SINGAPORE: The Cabinet reshuffle which was announced on Saturday (Jul 25) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saw a number of changes to key ministerial appointments.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong will take over at the Ministry of Education from Mr Ong Ye Kung, who will become Minister for Transport. Mr Wong, who has helmed the Ministry of National Development since 2015, will remain as co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19.
It was also announced that the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources will be renamed the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment. This ministry will be helmed by Ms Grace Fu, who was formerly Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.
Mr Masagos, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, has been appointed as Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health. He will remain the Minister‐in‐charge of Muslim Affairs.
Mr Desmond Lee will be appointed Minister for National Development, taking over from Mr Wong. Mr Lee was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2011, and took on the role of Minister for Social and Family Development in 2017.
The swearing‐in ceremony for the Cabinet and other office holders will take place at the Istana on Monday.
Speaking at a press conference at the Istana, Mr Lee said the new Cabinet seeks to balance continuity, exposure and renewal, and be a team that leads Singapore through the current public health and economic crisis and into the future.
He noted how he was rotating ministers, especially the younger ones in order for them to gain "exposure and experience".
Mr Wong was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2011 and later held positions in a number of ministries including the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
"He (Mr Wong) will build on the good work of Ong Ye Kung and previous education ministers and continue improving our education system to bring out the best in every child and student," said Mr Lee.
"He will also focus on lifelong learning for adults and work with companies to integrate learning with the new demands at our workplaces."
Mr Ong, who was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2015, took over the full education portfolio as Minister for Education in 2018. He will replace Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan, who announced in June that he would be retiring from politics after 19 years.
"In the last five years, MOT's (Ministry of Transport) priority was engineering work, especially getting our public transport system in good shape, and to improve its reliability. Khaw Boon Wan has done an excellent job of this," said Mr Lee.
"In the next few years, MOT's emphasis will shift to envisioning and realising Singapore's post COVID-19 connectivity, by land, sea and air."
The ministry will also need to be engaged with Malaysia and Indonesia on major bilateral projects, said Mr Lee, and needs to be helmed by a "very good minister" with Cabinet experience and political nous.
Mr Ong said he would be continuing the work of Mr Khaw and that he "has much to do at MOT".
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Mr Ong added that the pandemic has had a "profound effect" on travel, disrupting trade and also devastated the aviation industry.
"We have an immediate and critical task - to rebuild and secure Singapore’s status as a maritime and aviation hub.
"Domestically, we need to envision and realise a post COVID-19 transport system that serves the people well, is green, sustainable and affordable," he said.
While he will now helm the Ministry of National Development, Mr Desmond Lee will continue to retain a role in his previous ministry as Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, said Mr Lee.
"This is to allow him to complete the unfinished work of integrating our social services. We have made progress in this, for example, setting up Social Service offices in the heartlands but there is more to do to make our social services more citizen-centric and to provide comprehensive support, bringing together financial assistance with education, healthcare, employment and other issues," said the prime minister.
Mr Lee also pointed out that the renaming of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources was done so as to "better reflect its future role".
"Sustainability has become an increasingly important part of our national agenda. We are planning our climate change defences and managing our carbon footprint," he said.
"And COVID-19 has also shown Singaporeans how important the work is which goes on behind the scenes on issues like food security and safety."
In addition, Ms Indranee Rajah will be appointed Second Minister for National Development, and relinquish her appointment as Second Minister for Education. She will remain Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and as Second Minister for Finance.
New face Dr Tan See Leng will be appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry.
Dr Tan was part of a team that contested in Marine Parade GRC in the recently concluded General Election, winning with 57.76 per cent of the vote.
For new ministers, Mr Lee said that he had looked "very hard" to find people with experience in the grassroots operations, with community outreach, some policy work and also with private sector experience.
One of these individuals with private sector experience was Dr Tan See Leng, said Mr Lee.
Speaking to the media, Dr Tan said his appointment was an affirmation of the importance of the sector.
"This particular crisis requires the support and the partnership of everyone in the country to work together and I see this as an affirmation of the importance of the private sector coming in, working in partnership," he said.
"And I hope to be that bridge to be able to bridge this moving forward."