4G leaders set out aspirations for new roles after Cabinet reshuffle

PM Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (April 23) announced major changes to his Cabinet. Among the ministers given new roles were (clockwise from top right) Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Lawrence Wong and Mr Ong Ye Kung. PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG, GAVIN FOO, LIM YAOHUI, LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Several fourth-generation leaders bade their farewells and set out their aspirations in the wake of Friday's (April 23) major Cabinet reshuffle, which will see seven out of 15 ministries helmed by new ministers.

Among them were Mr Chan Chun Sing, Mr Lawrence Wong and Mr Ong Ye Kung, all of whom have been tipped as potential candidates to be Singapore's next Prime Minister since Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat stepped aside two weeks ago as the People's Action Party's 4G leader.

The latest reshuffle will see Mr Wong, who is Education Minister, succeed DPM Heng as Finance Minister.

Mr Chan will take over from Mr Wong at the Education Ministry, and relinquish his Trade and Industry portfolio to Mr Gan Kim Yong. Mr Ong Ye Kung, who is currently Transport Minister, will move to take Mr Gan's place at the Health Ministry.

The changes will take place in three weeks' time on May 15, after the next Parliament sitting, which starts on May 10.

In his Facebook post on the new line-up, Mr Heng noted that his successor at the Finance Ministry will have the big task of continuing to invest for the long term while maintaining fiscal discipline.

Mr Wong, in a separate post, said that Mr Heng "has left behind big shoes to fill".

"I have learnt a lot from him over the years, and value greatly his guidance and mentorship," said Mr Wong, who has been Second Minister for Finance since 2016.

He also laid out his belief that there are opportunities to build a better Singapore - one that is more fair and just, greener and more sustainable and more inclusive and united - despite the crisis.

"Finance is a key enabler to seize these opportunities and to advance the well-being of Singapore and Singaporeans," he said.

He added that he leaves the Education Ministry - which he joined after the general election in July last year - with some sadness, but added that the ministry is in good hands with Mr Chan at the helm.

Mr Chan spoke warmly of his new role, setting out how he benefited from the education system as a boy.

The minister grew up in a single-parent household and was awarded a President's Scholarship and a Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship in 1988 to study economics at Cambridge University.

"Given my family circumstances, I managed to pursue what would otherwise be just a dream - getting a good education," he said, pledging to build on the existing system and enable every generation of Singaporeans to realise their aspirations, no matter their starting circumstances or stations in life.

"This is what makes Singapore special - that everyone can have the opportunity to do justice to our respective gifts and in turn pay it forward to the next generation."

Mr Ong, who was at an event to celebrate the Land Transport Authority's 25th anniversary, told reporters that his eight months at the Transport Ministry was "my shortest posting ever", but "we have to go where we are required".

He added that the work he had started, on initiatives such as setting up travel bubbles, will continue under the incoming Transport Minister S. Iswaran.

Asked if Friday's Cabinet reshuffle has provided greater clarity on the topic of leadership succession within the 4G, he replied: "As far as we are concerned, new portfolios, new responsibilities, new opportunities for 4G colleagues to work together."

He drew a distinction between the Cabinet and the corporate world, where he said contenders may move aside or leave the company once a new chief executive has been named. "In our case, we can't afford to do that. It has to be a team. Give it some time for us to select, amongst us, a first among equals."

In a Facebook post later, he said Mr Gan left big shoes to be filled. He added that the Health Ministry is leading the fight against Covid-19, and "in the long term, we need to ensure that even as our population ages, we will deliver quality and affordable healthcare to Singaporeans".

In a statement on Friday, Singapore Business Federation chief executive Lam Yi Young said the business community looks forward to Mr Gan's leadership and support as companies try to seize opportunities to emerge stronger in the next phase of recovery and growth.

He also noted that Mr Gan is not new to economic issues, having been Minister for Manpower from 2008 to 2011.

Mr Lam said Mr Wong, as Second Finance Minister, is familiar with the business community, and added that the community looks forward to "his continued support and partnership in future Budgets".

Mr Lam also welcomed Second Minister for Manpower and Trade and Industry Tan See Leng's appointment as Manpower Minister.

"By now, he is a familiar face to the business community, and we look forward to working with him to strengthen Singapore's manpower strategies to support companies' growth," said Mr Lam.

Additional reporting by Toh Ting Wei

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