SINGAPORE: Mr Gan Kim Yong will be appointed Minister for Trade and Industry as part of a major Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (Apr 23).
The current Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran will be appointed Transport Minister, while Manpower Minister Josephine Teo will take over his role at the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).
Mr Gan's role as Health Minister will be handed over to Mr Ong Ye Kung, who will also take over as co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force.
At a press conference, Mr Lee said Mr Gan has been Health Minister for almost a decade.
“At Ministry of Health (MOH), he implemented many major healthcare reforms and leaves a significant legacy of improvements to our healthcare system,” he said.
Mr Gan has been a “point man” in the fight against COVID-19, co-chairing the multi-ministry task force, Mr Lee added.
Mr Lee said that when the last Cabinet reshuffle was made after July's General Election, he was not ready to move Mr Gan. At the time, Mr Ong was appointed Transport Minister.
Describing the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) as a “key ministry, especially right now”, Mr Lee said that Mr Gan will oversee the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and pursue new opportunities to grow the economy.
“He is well suited for this role because he was previously Minister for Manpower and also served in MTI early in his career before spending 16 years in the private sector,” he said.
The role will be vacated by Mr Chan Chun Sing, who will become the Minister for Education.
In response to a question on the effect of the reshuffle on investor confidence, Mr Lee said that he hopes that investors will see that "we have changed from one MTI minister who has been competently discharging his responsibilities to another MTI minister who has ample experience and whom we have every reason to expect will discharge his responsibilities equally well".
Mr Lee said that Mr Gan's 16 years in the private sector is "valuable experience for anybody who becomes MTI minister".
"If they (investors) read his CV, I have no reason to doubt that they will maintain full confidence in Singapore," he said.
Mr Lee said that Mr Iswaran has “significantly” improved the Government’s public communications and sense-making capabilities, and “helped us understand and respond to citizens’ views and concerns”.
Mr Iswaran also managed major upgrades to Singapore's tech infrastructure, including in his work with the new 5G networks.
“At transport, he will continue improving the quality, affordability and environmental sustainability of our transport system,” said Mr Lee, adding that another important task is to maintain Singapore’s status as a global air and sea hub in the post-COVID-19 world.
The Transport Ministry also deals with ongoing sensitive air space and maritime issues involving our neighbours, he said.
Mr Iswaran will continue as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations in MTI.
READ: Cabinet reshuffle: Chan Chun Sing, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung get new portfolios; no new DPM
Mrs Josephine Teo will be replaced by Dr Tan See Leng, who will be promoted from his position as Second Minister in the Manpower Ministry.
As Manpower Minister, Mrs Teo was responsible for a range of policies including worker safety, labour relations and retirement adequacy, Mr Lee said.
“Under her leadership, we achieved tripartite consensus on a 10-year roadmap to raise the retirement age and re-employment age,” he said.
Singapore has made a "major expansion" of the Silver Support scheme and the manpower ministry has also been leading the country’s efforts to support local job creation and training opportunities in the unprecedented COVID-19 downturn.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also been on the frontline dealing with the migrant worker dormitories, he said.
“Through all this, Josephine has been steadfast in working to support our lower-wage workers and upgrade their incomes,” he said.
Mrs Teo will see through the project even after she moves to MCI, he said.
READ: Cabinet reshuffle: Josephine Teo to head Smart Nation Initiative; new roles for political office holders
In addition to being the Minister for Communications and Information, Mrs Teo will also remain Second Minister for Home Affairs. Dr Tan will continue as the Second Minister for Trade and Industry.
Mr Lee said that since Dr Tan was appointed Second Minister in MOM in July 2020, he has been leading efforts to tackle COVID-19 in the migrant worker dormitories.
His two appointments will “help us connect the work of the two vital economic ministries, particularly on restructuring the economy and the workforce”, Mr Lee said.
The changes will take effect on May 15 this year.