Cabinet changes take effect Oct 1; Khaw Boon Wan to be new Transport Minister

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) announcing the changes at a press conference at the Istana.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) announcing the changes at a press conference at the Istana.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Mr Khaw Boon Wan will be the new Transport Minister, in Cabinet changes announced on Monday (Sept 28) that also see members of the fourth-generation leadership being put in positions of heavy responsibility.

Mr Lawrence Wong, the former Culture, Community and Youth minister, will take over Mr Khaw's National Development ministry.

The changes, which will take effect from Oct 1, will also see Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam take on Coordinating Ministers roles.

Mr Teo will oversee national security and Mr Tharman will look after economic and social policies. Mr Khaw will also be a Coordinating Minister, in charge of infrastructure.

Other changes will see Mr Heng Swee Keat moving to be Finance Minister.

New faces Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung will both be Acting Ministers for Education. Mr Ng will oversee schools while Mr Ong will look after higher education and skills.

Mr Ng will also be Senior Minister of State in the Transport ministry, while Mr Ong will be Senior Minister of State in the Defence ministry.

The changes were announced at a press conference at the Istana chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was flanked by the key members of his Cabinet.

In other changes, Environment and Water Resources minister Vivian Balakrishnan will be Foreign Minister. Mr K. Shanmugam will leave the Foreign ministry. He continues with Law as well as will helm the Home Affairs ministry.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli will be Environment and Water Resources minister, while Ms Grace Fu will be the minister in charge of Culture, Community and Youth. She will also be the first female Leader of the House.

A new face at the recent General Election, former senior civil servant Chee Hong Tat, will be Minister of State in the Health ministry and Communications and Information ministry.

First-time MP surgeon Koh Poh Koon will also move into government, as Minister of State in the Trade and Industry and National Development ministries. He will start on Jan 1, 2016.

Another doctor, Dr Janil Puthucheary, will also join Mr Lee's team, as Minister of State in Education as well as Communication and Information.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng also joins the leadership ranks, as Parliamentary Secretary in the Culture, Community and Youth ministry.

 

Speaking at the press conference to announce the new Cabinet following the Sept 11 polls in which the ruling People's Action Party won a landslide 69.9 per cent of the vote, PM Lee affirmed that his successor would be from this new Cabinet - if not, "something would have gone unexpectedly".

To make way for leadership renewal and to give mentorship to the fourth generation, his deputies Mr Teo and Mr Tharman will not be helming specific ministries but act as coordinating ministers, he explained.

Both DPMs said that they would prioritise grooming the young ministers and helping them gel as a team. DPM Teo will be acting Prime Minister in Mr Lee's absence.

Mr Khaw, as the third coordinating minister and also Transport Minister, will "tie together different aspects of urban planning", said Mr Lee.

He added: "The task is urgent, we do not have the luxury of time. Therefore I am making a decisive move now, not an incremental one (and) putting many of the younger ones into key ministries so they can broaden their experience, learn the ropes and establish themselves quickly."

In opening remarks, Mr Lee noted that Singapore was entering a new phase of nation building, with complex challenges faced by multiple ministries. There was a need for tighter coordination across ministries for a whole of government response.

He noted that the Education ministry's role has widened, and it must work closely with the Trade and Industry ministry as well as Manpower ministry so that graduates will have skills that can find them jobs.

Mr Lee also said that he was putting many younger leaders in key ministries to broaden their experience. Backbenchers have also been brought in too.

Of the ministers who are changing portfolios, he noted that Dr Balakrishnan had done a good job at Environment and Water Resources and had represented Singapore ably in international forums.

Of Mr Heng's move to Finance, he said Mr Heng had proved himself in Education, "a very demanding portfolio".

"He's familiar with many different ministries and now he will oversee our national finances".

There will be two ministers in Trade and Industry. Mr Lee said that Mr Lim Hng Kiang will oversee trade negotiations, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is in its final stages, and Mr S. Iswaran will focus on economic restructuring.

Mr Lee Yi Shyan, who was Senior Minister of State in Trade and Industry and National Development, had asked to step down and Mr Lee said he had reluctantly agreed.

He said Mr Gan Kim Yong will stay in Health because major projects are underway and he cannot be moved now.

Of Mr Wong's move to National Development, he noted that Mr Wong was already overseeing the master planning for the Jurong Lake District.

There are now 20 full or acting ministers, he noted, of which half are below 55 years old.

Mr Lee also said he would do a mid-term review and make further changes.