Major Cabinet reshuffle, with 7 ministers given new roles by PM

Lawrence Wong moves to Finance, Chan Chun Sing to Education and Ong Ye Kung to Health

Seven of the 15 ministries, including Finance, Education and Health, will get new ministers under a major Cabinet reshuffle aimed at giving younger ministers experience and exposure in more portfolios.

The changes come two weeks after the announcement that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is stepping aside as leader of the People's Action Party's fourth-generation (4G) team.

Mr Heng continues as Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, but will relinquish the finance portfolio. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this will free Mr Heng to concentrate more on the whole-of-government economic agenda.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who has been Second Minister for Finance since 2016, takes over the ministry from Mr Heng.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who has been involved in getting the economy back on track and preparing industries to respond to changes in the global economy, will be the new Education Minister tasked to develop young Singaporeans for the future.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who has been in the post since May 2011 and a point man in combating the coronavirus outbreak here, will be Trade and Industry Minister and oversee the economic recovery from Covid-19.

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, who has been working on reopening borders and protecting Singapore's status as an air and sea hub, will be Health Minister and co-chair the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 with Mr Wong.

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran will be Transport Minister, while Manpower Minister Josephine Teo will be the new Communications and Information Minister, and Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng will be Manpower Minister.

The changes, which come nine months after the Cabinet was formed following the July 2020 General Election, take effect on May 15.

PM Lee told a news conference that the changes are more extensive than is usual this early in the term of government, but a change in the finance portfolio means other redeployments have to be made.

He also said that he had wanted to adjust appointments in Health, Trade and Industry and Manpower after the election, but decided to let the ministers focus on fighting Covid-19 at that point.

"Most of the 4G ministers have already accumulated experience in a wide range of portfolios," he said. "This round of Cabinet changes will allow them to gain new experience and exposure."

They have to get to work quickly, he added, as Singapore remains in the midst of a public health and economic crisis, although the Covid-19 situation is more stable.

"The reshuffle is also an opportunity for them to work together in new capacities so that they can understand each other better and strengthen their cohesion as a team. This will make the new team readier to take over from me and my older colleagues," he said.

Several junior office-holders will also be rotated. Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon will leave the labour movement and join the Manpower Ministry, while Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat will leave foreign affairs and join NTUC.

PM Lee said the eventual configuration was the result of extensive consultations with many ministers, including Mr Heng. He also expects the ministers to work closely together and cooperate to make sure policies are well coordinated and nothing slips through the cracks.

"When a problem comes up, we deal with the problem holistically and not just each person tackling his piece, leaving gaps in between or overlaps and conflicts between the different ministries," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2021, with the headline Major Cabinet reshuffle, with 7 ministers given new roles by PM. Subscribe