'Steady hands and fresh perspectives' in new Cabinet

Team formed to provide most effective government and prepare next leaders to take over after next election: PM

PM Lee Hsien Loong, President Tony Tan and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon during the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on Oct 1, 2015.
PM Lee Hsien Loong, President Tony Tan and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon during the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on Oct 1, 2015.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The new Cabinet has both experienced and younger ministers to steer Singapore through complex challenges, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

The experienced ministers will provide steady hands, while younger leaders will bring fresh perspectives, he said in a speech yesterday after the new Cabinet was sworn in.

The objectives he had in forming the team, he said, were to provide the most effective government, and to prepare the next team to take over soon after the next election, which must be held by 2021.

With complex challenges and issues that cross multiple domains, he appointed Mr Teo Chee Hean, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Mr Khaw Boon Wan coordinating ministers for national security, economic and social policies, and infrastructure, respectively.

"These complex challenges require fresh and bold ideas, careful balancing of different goals and close coordination across multiple agencies," said Mr Lee.

Many countries have found similar challenges too hard to resolve, but in Singapore "we can get things done and we will make it happen".

Singapore faces threats to national security from such groups as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he said.

It is also susceptible to tensions in the South China Sea that are unsettling the region.

Closer to home, there may be spillover effects of political problems or racial tensions in neighbouring countries, which may complicate bilateral ties as well, he added.

In economic and social policies, Singapore has to balance an expected slowdown in growth, given an ageing population and uncertain global conditions, with the need for growth to create opportunities for Singaporeans and to improve lives.

Also, the fruits of growth must be used to invest in the future as well as to strengthen social safety nets.

Singapore has done well in infrastructure, compared to many countries. But there are ambitious plans to build on what is in place over the next 20 to 30 years to "create a new city, and an outstanding living environment for all of us", said Mr Lee.

In the interim, there is still the need to improve standards and remedy shortcomings, he added.

The clear mandate for the ruling People's Action Party at the Sept 11 polls was a sign of continued political stability that has attracted multinational firms to invest here.

One such company increased its stake with another billion-dollar investment after the poll results.

"I have no doubt that the election result boosted this investor's confidence that they were making the right decision, and that they could be confident Singaporeans would keep our fundamentals strong. I am sure that our neighbours noticed too, as have others," he said.

The mandate also allowed PM Lee to "reinforce my team and pursue renewal vigorously".

"The clock is ticking, we have no time to lose," he said, noting that there were new appointees in almost all ministries.

The younger leaders "have to be tested, learn the ropes, prove themselves, and shake down as a team".

"Increasingly, they will carry the Government's programme - initiating, explaining and executing policies, and persuading people to support these policies, which will increasingly be their policies."

The older ministers will provide the team with depth and breadth, as well as guidance and mentorship.

To Singaporeans, Mr Lee said: "You have entrusted Singapore to me and my team, not just because of what we have done, but also because you are confident of what we will do. You trust that we will act on our words and live up to our promises, and we will."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline ''Steady hands and fresh perspectives' in new Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe