PM Lee has announced the new cabinet line-up. As expected, there are a number of new faces. But I am surprised that some of the new faces weren’t given higher positions.
Particularly, I am surprised that Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung are both only acting and that Chee Hong Tat is only appointed as MOS.
Ong Ye Kung is the same age as Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin. Like Chan Chun Sing, Tan Chuan-Jin and Lawrence Wong, Ong Ye Kung would already have been a full minister by now if WP did not throw a spanner (or in this case, hammer) in the works in GE2011. So it is surprising that PM felt that Ong Ye Kung still needs to be acting before he can assume a full minister’s position.
Ng Chee Meng is 47, a Lieutenant General and had been Chief of Defence Force for slightly more than two years prior to joining politics. Compare that to Chan Chun Sing who was 41, a Major General and a Chief of Army prior to joining politics in 2011. I would have thought that since Chan Chun Sing was appointed as Acting Minister in the Cabinet reshuffle after GE2011, Ng Chee Meng would thus have been appointed as a full minister in this reshuffle. Perhaps Chan Chun Sing’s path is indeed atypical because he is slated for far larger things.
I had thought that Chee Hong Tat would have been appointed as a Senior Minister of State (SMS) instead of being only appointed as Minister of State (MOS). Chee Hong Tat was second Permanent Secretary (PS) of Ministry of Trade and Industry just prior to entering politics. To put things in perspective, prior to entering politics, Tan Chuan-Jin was in a position that was at most equivalent to a Deputy Secretary (DS, one level below a PS in the civil service). Tan Chuan-Jin was appointed as MOS in the Cabinet reshuffle after GE2011. Given that Chee Hong Tat’s position prior to entering politics was higher ranked than Tan Chuan-Jin’s prior to entering politics, I would have thought Chee Hong Tat would have been appointed SMS directly.
Other than new faces, there were also a number of movements. Most people were probably most curious about who would take Transport. And it is none other than Khaw “kio sai” Boon Wan (kio sai is hokkien for clear shit). Having demonstrated his mettle in successfully tackling hot button issues in the health and national development ministries, Khaw Boon Wan has been called once more to tackle the hot button issues in transport.
In his new blog as Minister of Transport, Khaw Boon Wan says that he took on the role because of three strong beliefs. But Khaw Boon Wan asks for patience. He mentioned that Singaporeans gave him four years to sort out housing issues and hoped for a similar “honeymoon period” in this new post. I hope he doesn’t mean that we have to endure four more years of the sort train breakdowns we had seen in the last few years.
But judging by one of the things that Khaw Boon Wan proposes to do to improve our train service, I am actually quite worried. Khaw Boon Wan says that in his first visits to SMRT/SBST, he will chat up the drivers, the engineers, the mechanics. Erm… chat up? Googling the phrase “chat up” gives this:
Worse, Urban Dictionary defines “chat up” as: “To speak to someone with the intent of eventually engaging in sexual intercourse with them”. So… who does our new transport minister want to chat up again? Not sure if that is the sort of “sayang” that the engineers and mechanics need. Or perhaps it is an innocent mistake? Or a Freudian slip? Jokes aside, given Khaw Boon Wan’s track record, if anyone can fix the transport system, he’s probably the Wan… I mean the one…
I am also surprised that Lim Hng Kiang is STILL minister for trade and industry (though he is now focusing on trade). The whole idea of having Permanent Secretaries is to provide some stability to the ministry should there be movements in ministers. But Lim Hng Kiang has been minister in MTI longer than at least three of his permanent secretaries (Heng Swee Keat, Peter Ong, and Ravi Menon). Perhaps he should be called permanent minister for MTI… I wonder what it is about MTI’s work that require such stability that the minister cannot be changed for 11 years…
One last point to make about this round of Cabinet reshuffle. If GE2011 was anything to judge by, we can expect to see another few rounds of Cabinet reshuffles quite soon. PM himself said as much.
How soon? After Cabinet reshuffle post GE2011, there was another major reshuffle in 2012 that saw Tan Chuan-Jin and Lawrence Wong start acting as ministers. They were promoted in 2014 to full ministers. Would we see something similar this time round, where some of the new MOS (e.g. Chee Hong Tat) be appointed as acting ministers sometime next year or in 2017? Which ministries would they be acting ministers of? Does that mean that some of the older ministers have to retire?
And will there be new ministries? For example, MOE now has two Ministers, each looking after fairly hefty portfolios. Perhaps MOE will split to become two ministries. Similarly for MTI.
Interesting times ahead.