Sunday, 26 July 2020

PM Lee Hsien Loong unveils new Cabinet line-up on 25 July 2020

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's crisis Cabinet a mix of continuity and change
Senior leaders stay on; 6 ministries to have new leaders; 7 new MPs appointed to office
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced his new Cabinet yesterday, which sought to strike a balance between continuity provided by his senior colleagues, exposure for younger ministers and leadership renewal, as Singapore navigates its worst crisis since independence.

The new line-up will see six of the 15 ministries having a change in minister. Seven of the PAP's new faces have also been appointed political office-holders, with the oldest among them - Dr Tan See Leng, 55 - made a full minister.



Most older ministers - including Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam - will stay on to provide continuity amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's role overseeing the nation's economy has been cemented. Apart from continuing as Finance Minister, he will take on an additional role as Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.


This formalises the role Mr Heng was playing in the last term, said PM Lee. Mr Heng chairs the Future Economy Council as well as the National Research Foundation.



Noting that having experienced leaders at the helm was especially important to tackle the ongoing crisis, PM Lee said at a virtual press conference held at the Istana: "We need experienced ministers to provide steady hands, and also to mentor the younger ministers.

"And in this crisis, this need is even greater. We are in the thick of a grave crisis, dealing with a fast moving uncertain situation... And this puts a premium on experience and a sure touch."


That was why most ministers of this Cabinet had the experience of serving at least one term as political office-holders, he added.


The reshuffle also exposes younger ministers to different portfolios and brings in fresh faces as part of the renewal process.


In total, the new Cabinet will have 37 office-holders - the same number as in the previous one.


Said PM Lee: "It is a team with experience and depth, with senior members tempered by the challenges that they have gone through together, reinforced with younger members who will bring different perspectives to bear, and fresh ideas and energy to take us forward."




Mr Lawrence Wong will helm the Education Ministry, while Mr Desmond Lee will move from the Ministry for Social and Family Development to succeed him at the National Development Ministry.

Mr Ong Ye Kung will move from the Education Ministry to head the Transport Ministry, which was formerly helmed by Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who has retired from politics.


The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources has been renamed as the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, to better reflect its future role as sustainability has become an increasingly important part of the national agenda. It will be headed by Ms Grace Fu.


Mr Masagos Zulkifli will leave that ministry and move to head the Ministry of Social and Family Development. He will remain the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.


Two senior ministers of state have been promoted. Mr Edwin Tong succeeds Ms Fu as Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, while Dr Maliki Osman is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.



PM Lee, 68, reiterated his pledge to see the country through the crisis. He had previously stated his hope to retire from politics by his 70th birthday, which is in 2022.

"But I do not determine the path of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lot will depend on how events unfold," he said. "And all I can say is, I will see this through, and I'll hand over in good shape as soon as possible to the next team, and into good hands."


The Cabinet and other office-holders will be formally sworn in tomorrow, 27 July 2020.























New Cabinet: Six members of 4G leadership to take on new ministerial portfolios
This will expose these 4G leaders to new ministries, widen their experience: PM Lee
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

Six key members of the fourth-generation leadership team will take on new portfolios in a move that will expose younger office-holders to new ministries and widen their experience, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee, announcing the new Cabinet line-up yesterday, said Mr Lawrence Wong, 47, will be the new Education Minister.

Taking Mr Wong's place as National Development Minister is Mr Desmond Lee, 44, who will give up his role as Minister for Social and Family Development.

Mr Ong Ye Kung, 50, will relinquish the Education portfolio to become Transport Minister, a role previously held by Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who has retired.

Ms Grace Fu, 56, will helm the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment - a new version of what used to be the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR). The ministry's new name will better reflect its future role in safeguarding sustainability as part of the national agenda, said PM Lee, 68.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, 57, will leave MEWR to helm the Ministry of Social and Family Development. He will also take up the post of Second Minister for Health and continue to be Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.



Explaining his thinking behind the rotation of the 4G ministers in Cabinet in response to a question from the media, PM Lee said providing continuity, giving ministers exposure and renewal are three factors behind the Cabinet reshuffle.

The grave situation posed by COVID-19 puts a premium on experience and a sure touch, said PM Lee, who was speaking from the Istana at a press conference live-streamed on Facebook yesterday.

This is why most Cabinet ministers are experienced, with at least one term of government as political office-holders. It is also why most of the older ministers are staying on, he added. At the same time, the younger ministers are being rotated to gain exposure and experience, said PM Lee.

"We regularly do this during Cabinet shuffles, and the intent is to expose the office-holders to different portfolios to gain both breadth and depth, to understand the intricacies of the issues, and to see things from different perspectives."



PM Lee added that most of the younger ministers came in one or two terms ago, and their exposure in government is not as comprehensive or long, compared with the experience of 3G ministers such as senior ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

He said: "Therefore, it's valuable for them to have to be put in different and contrasting places in order to understand issues from different perspectives, and therefore, be able to come to a considered judgment collectively on what should be the national perspective to take when you make decisions in Cabinet, and not just be speaking on behalf of the seat which you're sitting upon at that time.

"Because tomorrow, you may be in a different seat, and you must make up your mind what is the best thing to do for Singapore."



Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will take on an additional role as Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.

PM Lee said Mr Heng has been doing the job since the last term of government, chairing both the Future Economy Council and National Research Foundation, so the new title "just formalises existing arrangements".

Mr Heng, 59, will continue to oversee the Strategy Group within the Prime Minister's Office that coordinates national policies and plans across the Government, PM Lee said.

At the Cabinet reshuffle that followed GE2011, 11 out of 14 ministries had a change in minister, while this time, there are six out of 15 ministries with new leaders.























4G has no plans to change choice of Heng Swee Keat as leader
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

The PAP's fourth-generation team is focused on tackling the challenges Singapore faces amid the present crisis and does not plan to change its backing of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat as their leader.

Responding to a question on whether the 4G leaders had discussed or reviewed their position on this matter, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said they had not discussed this - and did not plan to.

"We're entirely focused on helping our country overcome the economic challenges and saving jobs at this point in time," he said.

"We have no plans to do otherwise and we have no plans, no discussion on any change in plan."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had referred the question posed by the media to him to Mr Chan, who is Mr Heng's deputy on the 4G team.



Mr Heng has been widely expected to take over the premiership from PM Lee, after he was appointed as the People's Action Party's first assistant secretary-general in 2018 and subsequently as Deputy Prime Minister last year.

Mr Heng, in turn, had asked Mr Chan to be his deputy, and Mr Chan was appointed the PAP's second assistant secretary-general in 2018.

Some observers had commented on whether the leadership succession should be relooked, after the PAP team led by Mr Heng got 53.4 per cent of the vote against a Workers' Party team in East Coast GRC.



Separately, PM Lee acknowledged that whether he will be able to hand over the reins to his successor by the time he turns 70 in 2022, as he had initially hoped, will depend on how quickly the COVID-19 pandemic can be brought under control.

Asked if he saw himself continuing as Prime Minister beyond 70, he said: "I do not determine the path of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lot will depend on how events unfold.

"And all I can say is, I will see this through and I'll hand over in good shape as soon as possible to the next team and into good hands."



PM Lee also said he had to maintain a greater degree of continuity in Cabinet than he would otherwise have done, because of the "existential" and "overwhelming" crisis.

The Government has to put all hands on deck and mobilise all the experience and capabilities it can muster to deal with the pandemic, he added.

"I have kept on many of my older colleagues who are participating in this fight against COVID-19 and in stabilising our economy, my Senior Ministers, the other older ministers who have been in the team, and reinforced by younger ones," he said.

This is also why the ministers who have been directly handling COVID-19 have been kept in place, said PM Lee. Mr Gan Kim Yong will stay on as Health Minister and continue to co-chair the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19 with Mr Lawrence Wong, who takes on a new portfolio as Education Minister. Mr Chan Chun Sing will remain as Trade and Industry Minister and Mrs Josephine Teo as Manpower Minister.

The ministers of defence, foreign affairs, home affairs, law and communications and information will stay in place as well.

PM Lee described his Cabinet as having a good mix of experience and ideas, that will bring Singapore through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. "I hope that within not too long a time, as the situation stabilises and we get on top of it, it will be possible for me to make further changes," he said.

The Prime Minister also reiterated an earlier pledge to see Singapore through the crisis, adding: "I will hand over Singapore in good working order into the good hands of my successors as soon as that is possible."





















DPM Heng Swee Keat takes on additional role as Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies
Protecting workers and jobs a top priority, says DPM Heng
To do so, he will work closely with labour chief, Tharman and Future Economy Council
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who will take on an additional role as Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, said yesterday that his top priority is to protect people's rice bowls amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"We are going to be faced with a very severe recession - our top priority must be on jobs," he said at a press conference where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the new Cabinet line-up.

"We need to protect our workers, help them retain their jobs, create new jobs, and build new skills among our workers, including our fresh graduates from our ITE, polytechnics and universities."



Towards this end, Mr Heng said he will work closely with labour chief Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who chairs the National Jobs Council set up recently to grow jobs and training opportunities for Singaporeans, as well as the Future Economy Council (FEC).

The FEC, chaired by Mr Heng, was established in 2017 to drive the growth and transformation of Singapore's economy for the future.

It also oversees the implementation of the recommendations put forth by the Committee on the Future Economy, like the rolling out of the Industry Transformation Maps.

More recently, in May, Mr Heng also set up the Emerging Stronger Taskforce.

Led by new National Development Minister Desmond Lee and PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng, the task force comprises industry-led alliances that will prototype new ideas.

The aim is to come up with successful projects that can become growth areas and generate new jobs.



Mr Lee, who was also at the press conference yesterday, said the task force has engaged industries, unions and institutes of higher learning, and will be speaking to Singaporeans, civil society and community stakeholders soon.

But beyond having conversations, it must move "very quickly" into action, he said.

"Already, we have seven Singapore Together Alliances for Action looking at opportunities in the digital realm - such as for supply chains, built environment, smart commerce, sustainability... robotics, edutech and many others."

The task force is also engaging the FEC to relook transformation plans to position the country well for the future, he added.

On the social front, said Mr Lee, the Government will be launching Emerging Stronger conversations on socioeconomic issues to pull together the efforts of Singaporeans in reviewing issues such as work and family and workplace practices.


















Maliki Osman and Edwin Tong promoted to full ministers
By Fabian Koh, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

Dr Maliki Osman and Mr Edwin Tong have been promoted to full ministers in the new Cabinet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Dr Maliki, 55, will be Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs. He is currently Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs and will give up his mayoralty of the South East District from tomorrow, when the new appointments take effect.

Mr Tong, 50, will be Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister for Law. He is currently Senior Minister of State for Law and Health.



Speaking at a press briefing to announce the new Cabinet, PM Lee said: "Both Maliki Osman and Edwin Tong have performed well as Senior Ministers of State, and it is time for them to step up and take on more responsibilities."

The two were among the key promotions in the new Cabinet, and they will be sworn in tomorrow.

Also promoted is Mr Zaqy Mohamad, 45, who will be Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence, moving from his current position as Minister of State for National Development and Manpower.

Ms Low Yen Ling, 45, will be Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry. She will give up her role as Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, but will remain Mayor of South West District.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, 52, will be Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development. He will relinquish his role as Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development and Education.

Ms Sun Xueling, 41, will be Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development, moving from her appointment as Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development.

Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam, 40, will step up from the backbench to be Parliamentary Secretary for Health from Sept 1.

Two districts will have new mayors. People's Action Party new face and Marine Parade GRC MP Mohd Fahmi Aliman, 48, will be Mayor of South East District, and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Alex Yam, 39, will be Mayor of North West District.

Speaking at the press conference live-streamed from the Istana yesterday, Dr Maliki said he was humbled by his new appointment.

He said: "I stand ready to step up and take up the challenge and responsibilities of this new appointment, both in the Education Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Singapore's education system has been regarded by many as one of the best in the world, because of our readiness to continue to evolve and respond to evolving circumstances and needs over time.

"I think we should continue to do so, that our education system must continue to identify how we can harness the potential of every young Singaporean so that they can contribute as Singaporeans for the future growth of Singapore."

He said that as Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, he will "continue to work with our international partners, as we bring forward the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans in the international fora as we navigate these very challenging circumstances we are faced with today".

Mr Tong, in a Facebook post yesterday, said he was honoured to be tasked with helming the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

"MCCY is a young ministry - less than 10 years old. But it continues a long-held Government priority of building a caring, cohesive and confident nation," he said.

"My team and I look forward to engaging Singaporeans, and working with all of you to shape a brighter future and a strong Singapore society."






7 new PAP MPs to take up political appointments
By Rei Kurohi, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

Seven PAP fresh faces who were elected to Parliament in the general election earlier this month will take up new political appointments, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced yesterday as he revealed his new Cabinet line-up.

The seven are Dr Tan See Leng (Marine Parade GRC), Ms Gan Siow Huang (Marymount), Mr Alvin Tan (Tanjong Pagar GRC), Mr Desmond Tan (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), Mr Tan Kiat How (East Coast GRC), Mr Eric Chua (Tanjong Pagar GRC), and Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman (Marine Parade GRC).

Dr Tan, 55, will take on three portfolios: Minister in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Second Minister for Manpower, and Second Minister for Trade and Industry.

The former medical doctor who was chief executive of the Malaysian-Singaporean private healthcare group IHH Healthcare said he saw his appointment to the Cabinet as an "affirmation for the importance of the private sector".

He added that Singapore is facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that will require the support and partnership of everyone in the country.

He also said that he hopes to be a bridge between the Government and the private sector.



Ms Gan, 45, a former brigadier-general, will be appointed Minister of State for Education and Manpower. She said she felt honoured and privileged to join the Cabinet and hoped to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

Said Ms Gan: "I've had a lot of experience working with people from all walks of life in the SAF and also more recently as part of the labour movement.

"I've seen how livelihoods could be affected, and government policies and schemes and implementation can make a real difference."

Mr Desmond Tan, 50, will be Minister of State for Home Affairs, and Sustainability and Environment, which was previously called the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Mr Chua, 41, will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), and the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Mr Tan Kiat How, 43, will be Minister of State for the PMO and National Development.

He will also be the new chairman of government feedback unit Reach, taking over from Mr Sam Tan, who has retired from politics.

Mr Fahmi, 47, will become Mayor of South East District, taking over from Dr Maliki Osman, who is promoted to full minister.

These appointments will take effect tomorrow.

Mr Alvin Tan, 40, will take on the role of Minister of State for MCCY and Trade and Industry from Sept 1.



PM Lee said the appointment of the new MPs to Cabinet positions and promoting junior office-holders and backbenchers who have performed well are all part of efforts to ensure leadership renewal.

He added that they will reinforce his team and offer new ideas and perspectives.

Asked what qualities he looked for in the new MPs that made them suitable as political office-holders, he cited commitment, leadership, ability and experience.

Said PM Lee: "I have looked very hard to find people who have experience with grassroots operations, with community outreach, with some policy work, and also with private sector experience."

He added that he has often spoken about bringing in more people from the private sector but has not found it easy to do so.

He said: "We're looking for that combination and we are hoping that they come into this responsibility, they will grow in their job and develop and become good ministers of state and ministers in due course."

















Govt will work closely with labour chief Ng Chee Meng even though he is not in Cabinet: PM Lee
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

The Government will continue to work closely with labour chief Ng Chee Meng to understand workers' needs, even though he is no longer a member of the Cabinet, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Ideally, the National Trades Union Congress secretary-general would be an elected MP who can be made a Cabinet minister, PM Lee said.

"That's how we have operated for a very long time, I think, ever since Lim Chee Onn was the secretary-general of NTUC. Unfortunately, this time, Chee Meng did not get re-elected. He remains secretary-general of NTUC," he added.

Mr Lim was NTUC secretary-general from 1979 to 1983, and Minister without Portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office from 1980 to 1983.



PM Lee was responding to a question during a press briefing yesterday on new Cabinet appointments, when he was asked how workers' interests will be affected amid the COVID-19 crisis, now that the position of NTUC secretary-general is not held by a Cabinet minister.

At the recent election, Mr Ng and the People's Action Party team he led in Sengkang GRC lost to the Workers' Party.

PM Lee said: "We will continue to work very closely with him, and we will find other ways to keep closely in touch - to understand what the workers' needs are, and what the unions' perspectives are. I will be meeting him regularly."

On July 14, the NTUC central committee issued a statement in support of Mr Ng continuing in his role as its secretary-general, saying the post is independent of political appointments.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday said he had many discussions with Mr Ng before the election, on how the Government can support workers during the severe recession and minimise the risk of further job losses.

There is a need to help workers acquire new skills and place workers in new jobs, he said, adding that he had a long discussion about this with Mr Ng and the "team of economic ministers" two days ago.

Mr Heng added that such discussions will go on. He said: "I will continue to have many meetings with Chee Meng, as well as the senior leadership of the NTUC, so that we can support our workers and get through this crisis well."














New Cabinet line-up: PM Lee brings in new faces with private sector experience
By Joyce Lim, Senior Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

Former managing director and chief executive of IHH Healthcare Tan See Leng, 55, has been appointed a full minister.

The newly elected MP in Marine Parade GRC will be a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office as well as Second Minister for Manpower and Trade and Industry.



In announcing his new Cabinet yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong brought up Dr Tan's experience as a medical professional and business entrepreneur, and said he would add a private sector perspective to economic policymaking, to make sure policies are effective in helping businesses and addressing their problems.

"Being also posted to MOM (Ministry of Manpower), he will help align our economic and manpower policies to reinforce each other," PM Lee added.

The Prime Minister said his Cabinet needs people from the private sector, "who have been on the receiving end of policies, and who know what policies can work and how the impact is on people and therefore what can we do to help people, help companies and businesses and the population solve their problems".

Besides Dr Tan, he also highlighted new face Alvin Tan, who is director and head of public policy and economics (Asia-Pacific) at LinkedIn, and backbencher Rahayu Mahzam, a lawyer.

Mr Tan, 40, will take on the role of Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth and Trade and Industry, while Ms Rahayu will be Parliamentary Secretary for Health.

PM Lee said Mr Tan's knowledge of social media and the digital media industry will come in useful for his roles in the two ministries.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said she has asked Dr Tan "to champion the health and wellness of our migrant workers while ensuring improvements are sustainable".

Dr Tan had co-founded Healthway Medical Group, a chain of neighbourhood clinics.

He practised as a family physician for more than a decade before he sold the business in 2004 and later joined Parkway Holdings, now part of IHH Healthcare.

Under Dr Tan, IHH grew to become one of the world's largest healthcare groups with a network of 56 hospitals in Asia, including the Mount Elizabeth and Gleneagles hospitals in Singapore.

He stepped down as managing director and chief executive of the group on Dec 31 last year.

Asked how he would bring his corporate experience to bear in Cabinet, Dr Tan told The Sunday Times he had to navigate through different government policies and cross different hurdles to do business when he was in the private sector.

"Because of the fact that I am able to navigate in my past life and also understand some of the difficulties, I can articulate and form a bridge between the public and the private sector," he said.

In his Manpower portfolio, one issue he wants to look at is how to fund "longer-term needs, the healthcare needs" of migrant workers. In his other ministry, he spoke of the need to find ways to transform industries and also continually attract investments here.

Mr Alvin Tan told The Sunday Times he has tendered his resignation at LinkedIn, and is currently serving notice. Hence, he will start his new appointments from Sept 1.

Pointing to his experience in different sectors during his career, he said: "Being very interdisciplinary, that might be very helpful to government. You look at MTI, it's about job creation, its about opening new opportunities. And if we are to take on these new opportunities, a multidisciplinary approach might come in very handy."













New Cabinet line-up: Six office-holders each from Malay, Indian communities
By Hariz Baharudin, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

The new line-up of political office-holders and mayors will include six members of the Malay community, two of them full ministers.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, who will give up his portfolio in Environment and Water Resources to take on Social and Family Development, was the only Malay minister for a while after Professor Yaacob Ibrahim stepped down from the Cabinet in April 2018.

But he will now be joined by Dr Maliki Osman, who has been promoted to Minister in the Prime Minister's Office as well as Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs. Dr Maliki is currently Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, announcing Dr Maliki's new appointments, said he had performed well and it was time for him to take on more responsibilities.

Two other Malay office-holders will also be promoted from tomorrow.

Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad will become a Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence. He will relinquish his National Development portfolio.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim will be promoted to Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development.

Dr Faishal is currently at the Education and Social and Family Development ministries.

Backbencher Rahayu Mahzam will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Health from Sept 1. Ms Rahayu, a lawyer, was first elected as an MP for Jurong GRC in 2015.

Meanwhile, Mr Mohd Fahmi Aliman will be the only new Malay MP to be appointed to office. He will be Mayor of South East District, a post previously held by Dr Maliki.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Masagos congratulated the Malay MPs on their promotions and acknowledged their hard work to better the lives of their community.

Dr Maliki pledged that the Malay MPs would help the community "ride through these very challenging times (to) emerge stronger and more confident as we achieve our vision of a community of success".

The new line-up also includes six members of the Indian community.

They are Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam; Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, who remains Second Finance Minister but takes on a new role as Second National Development Minister; Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran; Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan; Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam; and Senior Minister of State for Health as well as Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary.









New Cabinet line-up: Nine out of 37 office-holders are women
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

There are nine women among this term's line-up of 37 political office-holders, with two newcomers among them.

They are People's Action Party new face Gan Siow Huang, who has been appointed Minister of State for Education and Manpower, and MP Rahayu Mahzam, who will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Health from Sept 1.

"I will do my best to support jobs and skills for Singaporeans, both of which are critical to help us weather the recession and emerge stronger after the storm," Ms Gan said in a Facebook post.

In a separate post, Ms Rahayu said: "I am humbled by this trust and opportunity to continue serving in a different capacity."

The number of women in Cabinet has inched up over the years, and this is the largest cohort of women office-holders in recent times.

But the proportion of women who are full ministers has gone down slightly, with more men added to the team. There will be three women full ministers - Mrs Josephine Teo, Ms Grace Fu, Ms Indranee Rajah - out of a pool of 20 full ministers, compared with three out of 19 before.

The other women office-holders are Dr Amy Khor, Ms Sim Ann, Ms Low Yen Ling and Ms Sun Xueling.

Ms Low and Ms Sun have both been promoted to Minister of State.

Ms Low will take up the Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth portfolios, while Ms Sun will take up the Education and Social and Family Development portfolios.

Mrs Teo remains Manpower Minister, while Ms Fu will head the newly renamed Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.

Ms Indranee will be appointed Second Minister for National Development, relinquishing her Education portfolio. She will remain Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Finance Minister, and assist Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on population matters.

Dr Khor, who used to be Senior Minister of State for Health, will now be Senior Minister of State for Transport and Sustainability and Environment. Meanwhile, Ms Sim will be Senior Minister of State for National Development and Communications and Information.






No National Day Rally 2020 because of COVID-19
PM Lee will speak instead in Parliament, during the debate that follows its opening on Aug 24
By Rei Kurohi, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

There will not be a National Day Rally (NDR) this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

It will be the first time the NDR - generally considered the most important political speech of the year - has not been given since 1966.

Mr Lee will instead deliver a major speech to Singaporeans in the House, "about 10 days" after Parliament opens on Aug 24.



He said he decided to make his speech in Parliament because "it's not possible to convene a physical National Day Rally and have a traditional event with an audience in front of me, and I can take them through slides and explanations and recount stories".

"So instead of that, I shall do it in Parliament and we will have a serious debate there," he said, during a virtual press conference to announce his new Cabinet.

The annual rally has been held every year since founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew delivered the first NDR in 1966, a year after independence.

The sitting prime minister sets out the key issues facing the Government of the day during the speech.

Last year's NDR was held at the Institute of Technical Education College Central.



The new MPs will be sworn in on Aug 24 in the afternoon, and President Halimah Yacob will give a speech to open Parliament in the evening, Mr Lee said yesterday.

He added: "We will have to be safe-distanced, but we know how to do that, and the debate will be one week later, starting on Aug 31.

"I shall speak in the debate and make a major speech.

"I have decided to do this because there is urgency in getting Parliament convened.

"We have legislation to pass urgently and there's business to be done."

A new session of Parliament is traditionally opened with the President's Address.

In January 2016, following the general election in September the year before, then President Tony Tan opened the 13th Parliament with a speech on the challenges facing the Government in the road ahead.






A steady as it goes Cabinet with eyes firmly on COVID-19 crisis ahead
By Zakir Hussain, News Editor, The Sunday Times, 26 Jul 2020

The latest Cabinet line-up places greater emphasis on continuity over change - a departure from the previous two post-general election reshuffles in 2011 and 2015.

And for good reason. The current grave crisis underlined the need to maintain a greater degree of continuity than he would otherwise have done, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted in his press conference yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat takes on the role of Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, and both senior ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam will stay on to help tackle the crisis.

As the COVID-19 pandemic poses a challenge to public health and the healthcare system as well as the economy and jobs, having ministers Gan Kim Yong, Chan Chun Sing and Josephine Teo remaining at the helm of their ministries provides much-needed continuity at a critical time.

The impetus for change has always been there to give ministers exposure and renew the front bench. But it has just been deferred, owing to COVID-19.



PM Lee himself acknowledged this when he said: "I hope that within not too long a time, as the situation stabilises... it will be possible for me to make further changes."

Nine years ago, when PM Lee announced his new Cabinet line-up after the 2011 General Election, 11 out of the 14 ministries had new ministers.

Two were new MPs: Former Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Heng Swee Keat was made Minister for Education, and former army chief Chan Chun Sing was appointed Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports.

And seven new faces from among the re-elected and new MPs joined the Government, including Mr Lawrence Wong, who was made Minister of State for Defence and Education.

After the 2015 General Election, nine out of the 15 ministries saw new ministers at the helm.

Among them were newly elected acting education ministers Ng Chee Meng, who oversaw schools, and Ong Ye Kung, who oversaw higher education and skills.

Other newly elected MPs made office-holders included Dr Janil Puthucheary, Dr Koh Poh Koon and Mr Chee Hong Tat, who became ministers of state.

In contrast, the latest Cabinet reshuffle sees just six of the 15 ministries getting new leaders: Environment and Water Resources, which has been renamed Sustainability and the Environment (Ms Grace Fu); Social and Family Development (Mr Masagos Zulkifli); Education (Mr Lawrence Wong); Transport (Mr Ong Ye Kung); National Development (Mr Desmond Lee); and Culture, Community and Youth (Mr Edwin Tong).

But there is even greater continuity, if you consider that Mr Wong had a stint at Education when he first entered politics.

Mr Desmond Lee has been at National Development ever since he became an office-holder in 2013, first as a minister of state, then senior minister of state, and second minister from 2017.

Ms Fu was at Environment and Water Resources from 2011 to 2012 as senior minister of state, and then second minister from 2012 to 2015.

At a time when issues are becoming more complex, familiarity with these issues - whether they are the concerns of home owners or hawkers - can help ministers better shape, refine and calibrate policy changes and explain them to Singaporeans.

This is a good thing.

But there has also been a degree of targeted change to expose office-holders to a range of portfolios.

Thus the appointments of key fourth-generation ministers to strategic portfolios such as Education and Transport.



Significantly, the process of renewal also continues. The appointment of Dr Tan See Leng as a full minister - Second Minister for Trade and Industry, as well as Manpower - will enable him to bring his private-sector perspective to economy policymaking, help ensure that policies are effective in helping businesses, and align economic and manpower policies.

Four new MPs will also be ministers of state - e2i deputy chief executive Gan Siow Huang in Education and Manpower; Mr Alvin Tan, outgoing head of public policy and economics at LinkedIn, in Culture, Community and Youth as well as Trade and Industry; former People's Association chief Desmond Tan in Home Affairs as well as Sustainability and the Environment; and former Infocomm Media Development Authority chief Tan Kiat How in National Development and the Prime Minister's Office.

As has been the case for previous batches of new appointees, younger office-holders who perform well can expect to be promoted in subsequent Cabinet changes, and stretched and stress-tested in new roles.

If COVID-19 abates in the next year or two, some of the seven current senior ministers of state and seven ministers of state can expect to be moved up and about, and the balance between continuity and change recalibrated as political renewal proceeds apace.


















Cabinet swearing-in ceremony: With election over, PM Lee calls for unity to tackle coronavirus crisis
He says Cabinet is the strongest he could form, and calls on Singaporeans to back team
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2020

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on Singaporeans to unite to help the country face the difficult months and years that lie ahead in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a ceremony to swear in his new team, he said that he has formed the strongest Cabinet he could, to deal vigorously with the severe economic and public health challenges confronting the nation.

Now that the general election is over, the work of the new Cabinet and Government has already begun. Apart from developing the ability to stamp out any fresh COVID-19 outbreaks, the nation needed to get its economy going again, save jobs and reskill workers for new ones.

"The elections are behind us. Whatever our political persuasions, never forget that we are first and foremost Singaporeans," said PM Lee. "Let us all unite and focus our energies on the major challenges ahead."



He was addressing colleagues at the Istana's State Room in a ceremony to swear in the Cabinet that included a video link to Parliament House, where Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and another group of ministers were assembled, in keeping with safe distancing requirements.

Presiding over the swearing-in ceremony, President Halimah Yacob said that the COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed Singaporeans' resilience as one people.

"I am proud of how we have stood together, in solidarity with one another," she said. "So for this next phase, I ask Singaporeans to similarly unite behind the Government that we have elected, and give it our full support to see Singapore through this crisis."

PM Lee noted that the global COVID-19 situation has taken a turn for the worse. Cities, such as Hong Kong and Seoul, that initially brought the virus under control are suffering repeated outbreaks.

This is why the Government is building up the capacity to test and contact trace, so as to stamp out new outbreaks quickly, he said.



He also pledged to save as many jobs as possible and help workers who lose jobs to find new work. The Government will help businesses that have been shut down by the pandemic to start up again, he said, especially in the badly hit construction, tourism and aviation sectors.

But he cautioned that some industries might fail and workers may have to reskill. "The better, long-term solution is to invest our resources to develop new capabilities, grow new industries and create new jobs. Then we can help firms in declining industries to reinvent themselves or pivot to other fields of business," said PM Lee.

Beyond economic prosperity, Singaporeans also want a fair and just society with opportunities for all and the hope that their children would have better lives than themselves, he said.

For this, the political system must continue to work well for Singapore, PM Lee added.

He said the recent election has shown a strong desire from Singaporeans for greater diversity of views in politics. This trend, he noted, is here to stay.

"We have to give expression to it, and evolve our political system to accommodate it, while maintaining our cohesion and sense of national purpose."

PM Lee urged the 10 MPs from the Workers' Party, and two Non-Constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party, to play their role of a responsible and loyal opposition, and put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated.



In all, 33 ministers and ministers of state, starting with PM Lee, took their oaths of office, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, during the one-hour ceremony.

PM Lee said that good politics depends not only on sound institutions, but also on high-quality political leadership.

Noting that leadership renewal is a "never-ending task", he asked Singaporeans to extend to the younger ministers the same support they have given him over the years.

"Only with an exceptional leadership team, working closely with Singaporeans, can we continue to stand out in the world," he said.

















Tough days ahead but workers, businesses will get help, says PM Lee
Govt will do its best to save as many jobs as possible and help those who lose jobs to find work
By Hariz Baharudin, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2020

While economic conditions will remain difficult amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government will do its best to keep Singaporeans employed and give businesses the help they need, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a speech yesterday after the new Cabinet was sworn in, PM Lee outlined the challenges facing Singapore, including the "enormous task" of getting the country's economy going again.

The global coronavirus situation has worsened, he said, with cities that initially brought the virus under control - such as Hong Kong and Seoul - suffering repeated outbreaks after easing restrictions and reopening their economies.



"It shows just how difficult it will be for Singapore to keep ourselves free from the virus," he added.

That is why Singapore is building up its testing and contact tracing capacities, to identify and stamp out new COVID-19 outbreaks quickly as it gradually restores economic activity and reopens its borders.

PM Lee noted that Singapore's economy shrank a record 12.6 per cent year on year in the second quarter this year.

The Government's four Budgets this year - to the tune of nearly $100 billion - have kept companies afloat and minimised retrenchments so far, he said.

"But economic conditions will continue to be difficult, and we must expect to lose many more jobs," he added. "We will do our best to save as many as we can, and help workers who still lose their jobs to find new work."

The National Jobs Council, chaired by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, is "urgently working with the unions, business associations and government agencies" on the vital task of creating jobs and opportunities for those out of work, he said.



The Government will also help businesses that have been shut down by COVID-19 to start up again, he said, pointing to how it will "lighten the burden" of foreign worker levies and fees on companies in the construction sector, which have been badly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in migrant worker dormitories.

He added that the Government is almost done testing all the workers for the coronavirus, and clearing the dorms of it.

All is being done to make sure living and working conditions are safe for these workers so that they can get back to work as soon as possible, while keeping the virus in check, he said.

"But it is a very complicated task, and despite our best efforts, will take a few weeks more to complete."

Other sectors hard hit by the pandemic are those that depend on travel such as tourism and aviation.

These sectors rely heavily on the international market, without a large domestic market to prop up demand.

"We are determined to help these sectors pull through, as they are linked to many other parts of our economy," PM Lee said, noting that almost $2 billion has been set aside in the four Budgets to help them.

Both the Government and businesses will face difficult choices ahead, he said, noting that some industries will not return to how they were before the pandemic.

"We cannot afford to prop up failing industries indefinitely, or trap workers in jobs that are no longer viable," he said.

"The better, long-term solution is to invest our resources to develop new capabilities, grow new industries and create new jobs. Then we can help firms in the declining industries to reinvent themselves or pivot to other fields of business."



The Government will help workers in these industries reskill for the new jobs created, he added.

Singapore has to press on with transforming its economy and skills upgrading, PM Lee said, so that Singaporeans can make the most of new opportunities, cope with new uncertainties and improve their lives.

"One day, the pandemic will be over, and the economic crisis will pass. When that day comes, we have to be ready for the post-COVID-19 world," he said.

"Our aim is not just to survive the storm, but also to set the long-term direction for our country. We must keep on improving Singapore, year after year, generation after generation."





PM Lee aims to hand over Singapore into good hands after steering it through COVID-19 crisis
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2020

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's aim is to see Singapore through the COVID-19 crisis and hand the country over "intact and in working order", into good hands that can take the country further forward, he said.

PM Lee, who was yesterday sworn in for his ninth term of office, asked that Singaporeans extend to the younger ministers the same support they have given him over the years.



Addressing President Halimah Yacob, he said: "Madam President, I have spent my entire adult life in public service. I will continue to devote myself to my country and people, drawing strength and purpose from the support of Singaporeans young and old."

In a speech at the swearing-in ceremony held at the Istana, PM Lee said that leadership renewal is a never-ending task, and Singapore will continue to need more good people from each generation to step forward, stand for elections and serve the country.

PM Lee - who was first elected MP in 1984 at the age of 32 - said Singapore must have leaders who can take the rough and tumble of politics, and who will commit all their energies to work and fight for what they believe in.

"Only with an exceptional leadership team, working closely with Singaporeans, can we continue to stand out in the world," he said.

Good politics depends not only on sound institutions, but also on high-quality political leadership, he said.

Singapore, more than other countries, needs capable and committed leaders who have "the courage of their convictions, command the respect of Singaporeans and can mobilise the population to achieve great things together", he added.



In the recent general election, the ruling People's Action Party won 83 out of 93 seats contested, with 61.23 per cent of the votes.

After the polls, PM Lee said, he put together the strongest Cabinet he could, to take Singapore through the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

The Cabinet, he added, is a multiracial one, with seven out of 20 full ministers being non-Chinese, which is reflective of Singapore's multiracial society.

He noted that the new Government was sworn in before President Halimah and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who both belong to minority communities.

PM Lee said: "There can be no more vivid demonstration of how our meritocratic system works, and the lengths we have gone to, to ensure equal treatment and opportunities for every citizen, regardless of race, language or religion."

The Cabinet also includes office-holders from successive generations, and the more senior ones - having seen Singapore through past crises - can offer valuable guidance and views, he added.

PM Lee said the younger ministers are increasingly taking the lead, setting the agenda and engaging Singaporeans, and they have also been "leading our COVID-19 response, and gained confidence dealing with the complex challenges of the pandemic".

He said: "The new office-holders will bring with them fresh ideas and perspectives, and work hard to master the issues. It is a team that Singaporeans can be confident in, and one that will walk with you every step of the way."













President Halimah calls on Singaporeans to unite behind newly-elected government to see country through crisis as Cabinet is sworn in
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2020

If there is an upside to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the reaffirmation of the Singapore spirit, and how Singaporeans' resilience as one people has seen them through this crisis thus far, President Halimah Yacob said.

To see Singapore through the next phase of this "existential crisis" - the most serious since independence - Madam Halimah urged Singaporeans to unite behind the newly elected government, and give it their full support to take the country through the crisis.



Speaking at the start of a ceremony to swear in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his new Cabinet, President Halimah said Singaporeans from all walks of life have come together to mobilise resources in this "most difficult of times" and stood with one another.

"For this next phase, I ask Singaporeans to similarly unite behind the Government that we have elected, and give it our full support to see Singapore through this crisis," she said, adding she had confidence in PM Lee and his team to steer Singapore safely through tumultuous times.



Madam Halimah also took stock of the significant progress Singapore has made in the last five years.

Just six months ago, it was a very different world, she said. Singapore was advancing steadily on the course it had set over many years to develop the country, be it upgrading the economy and workforce, building physical infrastructure or strengthening social safety nets.

Although there were growing concerns about globalisation - with free trade in retreat and geopolitical tensions rising - Singapore was coping "better than most" because its people were united, and the Government was focused on addressing people's concerns, she said.

She noted that many societies around the world were under stress, with their people angry and frustrated, fuelling a wave of nativism and protectionism that erupted in various forms such as Brexit, the Yellow Vests in France or the drastic loss of support for moderate political leaders elsewhere. As a highly open society, Singapore was exposed to these same pressures.

Fortunately, in the last five years, Singapore made "significant progress" in several areas, she said. Its competitiveness on the economic front was strengthened, and the Future Economy Council chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat led the effort to transform industries and retrain workers to stay employable.

The social compact was also strengthened, with investments and policy reforms to make basic needs of life more accessible and affordable, from enhanced pre-school subsidies to the Pioneer and Merdeka Generation packages. Schemes like Workfare and ComCare were enhanced, and delivery of social services improved.

Madam Halimah described COVID-19 as an upheaval that could set Singapore back for many years, but said progress made in the last term of government has given the country a strong base to work from.

Singapore has had to muster its strength and resources to mount an emergency response - introducing rigorous safe distancing measures, launching a massive and complex operation to bring the outbreak in migrant worker dormitories under control and injecting close to $100 billion in four Budgets to cushion the impact on jobs and incomes.

The Government sought the President's permission to draw more than half of that amount from past reserves, which was approved.

Madam Halimah said: "I concurred with its assessment that we needed to bring all our resources to bear to deal with this existential challenge - the most serious since our nation's independence - and protect Singaporeans' lives and livelihoods."

She added that after six months of unremitting effort on the part of front-line workers, the situation has stabilised in Singapore, although the crisis is far from over.

The Government called a general election to secure a fresh mandate and a new full term, to make necessary and difficult decisions to deal with the troubled times ahead, she said. "Now that the election is over, we must focus on the challenges and the agenda ahead."








Masked up and split up, but no less memorable a swearing-in ceremony
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2020

The swearing-in ceremony for a new Cabinet at the Istana is traditionally attended by members of the establishment and invited guests from a cross-section of society.

With the country in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's ceremony was a far more quiet affair, split up over two locations for safe distancing.



In the Istana's State Room were President Halimah Yacob and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, along with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and half the Cabinet.

The others, including Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, took their oaths in Parliament House instead. Mr Heng and Mr Chan are the People Action Party's (PAP) first and second assistant secretary-generals, respectively, and head the party's fourth-generation leadership.

The two venues were linked by video, with political office-holders on both sides able to see each other. But their seats were spaced out at regular intervals, driving home the message of safe distancing. Invited guests, too, watched the proceedings from separate rooms in each building.

Also invited were PAP MPs past and present, and the Workers' Party's newly elected MPs. PM Lee later posed for a wefie with WP chief Pritam Singh, whom he has designated Leader of the Opposition, after the event.

Like the PAP MPs, the WP MPs were split too - with Aljunied GRC MPs at the Istana, and Sengkang GRC MPs and Hougang MP Dennis Tan at Parliament House.

The ceremonies of previous years welcomed guests of every stripe - from top civil servants to blue-collar workers, who would mingle with the newly sworn-in ministers on the Istana's manicured lawns after the ceremony.

But this year's guest list was far more pared down. It included MPs, former political office-holders, ambassadors from around the region, judges, permanent secretaries and the chairmen of statutory boards. All of them, too, had to sit far apart in the interest of health and safety.

A mask adorned every face, from the camera crew filming the event to the President's aides-de-camp.

Many wore the basic surgical variety, although some - like Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah - wore fashionable cloth creations that blended in seamlessly with their formal attire.

Newly minted MP Yip Hon Weng even had on a unique beige-coloured creation with a clear plastic panel in the front, showing off his beaming smile.

PM Lee was the first to be sworn in at the Istana, followed by DPM Heng and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean at Parliament House, and Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the Istana.

Each took their oaths individually, led by CJ Menon. They were then presented with their instruments of appointment by President Halimah Yacob or, for those in Parliament House, by Mr Eddie Teo, who chairs the Council of Presidential Advisers.

A total of 33 ministers and ministers of state took their oath of office during the proceedings, which lasted a little over an hour.

After the formalities were over, it was time to snap photos and upload social media posts to commemorate the occasion.

Mr Heng posted a photo of the politicians and their spouses posing for a picture outside Parliament House, while Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin posted a rueful shot of himself adjusting the strap of his mask, which appeared to have snapped.

"Lesson learnt: Don't fiddle with mask. Make friends with cameraman," he wrote. "Always practise your knots."









Political system must evolve to continue to work well for Singapore, says PM Lee as Cabinet is sworn in
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Jul 2020

Singapore's political system will have to evolve to accommodate the electorate's desire for greater diversity of views in politics, while still maintaining cohesion and a sense of national purpose, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He noted in a speech yesterday that the new Parliament will have 12 opposition MPs - the largest number in recent history.

"The election has shown a strong desire among Singaporeans for greater diversity of views in politics," PM Lee said. "Voters want the PAP to form the Government, but they also want more robust debate of policies and plans. This trend is here to stay. We have to give expression to it."



He was speaking at the swearing-in of the new Cabinet and political office-holders, which was held in two separate locations - the Istana and Parliament House.

PM Lee said he looks forward to "more vigorous but constructive debates in Parliament".

There are now 10 Workers' Party MPs from Aljunied and Sengkang GRCs, as well as the single-member constituency of Hougang.

There are also two Non-Constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party, which received 48.32 per cent of the vote in West Coast GRC.



The Government will formally designate WP chief Pritam Singh as Leader of the Opposition, and provide him with staff and resources to perform his role.

"I hope our colleagues across the aisle will step up to play their role of a responsible and loyal opposition," PM Lee said.

"Their duty is not merely to raise criticisms and ask questions of the Government, necessary as these functions are. But also, more importantly, to put forward serious policy alternatives to be scrutinised and debated."

This way, voters will be able to better understand the issues, choices and trade-offs, he added.

In the process, policies and plans can be improved to deliver better outcomes for Singapore.



PM Lee also said that the Government has to fulfil the broader ambitions that Singaporeans have for the country, beyond economic prosperity.

"We aspire to be a fair and just society, with opportunities for all. We wish to fashion an inclusive community, where we look out for one another, reach out to those who need help and show every Singaporean that they have a stake in our future," he said.

"We want to make this a home where Singaporeans always believe that their children will have better lives than themselves, and the human spirit can flourish. This is the nation we are building together."

He added: "To achieve these hopes and dreams, our political system must continue to work well for Singapore."

















Parliament sets out duties, privileges of Leader of the Opposition
WP chief will get longer speaking time in Parliament, govt briefings
As Leader of the Opposition, he will also lead and organise scrutiny of govt positions
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent and Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2020

As the official Leader of the Opposition (LO), Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh will be given the right of first response among MPs, have more time to speak in Parliament and also get confidential briefings from the Government.

He will be paid $385,000 a year - double what other MPs get - and get allowances to hire more staff.


These are among the privileges and resources he will be accorded with the political appointment, a first for Singapore.

Along with them come duties such as leading and organising the scrutiny of the Government's positions and actions.

These details were announced yesterday afternoon in a statement issued by the offices of Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Leader of the House Grace Fu, after the two met Mr Singh earlier to give him a rundown of his role.



Since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced on July 11 that the Government would designate Mr Singh as the LO, there has been much public interest in what the role will entail.

The position is not provided for in either the Constitution or the Standing Orders of Parliament, said the statement, which noted that Singapore has never had formal LOs even in the 1950s and early 1960s, when there were substantial numbers of opposition legislative assemblymen. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who led the People's Action Party as the largest opposition party between 1955 and 1959, and Dr Lee Siew Choh, who led Barisan Sosialis as the largest opposition party between 1961 and 1963, were never formally designated as the LO.

In deciding on the specifics of the office, the Government had looked to other Westminster parliamentary systems such as Australia and Britain, which have formally designated opposition, and also considered Singapore's circumstances.



Mr Singh's duties as the LO include leading the opposition in presenting alternative views in parliamentary debates on policies, Bills and motions. He will also lead and organise the scrutiny of the Government's positions and actions.

In addition, he will be consulted on the appointment of opposition MPs to Select Committees, including Standing Select Committees like the Public Accounts Committee.

"In addition to his parliamentary duties, the LO may be called upon to take on other duties such as attending official state functions and taking part in visits and meetings alongside members of the Government and the Public Service," the statement said.

To ensure he can fulfil his duties, Mr Singh will be accorded certain privileges and provided with more resources. In Parliament, he will get the right of first response among MPs, and have the right to ask the lead question to ministers on policies, Bills and motions, subject to existing speaking conventions.



He will also have more time for his speeches, equivalent to that given to political office-holders.

All MPs are allowed to speak for 20 minutes in response to questions raised, and up to 10 minutes when Parliament sits as a committee, like when deliberating on the contents of a Bill, according to the Standing Orders of Parliament. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries are entitled to speak for up to 40 minutes.

Mr Singh will also receive confidential briefings by the Government on "select matters of national security and external relations, and in the event of a national crisis or emergency", the statement said.

The content of these briefings cannot be disclosed to others, including other opposition MPs, said the Offices of the Speaker and Leader of the House when asked.

They declined to say if the LO will also get advance policy briefings.



As for staff support, he will receive additional allowance to hire up to three additional legislative assistants, on top of the allowance all MPs receive to hire one legislative assistant and a secretarial assistant.

He will also be provided a secretary to support him administratively with parliamentary business.

The secretary and assistants will not be employed as public officers, said the Offices of the Speaker and Leader of the House.

Mr Singh will have an office and the use of a meeting room in Parliament House as well.



Noting PM Lee's acknowledgement that the recent election results showed a strong desire among Singaporeans for a greater diversity of views in politics, and that this trend is here to stay, the statement said: "Designating a Leader of Opposition will recognise this desire while enabling our political system to evolve in a way that maintains our sense of national purpose."

It added that as with any new political appointment, the role of the LO will evolve as Singapore's political system evolves. "We look forward to working with the LO to create a robust but stable political system serving the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans."

Ms Fu will deliver a statement in Parliament to formally set out the terms of the LO.











 

















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