SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written valedictory letters to the three veteran ministers who will be retiring come May 1: Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
In a letter to Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lee said he has served the country "with dedication and distinction".
In Cabinet, Mr Lim carried heavy responsibilities and implemented many policies to improve people's lives and advance Singapore's interests, Mr Lee added.
Mr Lim helmed the Ministry for Trade and Industry for the last 14 years. Mr Lee noted that during his tenure, Mr Lim developed economic strategies "to build resilience and sustain growth in an uncertain global environment".
He added: "At the macro level you aimed for economic growth, and kept the economy growing vigorously, even at our high per capita GDP levels. At the micro level you understood that market forces were often the best way to accomplish policy objectives, but also knew how to intervene when markets did not work well, or to achieve social goals."
Mr Lee also observed how Mr Lim's response to the 2008 financial crisis had "bolstered confidence, saved jobs, and enabled the Singapore economy to recover swiftly".
THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED NEWATER TO SINGAPOREANS
In PM Lee's letter to Mr Lim Swee Say, he acknowledged his role in introducing NEWater to Singaporeans when he was Environment Minister in 2001.
PM Lee said that he had achieved in persuading Singaporeans "to accept the idea of recycling and consuming used water", which was a delicate matter in terms of "psychology and public confidence".
As the Deputy Secretary-General for the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in 2005, Mr Lim had worked hard to "uplift" low-wage workers, said Mr Lee.
"One important idea was the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), which reassured and encouraged lower wage workers that they had a clear career progression and the hope of future wage increases," he said.
Mr Lim had also introduced the Skills Redevelopment Programme initiative to equip workers with portable skills through skills certification, and persuaded employers to cut costs to save jobs during the Global Financial Crisis.
As the Minister of Manpower, Mr Lim set up comprehensive programmes such as "Adapt and Grow" to train workers and help them with their jobs.
DR YAACOB PRAISED FOR HANDLING OF SENSITIVE ISSUES
In his letter to Dr Yaacob, Mr Lee said he had been a "keen proponent of local sport" who oversaw the setting up of the Singapore Sports School after he became Acting Minister for Community Development and Sports in 2002.
In 2004, Dr Yaacob became Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, where Mr Lee noted his role in building Singapore’s first desalination plant and completing the Punggol, Serangoon and Marina Reservoirs, "significantly increasing our total water catchment area".
As the Minister for Communications and Information since 2011, Dr Yaacob had "pushed for investment in infrastructure, so today Singapore has one of the highest broadband speeds and internet penetration rates in the world", said Mr Lee.
The prime minister also highlighted Dr Yaacob's role as Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, noting his efforts in raising the standards of Islamic religious teachers and launching the Mosque Upgrading Programme. Mr Lee also praised Dr Yaacob's handling of sensitive issues involving race and religion.
Mr Lee said: "At critical moments, such as after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when the tudung issue got worked up, or when the government implemented compulsory education, you rallied the Malay/Muslim PAP MPs and the community, took the political heat, made the arguments with conviction, and held the ground. In doing so, you did great service to the Malay/Muslim community, and also to racial and religious harmony in Singapore."
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee said that all three ministers have been "invaluable members of my team, and will be deeply missed. But I have to let them go, so as to renew the leadership team for Singapore. I am glad they will continue to serve as MPs, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours."
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