Opening Remarks by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Press Conference on the New Cabinet Line-up, 18 May 2011
Today’s press conference is to announce my new Cabinet line-up. You have got the details, you have got the press statement, let me add a few comments and then I can take some questions.
My first point is that it is an epochal change because MM and SM are leaving the Cabinet. Last Saturday, they had announced their intention and this is the outcome. MM and SM have dedicated their lives to Singapore, building the nation, raising living standards and enabling future generations to enjoy a better life and a transformed Singapore. Now they have decided that it is time for them to step down and to leave it to me and my team of younger ministers to take Singapore forward into the future. I have thought this over carefully over the last four days, and I have decided to accept their decision. I thank them for all that they have done, not just on my own behalf but on behalf all the people of Singapore. MM’s contributions, of course, are too large to list here and SM’s contributions too, building on what MM had done, and helping Singapore to shift gears and adapt to a different period and to a different hand. I personally owe a great deal to SM Goh because he brought me into politics and he was the one who guided and mentored me for all these many years.
I am keen to not leave their accumulated experience and wisdom fallow but to tap it and therefore, we will be appointing Mr Lee Kuan Yew to be senior adviser to GIC and Mr Goh Chok Tong to be senior adviser to MAS and Mr Goh will also have the honorary title of Emeritus Senior Minister. For those of you who are not familiar, Emeritus means that the person has retired but he keeps as an honorary title, the title which he held immediately before his retirement. So in Mr Goh’s case, he was Senior Minister, so it is the Emeritus SM. I had made the same offer to Mr Lee but Mr Lee said well, I do not need that, it is not necessary. But beyond being senior advisers and Emeritus SM, I am confident that they will continue to cultivate their extensive network of ties abroad to Singapore’s advantage. Because these are networks and links and contacts which take many years to build up and which we should make the maximum use of.
Several Ministers are retiring this round, apart from SM and MM; DPM Wong Kan Seng, Minister Mah Bow Tan and Minister Raymond Lim will retire from the Cabinet. All three of them served in challenging appointments and have made many valuable contributions. They had expressed the desire to step down earlier, I had asked to stay on and help me fight the elections. Now that these elections have been fought and won, they have reiterated they did not wish to be re-appointed and I have agreed, and I would like to put on record my thanks for all their many contributions.
We now have a fresh line-up in Cabinet. It is a completely new line-up, it is a fresh slate after a watershed election and the Cabinet will be reviewing our policies and approaches - existing ones as well as coming up with new ones and working hard to engage a new generation of Singaporeans in order to take Singapore forward in a more complex environment - more complex externally and I think more complex within Singapore too.
I have gone for a comprehensive reshuffle, not just incremental changes. Out of 14 Ministries, 11 will have new Ministers in charge and the Ministers will have a free hand to rethink and reshape policies. I am appointing two DPMs; Teo Chee Hean will continue to be DPM and also Coordinating Minister for National Security and in my absence, he will be the Acting PM. I am also promoting Tharman to be Deputy Prime Minister and he will primarily be coordinating economic and social policy. This is in addition to his portfolios where he continues in Finance and he will also be covering Ministry of Manpower.
There are several other promotions. Iswaran is being promoted to full Minister in PMO and he will be Second Minister in MTI and Ministry of Home Affairs. Heng Chee How has been promoted from MOS to Senior Minister of State. He continues in NTUC. Teo Ser Luck has been promoted from Senior Parl Sec to MOS. In addition, I have two promotions from the backbenchers: Halimah Yacob will become MOS in MCYS and Josephine Teo will become MOS in both Finance and Transport. I am appointing several office holders from the new MPs. Heng Swee Keat will be Minister for Education, Chan Chun Sing will be Acting Minister for MCYS as well as Minister of State in MICA and three more new MPs, Tan Chuan Jin, Lawrence Wong and Sim Ann will come in as MOSes or Senior Parl Secs. It is a faster pace than normal but I decided to bring them in early and test them out quickly because I think there is urgency in the task of preparing for leadership succession as I have explained many times before.
This is the Cabinet at the beginning of this term of government. I would do a mid-term review and make further changes as the new team shakes down and as people establish themselves. And I expect to review the Cabinet appointments within the next two years. Today my focus is on the new Cabinet. There are many other issues, broad ones, important ones, we will deal with them later beginning with my swearing-in speech on Saturday.
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