Cabinet shuffle 'to see Singapore through next phase'

New appointments will strengthen social and health teams: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has promoted Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Lawrence Wong to full ministers and named two new ministers of state to bolster the social and health teams, in a move he said was aimed at strengthening the Cabinet and helping Singapore through an important period of transition.

He said the Government was creating opportunities for Singaporeans through skills upgrading and raising productivity, improving lives through sports, culture and youth engagement, and giving people peace of mind through stronger social safety nets in health and for the elderly.

"These major policy shifts require good political leadership, close coordination across ministries, effective ground implementation and strong support from Singaporeans," he added. He was strengthening the Cabinet line-up "to address our priorities and challenges, and see Singapore through our next phase of development".

In this latest round of changes, the fourth since the May 2011 General Election, Mr Tan will be promoted to Manpower Minister and Mr Wong to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth tomorrow. They have been acting ministers since August 2012 and November 2012, respectively.

The two fourth-generation leaders, along with their peers Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing, were appointed to office shortly after the May 2011 polls.

Yesterday, Mr Lee said Mr Tan and Mr Wong had performed well since taking office, and had mastered their portfolios, adding: "They have also worked hard on the ground, winning the respect and trust of Singaporeans."

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, in a Facebook update, said both men had also done well in "policy formulation and in explaining policies both in and outside Parliament".

Both ministers yesterday welcomed the opportunity to serve the country, and said they would continue to put in their best.

Along with them, the PM also appointed two new ministers of state. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Sam Tan will be made Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, where he will focus on social policies.

Moulmein-Kallang GRC Member of Parliament Denise Phua will take over from him as Mayor of Central District from May 27.

Meanwhile, two-term backbencher MP Lam Pin Min, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, will be Minister of State for Health from Aug 1, to reinforce the team led by minister Gan Kim Yong.

The Health Ministry is at the "forefront" of health-care changes to cater to an ageing population and growing needs, and has its work cut out, Mr Lee said.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor, who is co-chair of a task force to implement the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package, will also take on more responsibilities in the Health Ministry, and will relinquish her role as Mayor of South West District.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling will take over as Mayor from May 27. She also adds Culture, Community and Youth to her portfolio.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament and political watcher Zulkifli Baharudin said yesterday the changes made clear who would be in the group that would make up the next generation of Singapore's leaders. "At that time, there was some doubt, but now it is clear that Tan Chuan-Jin and Lawrence Wong will be taking up some of the heavy responsibility in the next phase of our development," he said.

PM Lee said yesterday that the changes were part of the Government's continuing leadership renewal efforts. "I expect to do further reshuffles from time to time to ensure that we always have the best team for Singapore," he said.

yuenc@sph.com.sg

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