Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Statement at the Press Conference on the new Cabinet Line-Up on 28 September 2015

28 September 2015

 

I called this press conference today to reveal my new Cabinet. I thank Singaporeans again for the strong mandate which they gave me and my team in the General Elections (GE). As I said four months before the GE, and again during the nine-day campaign period, this election was about our future and whom we want to form the Government. An overwhelming 70% of voters chose the PAP to take on this responsibility and sent a clear signal of the direction they want Singapore to take beyond SG50 and the kind of leaders they want to take Singapore forward.

I am very humbled by Singaporeans’ confidence in me and my team and the heavy responsibility which they have placed upon us. Today, I am announcing my new Cabinet line-up, which is in keeping with the responsibility we have been trusted with – to provide Singapore with a competent Government and to prepare the next team of leaders to be ready to take over from me and my senior colleagues soon after the next GE. 

Government

Singapore is entering a new phase of our nation building – more complex challenges, more issues which involve multiple ministries and also individual ministries whose responsibilities have grown over time. And the Government needs to adapt to these changes. We need tighter coordination across different ministries in order to have a more coherent whole-of-Government response to broad, important issues. In some Ministries, we also need more than one Minister, each responsible for a different part of the Ministry’s functions. 

So I am proposing to appoint three Coordinating Ministers to oversee work involving multiple Ministries in three areas: one is National Security; the second is Economic and Social Policies; and the third is Infrastructure. 

Two Ministries – Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) – will have two Ministers each. Their scope of work has expanded considerably. MOE, for example, previously used to oversee education from Primary 1 to tertiary institutions. Now the tertiary sector has grown larger and more diverse with many more students, many more institutions, and more different kinds of institutions. Even the universities are not the same as one another. MOE has also widened its role, from developing pre-school education at one end, to Continuing Education and Training – the SkillsFuture part -- at the other end. MOE has to work closely with MTI and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on SkillsFuture to make sure graduates have skills that help them find jobs. 

In MTI, its job used to focus on attracting MNCs to invest in Singapore but now we are also developing considerable resources to helping SMEs and encouraging entrepreneurship and research. MTI has also become much more active in international economic diplomacy and negotiating trade agreements. 

In some other countries, education and the economy are the purview of multiple Ministries. For example, some countries have a Ministry in charge of schools and a separate Ministry in charge of higher education – universities and institutes of higher learning. And they could have a separate Ministry of Trade and a Ministry of Industry. 

We have studied this carefully, and have decided against splitting the Ministries MOE and MTI. Although the responsibilities have grown, the different parts still have to fit together closely. It is like a jigsaw puzzle and we want to make sure there are no leftover pieces or holes at the end after you have assembled the picture. We have to coordinate closely together so splitting the Ministries will make this harder. But what I will do is appoint two Ministers in MTI and two Ministers in MOE, each having different responsibilities but working closely together -- that is, in terms of organisation and dealing with challenges. 

Leadership Renewal

One important goal of my new Cabinet is to prepare the next team to take over from me and my colleagues. The task is urgent and we do not have the luxury of time.
 
Therefore, I am making a decisive move in my new Cabinet, and not just an incremental change. Both DPMs – DPM Teo and Tharman – will not have specific Ministerial responsibilities. Instead, I am putting many of the younger ones into key Ministries so that they can broaden their experience, learn the ropes and establish themselves quickly with each other and with the public. I am also reinforcing my team, both from newly-elected MPs as well as existing backbenchers. 

Meanwhile, I have retained most of my existing Cabinet Ministers. They will provide steady hands, especially in a more challenging environment. They will play an important role in mentoring the younger Ministers and help to ensure a smooth and successful transition. 

Cabinet Line-Up

Let me go through the changes. You have the Annex. I will explain to you my motivations and considerations. I will start with introducing Coordinating Ministers and then talk about the new appointments in four priority areas: Safety and Security; Jobs and Opportunity; Taking Care of Singaporeans; and Transforming Our Home. 

Coordinating Ministers

Teo Chee Hean will continue as DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security. He will be Acting PM in my absence and will continue to be in charge of the Civil Service. He will help me guide the newly formed Strategy Group in the Prime Minister’s Office that will sit at the centre and coordinate all the different policy areas and look forward to future policy areas which we need to focus on. 

Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies. De facto, he has already been doing a lot of this, but the work has expanded because of economic restructuring and SkillsFuture. And also because we are continuing to strengthen our social safety nets, and we continually have to strike the right balance between better protection and incentives to work and to motivate people to do well, and also between what we like to do and what we can afford to do. Tharman will also continue as Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. 

The DPMs will relinquish their previous portfolios of Home Affairs and Finance to focus on their Coordinating Minister roles full-time. 

I am also appointing Khaw Boon Wan as Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure because we need to tie together closely the different aspects of urban planning and infrastructure provision – housing, commercial and industrial development, road and rail networks, even our IT infrastructure. Khaw Boon Wan will also be concurrently Minister for Transport. 

Now, let me go through our policy areas. 

Safety and Security

Safety and security is vital and is a prerequisite for everything else to work. You know about the threats and developments in our neighbourhood, ISIS and the trends in Malaysia and Indonesia connected to this. This GE has shown that Singaporeans understand the importance of staying united. Investors will notice the results of GE, Singaporeans will notice and so will our neighbours. We will continue to have a strong and experienced team in security. 

Ng Eng Hen will stay on as Minister for Defence. 

Shanmugam will remain as Minister for Law and will be concurrently appointed Minister for Home Affairs. He was in Home Affairs for a short period before the last GE, so this portfolio will be familiar to him. 

Vivian Balakrishnan will become Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has done a good job at Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), including the international aspects. He represented Singapore ably at international fora, for example, in the climate change talks. In fact, he is in New York now, chairing some of the groups in the climate change discussions. He has also dealt with transboundary pollution, especially haze. Vivian will continue to oversee the Smart Nation initiative. 

Jobs and Opportunity

The second key priority in the next term will be creating jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans. Economic restructuring will require difficult decisions. SkillsFuture will be important, and work on SkillsFuture is just beginning. We also need to develop new strategies for growth and for higher productivity. Many Ministries are involved here, including MOF, MTI, MOE and MOM.

Heng Swee Keat will be Minister for Finance. He has proved himself in Education, which is a very demanding portfolio. As a former civil servant, he is familiar with many different Ministries: MHA, MAS and MTI. Now, he will oversee our national finance, allocate resources to implement our agenda, work closely with economic Ministries to continue creating opportunities and jobs, and make sure we spend within our means.

I will appoint two Ministers each in MTI and MOE. In MTI, Lim Hng Kiang will be Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade). He will oversee our trade negotiations, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is in the final stages, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. He will also oversee Economic Development Board and Jurong Town Corporation because this has to do with foreign investments and servicing the foreign investors who are here. 

Iswaran will be Minister for Trade and Industry responsible for Industry. He will oversee the rest of the MTI statutory boards, or most of the rest of the statutory boards, including A-STAR, SPRING, IE Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board and the Energy Market Authority. I have asked him to focus on economic restructuring and creating a vibrant domestic economy and he will relinquish his role as Second Minister for Home Affairs.

At MOE, Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung will be co-Acting Ministers. Ng Chee Meng will be Acting Minister for Education for Schools, which will oversee pre-school education and all the way from P1 to Junior Colleges. Ong Ye Kung will be Acting Minister for Education for Higher Education and Skills, which will oversee the ITE, polytechnics, universities and SkillsFuture.

Lim Swee Say will remain Minister for Manpower. He has just taken over there and already made an impact with workers and with PMETs too, and he has more to do.

Chan Chun Sing is Secretary-General of NTUC and will remain Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. He will also take over from Lim Swee Say as Deputy Chairman of People’s Association, which has an important role in engaging Singaporeans. Chun Sing will also be the Party Whip, taking over from Gan Kim Yong. 

Taking Care of Singaporeans 

The third priority area is taking care of Singaporeans. We have made major shifts in social policies over the last decade but there is still much work to be done – implementing MediShield Life, planning for an ageing population and strengthening our healthcare system.

Gan Kim Yong will continue as Minister for Health because major projects are underway and he cannot be moved now. We are building up our healthcare capacity – hospitals, community hospitals, nursing homes. We are improving our healthcare financing with MediShield Life and Pioneer Generation Package. We are implementing the ageing masterplan. Kim Yong has to see through these changes.

Tan Chuan-Jin will remain as Minister for Social and Family Development. He just took over the Ministry four months ago and he is on the front line developing social programmes, especially for needy families. He is also overseeing pre-school education and childcare with MOE through the Early Childhood and Development Agency. This is still a growing area, a major expansion of our social infrastructure.

Grace Fu will be Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. She will continue to oversee the Municipal Services Office. She will also take over from Dr Ng Eng Hen as the Leader of the House.

Josephine Teo will take over the population portfolio from Grace Fu and help DPM Teo to oversee National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) in the Prime Minister’s Office. We have just announced a package of marriage and parenthood measures in the National Day Rally (NDR), but we have some further ideas which should be ready to be launched next year. Josephine will concurrently be Senior Minister of State (SMS) in Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Ministry of Transport (MOT).

Transforming Singapore

Finally, transforming Singapore. We have major plans, over the next 15-20 years and even beyond that, to transform our physical environment and build the best home for Singaporeans.

I mentioned earlier that Khaw Boon Wan will be Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport.

I will appoint Lawrence Wong as Minister for National Development. Already he is overseeing master planning for the Jurong Lake District. This will be a new area for him. It is an important portfolio that impacts all our lives. Khaw Boon Wan hands over the portfolio in a good state, with the housing shortage largely solved. And as Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, he will be able to guide Lawrence in his new responsibilities.

Yaacob Ibrahim will remain as Minister for Communications and Information and continue to be in charge of Muslim Affairs. This is an important and sensitive portfolio because IT and technology are enablers as we upgrade the economy and transform Singapore. The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) also deals with media and new media, which is rapidly changing the industry landscape and the way people share and consume news.

Masagos will be Minister for Environment and Water Resources. Water is always a strategic issue for us and a strategic resource for us. Climate change and sustainability are high on the international agenda. Masagos will also assist Yaacob in handling Muslim Affairs and I have discussed this with Yaacob, who intends for a start to appoint Masagos as Deputy Chairman of Mendaki.

Rotations and Promotions

The net effect is that nearly all the Ministries have new Ministers, and new Ministers of State (MOSs) and Parliamentary Secretaries.

I am moving the office holders to different portfolios to give them more experience and exposure in different areas of Government and to prepare them to take on greater responsibilities. For those who have recently been appointed to their portfolios or are doing good work in their current portfolios and cannot be spared, I have asked them to carry on. They will be valuable in providing stability and continuity to their Ministries in the time of transition.

I am promoting three MOSs – Maliki Osman, Sim Ann and Desmond Lee -- to be Senior Ministers of State. I will also appoint new office holders from the backbench as well as from the new Members of Parliament (MPs). You can refer to the full list in the Annex, but I will just mention a few. Chee Hong Tat goes to Ministry of Health and MCI as MOS. Koh Poh Koon will go to MTI and Ministry of National Development (MND), also as MOS. Janil Puthucheary will go to MOE and MCI as MOS, and will assist Vivian on the Smart Nation initiative. Baey Yam Keng will be a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Amrin Amin will go to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as Parliamentary Secretary. 

Retirement

I am losing three office holders from the previous team – Lui Tuck Yew, Lee Yi Shyan, and Hawazi Daipi.

Lui Tuck Yew, who was Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Defence, asked to retire before GE. 

Lee Yi Shyan, who was SMS in MTI and MND, also asked to step down and return to the backbenches after the GE, and I have reluctantly agreed. He has done good work in his Ministries – in MTI opening markets and developing business links with the region, especially in China, and in MND overseeing town council matters. Previously, he was also in MOM, where he developed our system of Continuing Education and Training and worked closely with industry associations to drive productivity improvements.

Hawazi Daipi was SPS in MOM and MOE. He asked to retire before GE. He has been an MP for four terms and has contributed to MOM’s work of uplifting low-wage workers, upgrading workplace safety, and he has also worked in MOE on Malay education and developing closer partnerships with the parents and the community. I am personally grateful to Hawazi because he has helped me a lot every year; my NDR speech in Malay -- he has been my Cikgu, polishing it, making sure that the language is correct and the message is on target. 

I would like to thank all three for their many contributions.

Statistics

These moves will help prepare the next team of leaders that will work with Singaporeans.

We will now have 37 office holders, up from 33, half of whom are 50 years old and below. 

I have 20 Full or Acting Ministers. Nearly half of them were elected in the last three GEs and half of them are 55 years old and below. If you look at the MOSs and Parliamentary Secretaries who support the Ministers, nearly half of them are 45 years old and below.

Conclusion

This is my Cabinet at the beginning of this term of Government, as we enter our new phase beyond SG50. It is a transition team, so it is bigger than usual. More Ministries will see a change of Ministers and the Coordinating Ministers will coordinate their work, and will guide the new Ministers in their responsibilities. I will do a mid-term review and make further changes.

We have no time to lose. You have reposed your trust in me. I will structure an effective Government and aggressively prepare a new team to take Singapore forward.

To that end, I have given heavy responsibilities to the next generation of Ministers. They will be stretched and tested. They have to prove themselves and must gel together as a team. Soon after the end of this term, we must have a new team ready to take over from me. So please give them your full support. We pledge to do our best to work with you, for you and for Singapore. 

Thank you and I would be happy to take questions and so would my Ministers.
 

View the Question and Answer Segment after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Statement.
 

PM speaking at the Press Conference

 

ANNEX A

Prime Minister’s Office

Mr Lee Hsien Loong (Prime Minister)

Mr Teo Chee Hean (DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security) @

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam (DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies) @

Mr Khaw Boon Wan (Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport) #

Mr Chan Chun Sing (Minister) @

Mr Heng Chee How (Senior Minister of State)

Mrs Josephine Teo (Senior Minister of State) #@

Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong (Minister of State) #@

 

Ministry of Defence

Dr Ng Eng Hen (Minister)

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman (Senior Minister of State) ^#

Mr Ong Ye Kung (Senior Minister of State) #

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (Minister) @

Mrs Josephine Teo (Senior Minister of State) #@

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman (Senior Minister of State) ^#

 

Ministry of Home Affairs

Mr K Shanmugam (Minister) #

Mr Desmond Lee (Senior Minister of State) ^#

Mr Amrin Amin (Parliamentary Secretary)

 

Ministry of Trade and Industry

Mr Lim Hng Kiang (Minister for Trade and Industry [Trade]) +

Mr S Iswaran (Minister for Trade and Industry [Industry]) +

Dr Koh Poh Koon (Minister of State) From 1 January 2016 #

Ms Low Yen Ling (Parliamentary Secretary) #

 

Ministry of Finance

Mr Heng Swee Keat (Minister) @

Ms Indranee Rajah (Senior Minister of State) #

Ms Sim Ann (Senior Minister of State) ^#

 

Ministry of Manpower

Mr Lim Swee Say (Minister)

Mr Teo Ser Luck (Minister of State) #

Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong (Minister of State) #@

 

Ministry of Transport

Mr Khaw Boon Wan (Minister) #

Mrs Josephine Teo (Senior Minister of State) #@

Mr Ng Chee Meng (Senior Minister of State) #

 

Ministry of National Development

Mr Lawrence Wong (Minister)

Mr Desmond Lee (Senior Minister of State) ^#

Dr Koh Poh Koon (Minister of State) From 1 January 2016 #

 

Ministry of Communications and Information

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (Minister) @

Mr Chee Hong Tat (Minister of State) #

Dr Janil Puthucheary (Minister of State) From 1 January 2016 #@

 

Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

Mr Masagos Zulkifli (Minister) @

Dr Amy Khor (Senior Minister of State) #

 

Ministry of Law

Mr K Shanmugam (Minister) #

Ms Indranee Rajah (Senior Minister of State) #

 

Ministry of Health

Mr Gan Kim Yong (Minister) @

Dr Amy Khor (Senior Minister of State) #

Dr Lam Pin Min (Minister of State)

Mr Chee Hong Tat (Minister of State) #

 

Ministry of Education

Mr Ng Chee Meng (Acting Minister for Education [Schools]) #*

Mr Ong Ye Kung (Acting Minister for Education [Higher Education and Skills]) #*

Dr Janil Puthucheary (Minister of State) From 1 January 2016 #@

A/P Muhammad Faishal bin Ibrahim (Parliamentary Secretary) #

Ms Low Yen Ling (Parliamentary Secretary) #

 

Ministry of Social and Family Development

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin (Minister) @

A/P Muhammad Faishal bin Ibrahim (Parliamentary Secretary) #

 

Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien (Minister) @

Ms Sim Ann (Senior Minister of State) ^#

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Parliamentary Secretary)

 

Mayors

Mr Teo Ser Luck (North East CDC) #

Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman (South East CDC) ^#

Dr Teo Ho Pin (North West CDC)

Ms Low Yen Ling (South West CDC) #

Ms Denise Phua (Central Singapore CDC)

 

LEGEND

 

^ Promotion

# Concurrent appointment

Yellow highlighted Change of appointment

Green highlighted New appointment from backbenchers and new MPs

 

@ Concurrent responsibilities of Appointment Holders:

Mr Teo Chee Hean – Strategy Group, Public Service Division, National Security Coordination Secretariat, National Population and Talent Division and National Climate Change Secretariat. Also assists PM in National Research Foundation matters

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam – Monetary Authority of Singapore. Also assists PM in Productivity Fund Administration Board matters

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim – Muslim Affairs and Cyber Security

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan – Smart Nation Programme Office

Mr Gan Kim Yong – Aging Issues

Mr Heng Swee Keat – National Research Foundation matters (assisting Mr Teo Chee Hean)

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien – Municipal Services Office

Mr Chan Chun Sing – People’s Association

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin – CDC Matters (assisting Mr Chan Chun Sing)

Mr Masagos Zulkifli – Muslim Affairs (assisting Dr Yaacob Ibrahim)

Ms Josephine Teo – Population Matters (assisting Mr Teo Chee Hean)

Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong – REACH

Dr Janil Puthucheary – Smart Nation Programme Office (assisting Dr Vivian Balakrishnan) from 1 January 2016

 

+ Explicit responsibilities assigned within Ministry of Trade and Industry

Mr Lim Hng Kiang – Economic Development Board, Jurong Town Corporation, Department of Statistics, Competition Commission of Singapore

Mr S Iswaran – Agency for Science Technology and Research, Energy Market Authority, Hotel Licensing Board, Singapore Tourism Board and Sentosa Development Corporation, International Enterprise Singapore, SPRING Singapore

 

* Explicit responsibilities assigned within Ministry of Education

Mr Ng Chee Meng – Pre-school Education, Special Education, General Education (Primary, Secondary, Junior Colleges/ Centralised Institutes)

Mr Ong Ye Kung – Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Polytechnics, Universities, Private Education Institutions, Continuing Education and Training, Skills Upgrading and Workforce Training

 

All changes are as of 1 October 2015 unless stated otherwise.