Monday 14 September 2015

Post GE2015: PM Lee Hsien Loong to start forming new Cabinet over next two weeks

Four newcomers to be part of leadership renewal; no name yet for transport portfolio
By Charissa Yong, The Sunday Times, 13 Sep 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be putting together a new Cabinet over the next two weeks - one that is likely to include fresh faces elected on Friday.

A day after Polling Day, he said his immediate priority is to "form the Cabinet and to get the new Government started".

"We need to form a new Cabinet because we have new faces now, we have one or two retirees, and that's what I'll be doing over the next two weeks," said the secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party.

He had separately cited newcomers Ng Chee Meng, Ong Ye Kung, Chee Hong Tat and Amrin Amin as part of the leadership renewal.

In particular, eyes are on who will take on the challenging transport portfolio, one that has seen the exit of three ministers in the last nine years as unhappy commuters grappled with overcrowded buses and trains, and service breakdowns.

Yesterday, Mr Lee parried the question of who might be the next transport minister, saying: "I haven't decided yet. It will not be very long." But whoever does take on the role will have a "very difficult job", he added.

PM Lee on Transport Minister seat
“It’s a very demanding job (being a Transport Minister), but I will find someone”: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Sarah Yang)
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Saturday, September 12, 2015

He also said outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who did not stand for re-election, had done well but some of his efforts will not show for up to 15 years.

The Prime Minister was speaking on his home ground in Ang Mo Kio GRC, where his team had won 78.6 per cent of the vote. He and his teammates were thanking voters for their support.

Across the country, the PAP scored 69.9 per cent of all valid votes - its highest tally since 2001.

In an e-mail sent to subscribers of his party's mailing list yesterday, Mr Lee said it could not have won so strongly if not for the support from a wide base of Singaporeans across age, race and income groups.

Both the ruling party and the opposition yesterday mulled over possible factors behind the PAP's landslide victory.

Mr Lee, who has been Prime Minister since 2004, was asked if one reason could be his personal popularity. This election, solo posters of him were put up islandwide, placing him front and centre of the PAP's campaign.

He replied that such conjecture is "flattering" but added that voters' behaviour must be rooted in "substance" - whether people's lives are getting better, and whether they trust not just one person but the entire governing team.

"And I'd like to think that on all these other counts, we made good progress," he said.

Defence Minister and PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen cited factors such as Singaporeans' appreciation of the country's success, and their desire for leaders with high standards of integrity.

His colleague, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, in a clear reference to the debate on the Workers' Party's governance of its town council, said that municipal issues such as the way town council funds are handled also played a significant role in the reversal of fortunes for the opposition.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong observed that the PAP had crested on a national wave that came in response to Mr Lee's call for a fresh mandate.

"The party would do well to heed that clarion call, and support the PM in building the next generation of leaders to bring Singapore forward," he said in a Facebook post.

There was also soul-searching in opposition ranks, caught off guard by their poorer showing.

Ms Sylvia Lim, chairman of the WP, which lost Punggol East but retained its six seats in Aljunied GRC and Hougang, said Singaporeans were less dissatisfied with the Government compared with 2011.

Contests in all 89 seats and the view that the opposition is gaining ground may have influenced voters to back the PAP, she added.

"Perhaps some people did feel there was some risk... the PAP might be dislodged as a government," she said.

Went around Ang Mo Kio GRC with my team yesterday to thank residents for supporting us in GE2015. A big thanks to all,...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday, September 12, 2015

'I've saved a seat for you'

"We could not have got this result if we had not received support from all groups - different races, the old and the young, the well-off and the lower-income.

In 2011, I promised you that we would deal with the issues that concerned you - housing, health, transport, foreign workers. We did. In this election, you have told us you want us to continue on the new way forward: More inclusive focus on social needs, especially for the elderly and the disadvantaged. And more involvement by citizens, working in partnership with the Government to improve our lives. We have heard the desire for diverse voices in our politics, and we will heed it while staying true to our fundamental principles.

The election results also show that you have rejected divisive politics, and supported rational approaches to solving our problems. Parties that proposed to slash our defence budget or provide free healthcare were defeated decisively. Our rallies may have been less exciting than the opposition's, but you understood what was at stake, and stood with us.

Secretary General Lee Hsien Loong in his letter to all our newsletter subscribers: "There is a seat at the table for...
Posted by People's Action Party on Friday, September 11, 2015

We live in a troubled world.

By chance, polling day coincided with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America. In the Middle East, ISIS is a growing threat, leading astray people in many countries, including a few Singaporeans. Global warming and rising sea levels will affect Singapore in ways we cannot yet predict. We must track these and other external challenges, while attending to our domestic priorities.

This election is a major step forward for our leadership renewal. Joining Heng Swee Keat, Chan Chun Sing, Lawrence Wong and Tan Chuan-Jin from the last batch are Ng Chee Meng, Ong Ye Kung, Chee Hong Tat and Amrin Amin in this round.

More than half of the 83 newly elected MPs are in their 40s or younger. The new team will forge their own bonds with younger Singaporeans.

There is a seat at the table for every Singaporean who wants to build our future. Come join us. Let's get to work, together. "

PM Lee Hsien Loong, in a direct e-mail to subscribers of the PAP's e- mail list

‘More exposure for fresh faces, younger ministers’ in new Cabinet
By Kelly Ng, TODAY, 14 Sep 2015

With leadership succession among the issues at the forefront of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s mind, the new Cabinet — which he will unveil within the next two weeks — may be enlarged to expose new faces, while seats may be shuffled to expose younger ministers to more portfolios.

And while five ministers retired from the Cabinet after the 2011 General Election — the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Mr Mah Bow Tan, Mr Wong Kan Seng and Mr Raymond Lim — with Mr Lim Boon Heng retiring just before the polls, retirements are unlikely to take place immediately this time, said political analysts and Members of Parliament (MPs) interviewed, as Mr Lee is likely to call on veteran Ministers to “mentor” new faces.

The newcomers touted as office-holder material this time include former Chief of Defence Ng Chee Meng, former senior civil servant Chee Hong Tat, and Keppel Corporation director Ong Ye Kung, who was a high-flying civil servant before he quit to join the National Trades Union Congress in 2008.

Institute of Policy Studies Senior Research Fellow Dr Gillian Koh said with leadership renewal being a key consideration, new MPs with potential will to be put in place to build up experience “haste post haste”.

“I do think, however, that with Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Mr Lawrence Wong and Mr Heng Swee Keat already in place, we can expect Mr Ong Ye Kung, Mr Chee Hong Tat and Mr Ng Chee Meng to be moved up quickly.

“I think that it would be good to see some women given heavyweight portfolios and I also expect to see some Malay new faces moving into the junior ranks for government as well,” she said.

Cabinet membership may be enlarged to allow younger office-holders to focus on specific portfolios and learn the ropes from senior Ministers. Chua Chu Kang GRC MP-elect Zaqy Mohamad said: “If (the Prime Minister) wants to do a renewal, then there would be a transition where you see older Ministers mentoring younger ones, or even younger Ministers-of-State. So it may look like an expanded team.”

However, Associate Professor Eugene Tan of the Singapore Management University pointed to the possibility of easing newcomers in slowly. “The Prime Minister might opt to ease them in initially before making changes a year or so into their first appointment … The fourth generation leadership will need to be mentored and guided and so the steady hands of their senior counterparts will be a boon,” he said.

Apart from Mr Lee himself, incumbent Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang was the longest-serving office holder in the 12th Parliament, having been elected into Parliament in 1991 and appointed a Minister of State for National Development.

There were four Cabinet reshuffles after the 2011 election, and National University of Singapore political scientist Hussin Mutalib expected the changes to continue, “in line with the PAP’s practice of rotating and moving around Cabinet appointees to further expose them to new portfolios”.

Political watchers, noting that the newcomers tipped for the Cabinet have civil service and military backgrounds, also were also wary of a lack of diversity. “There is a need to be acutely aware of groupthink, as such practice of thinking or making decisions tends to result in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making when the Ministers are so alike,” said Assoc Prof Tan.

Assoc Prof Hussin also said the need to strike a balance in terms of gender and race may be a consideration this time, as well as promoting ministers and MPs who did well in the GE.

Tampines GRC MP-elect Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) said there have been attempts to diversify the Cabinet, adding that Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Minister in Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu are among those who come from non-civil service backgrounds. “I think it is also a team effort by the whole Cabinet, and so far Singapore has benefited from that,” he said.

As for the closely-watched Transport Minister hot seat, analysts expected a “seasoned Minister” to fill the spot. “If there is a scope for re-think, consultation, rebuilding a consensus on the issue, then it will be a pairing of an old hand and a fresh face that PAP would want to establish as real premiership material,” said Dr Koh.

Heavyweight ministers might also be appointed for the Health and Manpower Ministries, as new healthcare schemes, foreign manpower and the Central Provident Fund are set to remain hot-button issues in the years’ to come, noted Mr Zaqy and Singapore Institute of Management academic Dr Felix Tan.

Dr Tan also said that the ability of potential office holders to communicate and “connect with the ground” will be a key consideration. “I think the ability to listen to residents, understanding the needs of Singaporeans and being able to connect with the people is crucial,” he said.


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