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Younger ministers move up in Singapore Cabinet reshuffle

Publication Date : 01-08-2012


Singapore's Prime Minister has reshuffled his Cabinet, promoting six office-holders, including three who entered politics last year, and creating a new Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

The new line-up also has Grace Fu promoted to full minister, the second woman to make the grade.

These changes come 14 months after Lee Hsien Loong's radical shake-up of the Cabinet, post General Election 2011, which marked the retirement of former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong and three other veteran ministers.

The focus this time is on the Cabinet's youngest members - first-termers Chan Chun Sing, Tan Chuan-Jin and Lawrence Wong. Aged 39 to 43, they take the helm at three ministries. Their promotion to Senior Minister of State and appointment as Acting Ministers suggest they may form the core of Singapore's fourth generation of leaders.

Yesterday, in an e-mailed response, Lee praised their performance, saying: "They plunged deep in right from the start, and have tackled their tasks energetically and imaginatively. They have learnt quickly and become more confident and familiar with the issues."

With many no doubt wanting to read in these changes signs of whose star has risen fastest, Lee said he has appointed Tan and Wong as new Acting Ministers but "others have done well too, and I will give them heavier responsibilities in due course".

Chan was appointed Acting Minister after last year's election.

He also noted the political work ministers do, which he said "can often be even more important". "So you should not judge a minister's contributions only by the portfolios explicitly assigned to him," he said.

Lee added that he expects to do further reshuffles from time to time this term.

With the changes, Tan will helm the Manpower Ministry from today, taking over from Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who also holds the Finance portfolio.

Chan will helm the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Wong will head the new Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

These two ministries will result from a restructuring of two current ministries - for community development, information and the arts - into three, from November.

Public communications and engagement will come under the renamed Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), where Dr Yaacob Ibrahim remains in charge.

Yesterday, Lee said the new ministries would sharpen the Government's focus on three increasingly important priorities.

"MSF will strengthen our families and social safety nets as pillars of support in more uncertain economic conditions.

"MCI will oversee our efforts to improve public communications and engagement, which are more important in the age of social media and a more active citizenry."

Besides nurturing arts, sports and engaging youth, MCCY will also drive community development, "which in Singapore, perhaps more than elsewhere, is integral to building an inclusive and cohesive society", Lee said.

He added that "all three ministries will have to break new ground, try fresh approaches, and keep up with rapidly changing conditions and needs".

Lee Yi Shyan and Masagos Zulkifli also move up a rung to Senior Minister of State.

PM Lee has appointed backbencher Indranee Rajah as Senior Minister of State from Nov 1 and Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim as Parliamentary Secretary. "They have proved themselves both in and out of Parliament, and shown that they can be more than MPs. I hope to make more backbench promotions in future reshuffles."


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