Cabinet changes for better policy delivery

That the Cabinet changes announced on Tuesday were incremental reflects the stability that has returned to Singapore's political landscape after the seismic Cabinet shake-up that followed the 2011 General Election. This stability is not of the false kind that is born of inertia or an inability to face up to uncomfortable truths. Instead, the Government demonstrated that it was taking signals from the ground seriously when it embarked on social and health-care policies which sought to address grievances and reduce the alienation that many voters had displayed at the polling booth. A sharper sense of political direction has defined the Government's work since those watershed elections.

However, stabilising the political ground always is a work in progress. Thus, this week's Cabinet changes reflect the new mood of renewed policy activism. The promotion of Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Lawrence Wong to full ministers is a vote of confidence in two promising young leaders who have made their mark, both in the mastery of their portfolios - Manpower; and Culture, Community and Youth - and in their ability to explain policies in a way that the layman can understand.

Such qualities are demanded of the Government's work as a whole, particularly when communication is almost as important as policy formulation. Mr Tan, in particular, would need to use both his analytical and persuasive skills to convince employers and workers of the crucial need to climb up the productivity ladder as the economy restructures.

In making the latest changes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has focused closely also on the Health Ministry, which is tasked with carrying through the Pioneer Generation Package and the upcoming MediShield Life scheme. Dr Lam Pin Min's elevation to Minister of State would allow the ministry to draw on his experience in health care in the private sector. No less important are social policies, especially the facilitation of their coordination across ministries. These are the responsibility of Mr Sam Tan in his new role as Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office. Other changes, too, attest to Mr Lee's desire to have more hands on deck as Singapore navigates an important stretch of its transition, creating opportunities for all even as society ages and the economy matures.

Along with decisive leadership in producing and implementing policies, Singapore will require greater public participation to make the transition successfully. Feedback is most effective when citizens make an effort to understand the purpose and trade-offs behind policies. As voters, they should exercise their rights and responsibilities to discuss and debate these, offering and weighing up opinions and alternative options.