is in its final stages of talks, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. He will also be in charge of the Economic Development Board, JTC Corporation, the Department of Statistics and the Competition Commission of Singapore.

Mr Iswaran, 53, formerly the Second Minister for Trade and Industry, will relinquish his role as Second Minister for Home Affairs. He will focus on economic restructuring and creating a vibrant domestic economy, Mr Lee said.

He will also oversee MTI's other statutory boards.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said having these two "seasoned hands" at the helm will reassure Singaporean households and businesses amid an uncertain economic outlook.

Janil Puthucheary, Baey Yam Keng promoted from backbench
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

Backbench MPs Janil Puthucheary and Baey Yam Keng will become office holders as part of changes to the ranks of Government that took place along with the new Cabinet line-up.

Dr Puthucheary, who entered politics in 2011, will be Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information.

Mr Baey, who will start his third term as MP, will be Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth.

At the press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the duo were given their new responsibilities because of the variety of skills they possess.

For instance, Mr Baey is adept at reaching out to the young and also has good networks with arts and theatre groups, said PM Lee.

"He's got good communications skills on how we can get our message across, how we can present it, how it can be put in the terms of new media if we need to, or mainstream media if we need to."

Dr Puthucheary has knowledge beyond medicine and will be working on the Smart Nation Initiative, launched last year to explore ways for technology to solve social and economic problems, said PM Lee.

A number of new MPs, just elected in the Sept 11 polls, have also been appointed office holders.

Dr Koh Poh Koon will be Minister of State for National Development, and Trade and Industry. Mr Chee Hong Tat will be Minister of State for Health, and Communications and Information, while Mr Amrin Amin will be Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs.

Three Ministers of State - Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Ms Sim Ann and Mr Desmond Lee - have been promoted to Senior Ministers of State and given different roles.

PM Lee noted that newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling would take over Ms Sim's previous role overseeing the teaching of Mother Tongue.

Meanwhile, Senior Minister of State for National Development, and Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan will be returning to the backbench, a move that PM Lee said he had "reluctantly agreed" to.

Minor stroke prompts Lee Yi Shyan to 'change gears'
By Marissa Lee, The Straits Times, 1 Oct 2015

After 30 years of public service, Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan has chosen to return to the backbench following a minor stroke that prompted him to "change gear".

"Many of my friends have asked about my health and it is true that I was hospitalised for a mini-stroke in May this year," Mr Lee, 53, said yesterday - his last day as Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development.

He said he took their advice to "change gear a little bit" by deciding to "step back and serve in a different way".

Mr Lee, who spoke to reporters at the opening of the Manufacturing Solutions Expo, said the move will give him more time to attend to the needs of residents in his Kampong Chai Chee ward in East Coast GRC, although he will not be a full-time MP.

"I also hope to find something to do in the day time," he said.

Yesterday was a busy day for Mr Lee in his role as Senior Minister of State as he shuttled between industry events, including speaking at the World Liquefied Petroleum Gas Forum.

He was all smiles and said he was proud to have given the best part of his working life to serving the nation.

"By the end of this five-year term, I would have spent 35 years in public service, right out from university. A good part of it was in the civil service (and) close to 10 years of political service."

He urged Singaporeans to give their fullest support to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his new Cabinet, which will be sworn in today.

He also called on them to be active in nation-building: "All of us will have to play an active role in some stage of our life, and then when the new generation is ready, it's also our responsibility to groom them."

PM Lee said on Monday that he reluctantly agreed when Mr Lee asked to step down after the Sept 11 General Election.

"He has done good work in his ministries - in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, opening markets and developing business links with the region, especially in China; and in the Ministry of National Development overseeing town council matters," PM Lee said.

"Previously, he was also in the Ministry of Manpower, where he developed our system of Continuing Education and Training and worked closely with industry associations to drive productivity improvements."

Halimah Yacob to be nominated as Speaker again
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 30 Sep 2015

Singapore's first woman Speaker Halimah Yacob looks set to take on the role again when the new Parliament convenes in January.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong plans to nominate her for the 13th Parliament and, yesterday, Madam Halimah told The Straits Times she was grateful for the opportunity to preside again over "robust debates" in the House.

"Our Parliament plays an important role in our democracy, and I look forward to presiding over robust debates in the Chamber on weighty issues of importance to our people," she said.

Her planned nomination was announced by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Monday.

First appointed in January 2013, she is assisted by two deputies in enforcing parliamentary rules and ensuring the orderly conduct of parliamentary business.

The trio have to be formally nominated and elected by Parliament when it opens in the new year.

No names have been given for the two Deputy Speakers but in the 12th Parliament, they were People's Action Party (PAP) MPs Charles Chong and Seah Kian Peng.

The PMO's statement also announced changes to other key parliamentary roles.

Ms Grace Fu, the incoming Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, has been appointed by PM Lee as the new Leader of the House in a historic move. She will be Singapore's first woman Leader of the House, taking over from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

As Leader of the House, she will be responsible for arranging government business and the legislative programme of Parliament.

Her deputy will be Mr Desmond Lee, the incoming Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, the labour chief who is also Minister in the PMO, has been appointed the Government Whip. He takes over from Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

The Government Whip keeps the ruling PAP MPs in line, and ensures there are enough PAP MPs in Parliament to support the party's position, especially in the passing of new laws.

His two deputies are Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Finance and for Culture, Community and Youth, and Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower and in the PMO.

What does yesterday's cabinet reshuffle mean for the future of Singapore's leadership? Senior Research Fellow Dr Gillian...
Posted by IPS Commons on Monday, September 28, 2015

New Cabinet line-up: Bold move to prepare new team for the future
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2015

As he announced his new Cabinet on Monday (Sept 28), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the point that he would aggressively prepare a new team to take Singapore forward.

Monday's shake-up did not just see key changes to the leadership of nine of the 15 ministries. It went much deeper to expose a broader group of fourth-generation leaders to vastly different portfolios, many for the first time, to stretch and test them for higher office.

It is exposure that many current ministers had, including Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and incoming Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

But this time round, the newer office-holders will be helped by a key shift - the appointment of three coordinating ministers - which is set to radically restructure how the Government deals with a more complex landscape ahead.

One consideration why PM Lee moved, as he put it, "more boldly" on leadership renewal this round was the presence of coordinating ministers - Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam as well as Mr Khaw Boon Wan - in the new Cabinet.

"They will play an important role, pulling the pieces together and mentoring the younger ones," Mr Lee said at the press conference.

These younger ministers include two of the four fourth-generation leaders who entered politics in 2011 who will take on two key portfolios: outgoing Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, 54, goes to Finance; and outgoing Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong, 42, goes to National Development.

Cabinet changes: Three Coordinating Ministers, two Education Ministers and the first female full minister with her own ministry. ST managing editor Ignatius Low, assistant political editor Rachel Chang and correspondent Francis Chan weigh in on the changes. str.sg/Z262
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, September 28, 2015

Their peers, labour chief Chan Chun Sing, 45, and Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, 46, took on their posts in a Cabinet reshuffle in April and will not be moved yet.

But they have been given additional key responsibilities: Mr Chan will take over the deputy chairmanship of the People's Association from Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, and as Party Whip from Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. And Mr Tan will assist Mr Chan on Community Development Council matters.

Two core members of the fourth-generation leadership who entered politics in 2006 will also helm their own ministries.

Ministers in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, 51, and Masagos Zulkifli, 52, will lead the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources respectively.

They, too, are being given key roles: Ms Fu will take over from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen as Leader of the House, and Mr Masagos will assist Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim in handling Muslim Affairs.

Much of the attention in the months ahead will likely fall on how well the two newly elected Acting Ministers for Education perform in their roles - former defence chief Ng Chee Meng, 47, in charge of schools, and former senior civil servant Ong Ye Kung, 45, in charge of higher education and skills.

Crucially, Mr Ng will also be Senior Minister of State for Transport and Mr Ong, Senior Minister of State for Defence.

While these eight individuals will be a key part of the fourth-generation leadership, together, they make up less than half of the 20 Cabinet ministers who will assume their new posts on Thursday.

The answer to who else from among their peers might join their ranks will come from among the 17 other office-holders PM Lee named yesterday. It is, he noted, a larger than usual team because it is a transition team. But it is also a team where promising backbenchers have been moved up the ranks and into new areas of work to test their abilities.

Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah, 52, will move from Education to Finance, and remain at the Law Ministry, while Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo, 47, will move from Finance to Foreign Affairs, and remain at Transport.

Mrs Teo will also join the Prime Minister's Office, where she will assist Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in population matters.

Three ministers of state are being promoted to senior ministers of state and given new portfolios this round: Dr Maliki Osman, 50, Mr Desmond Lee, 39, and Ms Sim Ann, 40.

Also set to join their ranks are three new ministers of state: former second permanent secretary Chee Hong Tat, 41, who has been touted for higher office, as well as second-term MP Janil Puthucheary, 42, and newcomer Koh Poh Koon, 43, both of whom will take up office on Jan 1 next year.

These moves are meant to help prepare the next generation of leaders, and PM Lee expects to do a review midway through the term.

Two years, or slightly more, may not be time enough for a clear leader from the core fourth- generation team to emerge. But hopefully by then, Singaporeans will get a clearer picture of who can make it to the fourth-generation Cabinet and, more importantly, how well their fourth- generation leaders are able to work together and inspire confidence.

'A culture shift' with coordinating ministers
By Rachel Au-Yong and Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 30 Sep 2015

The appointment of three veterans as coordinating ministers this week could spark a culture shift in the way the civil service tackles challenges that cut across multiple agencies, observers said yesterday.

They also noted that while the impact of this move may not be immediately visible to the public, these changes to the Cabinet could improve how policies are drawn up and put into practice.

For instance, when new Housing Board flats are built, new Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan can plan for roads and other facilities to be ready before residents move in, Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will remain Coordinating Minister for National Security, a post he has held since 2011. DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, a role Mr Lee noted he had already been doing.

Associate Professor Bilveer Singh of the National University of Singapore said the three men's experience and standing could see civil servants, who tend to focus on their fields, cooperate more.

"In our Asian culture, personalities drive the institutions. Whenever there are problems, we must be able to turn to the 'Big Man', a powerful minister who can insist on and enforce cooperation and intelligence sharing. Fortunately we have them in Teo Chee Hean, Tharman and Khaw," he said.

He noted that the success of having a coordinating minister for security issues has shown how such a role can help tackle other complex issues. Mr Teo is the fourth minister to coordinate security matters since the role was created in 2003.

Prof Singh said Singapore has thus far also avoided a terror attack like the August bombing at Bangkok's Erawan shrine. He said: "The experience of having a Coordinating Minister for Security was invaluable in informing political leaders and civil servants of the need for broad-based efforts to manage domestic and external challenges."

Observers added that a coordinating minister could likewise minimise the danger of other ministries and agencies operating in silos.

Professor Neo Boon Siong of the Nanyang Business School said the setting up of the Municipal Services Office last year to better tackle local issues that involve various bodies was evidence that agencies are sometimes hampered by insufficient coordination and resource constraints. He noted that at times, "on issues like immigration, the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing".

"Until and unless there's an identified problem - like the interministerial committee on climate change - coordination across all ministries is not always there."

Prof Neo added that, contrary to fears that a coordinating minister will add another layer of bureaucracy, the role puts in place a problem-solving mechanism. "When a priority problem emerges, the coordinating minister can get the right people together, and implementation can be ongoing within each (agency)," he said.

Analysts said the net effect of these changes could see more well-rounded policies. Said Dr Gillian Koh of the Institute of Policy Studies: "Hopefully there will be less gaps, and Government will not be blindsided in public policymaking. It will then leave enough bandwidth for them to cope with the real surprises if they ever come."

Education a test bed for new office-holders
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 2 Oct 2015

When Cabinet changes were announced on Monday, they raised several eyebrows within and outside the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Many wondered why the ministry needed two ministers, and why two political rookies — Mr Ng Chee Meng and Mr Ong Ye Kung — were placed in the same post as Acting Education Ministers alongside an entirely new slate of political office-holders.

But a closer look at the recent history of political leadership at MOE suggests that the ministry has been used as a test bed for up-and-coming ministers.

In 2001, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, then a new face, was made Senior Minister of State for Education and promoted to Education Minister two years later, a position he held until 2008. Taking over from Mr Tharman was Dr Ng Eng Hen (2008-11), who also entered politics in 2001 and was appointed Manpower Minister before he helmed the Education portfolio.

It is evident that the highly visible Education Minister post can serve as a good assessment of leadership capabilities.

Most people would recall Mr Tharman’s push to eliminate streaming and how Dr Ng dealt with the controversy over a proposal to reduce the weightage for Mother Tongue language.

After Mr Tharman and Dr Ng, the pace of leadership renewal quickened.

Mr Heng Swee Keat, a first-time office-holder, was appointed Education Minister after the 2011 election together with fellow fourth-generation leader, Mr Lawrence Wong, as Minister of State.

Both men immediately took on huge tasks.

Mr Wong led the committee to expand university places, leading to the opening of the fifth and sixth universities. He was then promoted to Acting Minister in the Culture, Community and Youth a year later and is now the National Development Minister.

Mr Heng went against the grain to bring back softer aspects of education such as character development, and started reviewing the hot-button Primary School Leaving Examination. He was sworn in as Finance Minister yesterday.

Why is the MOE used as a test bed for new office-holders? There could be two reasons: The internal structure within the ministry and the nature of education. These two factors enable the portfolio to be a sturdy testing ground for fresh faces. MOE is one of the largest ministries with more than 30,000 civil servants, including senior educators who are rotated to policy formulation roles.

To some extent, the MOE’s bureaucracy will serve as a sounding board for policy ideas crafted at the top.

The Education portfolio is also a closely watched one, and parents are known to have taken vocal stances on various issues.

The new Education Ministers can expect to have some direct dealings with parents, and their ability to explain policies and convince parents of their merits will come under test. In short, the high level of public interest in education will be a test of the abilities of education ministers.

However, the pertinent question is: Does the Education Ministry require two ministers?

Some observers said the dual leadership of Mr Ng and Mr Ong — both of equal ranking and seemingly earmarked for bigger future responsibilities — could be an issue as both may feel the pressure to prove themselves, and possibly tinker with policies that are sound. This is especially so if they have only a short runway, as expected, given the urgency of leadership renewal, before they are rotated to other ministries.

Others have also pointed out that having two Acting Ministers would be an assessment of their ability to work together and introduce coherent policies.

It remains to be seen how Mr Ng and Mr Ong balance their communication lines both vertically with their staff and educators, and laterally between each other.


Both men, who have different job scopes, do not have to look too far for what is in store for them.

Many feel Mr Ng, who is in charge of schools, could be treading in more difficult waters because of the contentious PSLE review.

However, Mr Ng could take this chance to be bold and perhaps relook past suggestions proposed in Parliament, such as the through-train programme that allows pupils to bypass the PSLE. Going beyond tests to include teachers’ inputs for the final grade or having continuous assessments are other possible policy options.

He could also look into improving the quality of education and outcomes of special-needs students, an area that has been rather neglected. Outstanding tasks include pairing of mainstream and special-needs schools to foster more inclusivity and providing strong vocational training in special schools.

Meanwhile, Mr Ong, who is in charge of skills and higher education, has a bigger canvas to experiment with, given that the higher-education landscape remains fluid and set for changes.

With the emergence of the fifth and sixth universities and new options such as a first liberal arts college and a community law school, he has to ensure distinct positioning of each institution.

This is to avoid situations in other countries where there are huge quality differences among public institutions. Here, timely feedback from industry partners, as technological advancements intensify, will be key. Mr Ong could consider broadening the admissions processes at the Institutes of Higher Learning to better match students with their interests.

With the emphasis on skills, tertiary institutes could perhaps give more consideration to work experience, and other non-academic achievements such as leadership or organisational skills displayed through community work or the sports and the arts.

With rapid technological changes and growing economic uncertainties, the Education portfolio has become more challenging and important at the same time.

The Education Ministry is not traditionally seen as a heavyweight ministry, unlike the finance, defence, and trade and industry ministries. Neither has it been a pit stop for Singapore’s Prime Minister — Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Goh Chok Tong did not cut their teeth in Education.

But that could change, given the portfolio’s growing significance. It is no coincidence that three among the core group of fourth-generation leaders were assigned to MOE. Will the Education portfolio in itself be a good test for the future leaders of Singapore? Singaporeans — and the world — will be watching as the country’s fourth-generation leadership takes shape.

A Cabinet for today and tomorrow
The Straits Times, 1 Oct 2015

It is one of Singapore's unique features that in institutionalising the careful selection, grooming and mentoring of political leaders, its founding fathers sought to safeguard the nation from disruptive change at the top. Yet that process cannot be taken for granted as it is dependent on the available pool of the right people for the job, their ability to connect with people, and changing demands of the policy environment. While identifying strong ministers for key portfolios is a first-order concern as Singapore must continue to tick smartly as it's expected to, there is also the need to nurture a core group who can take the helm when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his deputies step down in the future. What's different now is a self-imposed deadline of 2020 - a single term to effect top leadership succession, which lends urgency to the People's Action Party's mission of preparing its fourth generation of leaders for key roles.

Against this backdrop, it makes good sense to appoint three coordinating ministers to oversee the critical fields of action: national security, economic and social matters, and infrastructure. This should not be seen as a diminution of the minister's role and an additional layer of bureaucracy that might impede executive agility. Rather, it's an acknowledgement of overlapping spheres of responsibility that come into play when the Government has to act strategically and execute mega projects that must all fit neatly in place if these are to be both effective and sustainable.

In bringing together different ministries and orchestrating efforts, Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam and veteran minister Khaw Boon Wan can help to ensure the goals and implications of different policies are well harmonised, and help to manage the dynamics among different agencies. Given the stature of the coordinating ministers, their involvement will give a fillip to the "whole-of-government" approach that has been espoused in recent years to deal with complex challenges.

The restructuring of the Cabinet can be a useful way for coordinating ministers to transfer knowledge, expertise and the benefit of experience to younger leaders. It can also help to signal to citizens, investors and the nation's partners that the steady-as-she-goes approach characteristic of political transition here will not be abandoned in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era. The strategy is to pair assured continuity with fresh thinking.

Importantly, fourth-generation leaders will be able to tap the political experience of their seniors when deliberating the impact of policies on stakeholders, especially the human dimension. As renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman noted, "great leadership works through the emotions" - whether the Cabinet is shaping a strategic vision or mobilising others into action.

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