Parliament to reopen on May 7 after mid-term break

Cabinet reshuffle on the cards and President's Address will be the first drafted by 4G team

The current Parliament opened in January 2016, after a general election that saw the People's Action Party returned to power with 69.9 per cent of votes and 83 of the 89 elected seats. PHOTO: REUTERS

Parliament is hitting its reset button. It is taking its customary mid-term break, and will reopen next month with a fresh agenda shaped by the fourth-generation ministers.

The President's Address to kick off the second session of the 13th Parliament will be the first to be drafted by the younger team.

In a statement yesterday, the Government said the speech, which will take place at 8.30pm on May 7, will announce the Government's priorities, policies and programmes for the remainder of the current term of office.

It will be followed by a parliamentary debate on the speech.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had earlier said the address - which is drafted by the Government of the day but is delivered by the President - "will bear the imprint of the fourth-generation (4G) leadership, who are taking on greater responsibilities, and putting forth their ideas for Singapore".

"It will give Singaporeans a better sense of them and their thoughts," he said during his New Year's message this year.

Yesterday, one of the 4G leaders, Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, told The Straits Times that the speech will review the progress made by the Government during the first half of the term and outline the priorities for the next half. The 4G team will also play an active role in the ensuing debate, which typically begins a week after the address. It usually lasts about one week.

"Several younger political office-holders will be speaking - to share what we see as the long-term challenges, our hopes and dreams for Singapore, and how we can work with Singaporeans to take our country forward," he said.

The speech will be notable for another reason: It will be President Halimah Yacob's first President's Address, since her election as Singapore's eighth president last September.

With the announcement of the Parliament recess, the next major item now on the political calendar is a Cabinet reshuffle. PM Lee had said that this is "to give the younger (Cabinet) members more exposure and responsibility".

Fourth-generation ministers are expected to be given heftier responsibilities as they prepare to take over the reins from PM Lee after the next general election, due by 2021.

There will also be another key change on the opposite side of the aisle: For the first time in nearly two decades, Mr Low Thia Khiang will not be at the helm of the opposition.

The Workers' Party (WP) will be holding its leadership elections on Sunday. Mr Low has said he would retire as WP secretary-general - a position he has held for 17 years.

The current Parliament opened in January 2016, after a general election that saw the People's Action Party returned to power with 69.9 per cent of votes and 83 of the 89 elected seats.

During the first session, key milestones included constitutional changes to the elected presidency. Madam Halimah was the first president elected under the new rules. Other highlights include the announcement of a goods and services tax increase from 7 per cent to 9 per cent - due to happen some time between 2021 and 2025, and the debate on former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's house.

Parliament has been prorogued 11 times since Independence. The last break took place in April 2014.

MPs and observers said the new session is likely to include a renewed focus on bread-and-butter issues such as economic restructuring, jobs and healthcare financing.

ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute research fellow Mustafa Izzuddin noted regional developments that could loom large. As the second session of Parliament intersects with the midpoint of Singapore's Asean chairmanship, there will be a stock-take of regional projects and developments, he said. "The new term may well also intersect with the Malaysian election and if there is a change in government to the political opposition, the new term may be occupied by keeping a close watch on the future trajectory of Malaysia-Singapore relations."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2018, with the headline Parliament to reopen on May 7 after mid-term break. Subscribe