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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

THREE PM-POTENTIAL MINISTERS, UPCOMING CABINET RESHUFFLE: WILL SINGAPORE HAS THREE NEW COORDINATING MINISTERS NEXT?


Dear readers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced today that his current cabinet will be reshuffled after the Parliament takes a mid-term break so as to provide more exposure and opportunities for younger Ministers. Needless to say, all eyes will be on the new portfolios which will be given to the three PM-Potential Ministers, namely Mr Heng Swee Keat, Mr Chan Chun Sing and Mr Ong Ye Kung.


Currently, it is not apparent which of the aforementioned three Ministers has the edge to become Singapore’s Prime Minister. From what I have read, the three Ministers stand to have equal chance currently and hence many will be looking at the new portfolios of these three Ministers after the cabinet reshuffle to garner a sense of who among the trio could be the next PM of Singapore (based on the new level of responsibilities they are appointed to).

Already, the possibility of a new DPM in the form of a 4G Minister drawn from any of the three PM-potential names had been precluded following Prime Minister Lee’s comments that he would not appoint a new DPM. However, what has not been confirmed is whether PM Lee will appoint a new Coordinating Minister. Currently, DPM Teo, DPM Tharman and Minister Khaw helm the three posts of Coordinating Minister, a post which requires a Minister to coordinate the work among different Ministries which the Coordinating Minister oversees. In a sense, the Minister of the ministries report to a Coordinating Minister and hence the Coordinating Minister is often viewed as the next higher rank below a DPM and above a Minister.

I would think one way to assess the PM-Potential Ministers will be to appoint them to the post of a Coordinating Minister. This appointment will provide the potential PM with an opportunity to not only be familiar with the Ministries’ work under him but also to coordinate the Ministries’ work and interact with the Ministers reporting to him (who I believe will be composed of a handful of 4G leaders as well). The role of a coordinating Minister in my belief will lay the foundation for the PM hopeful to become a PM given that a PM will eventually has to oversee all Ministries, work with all Ministers and has the mandate of the people. Having the PM hopefuls helming the Coordinating Minister post will also provide the public with an opportunity to scrutinize the work of the PM hopeful.

Currently, we have three Coordinating Minister posts and we have three Potential PM Ministers. I think it will be a great idea if the three Potential PM Ministers are each given a Coordinating Minister post and thereafter the assessment of them as the next PM of Singapore by the cabinet, the 4G leaders and the public could begin.

Why not let the three PM potential Ministers helm a Coordinating Minister post in an area which he has not led or had experience before? This will test the potential PM Ministers their inter-Ministry level skills (i.e. breadth rather than the depth which they may already have a wealth of experience in).Let us elaborate that thought further.

Minister Heng has been an Education Minister and is now a Finance Minister, hence a natural fit for his previous and current portfolio would be the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies. In the next reshuffle, we could have Minister Heng helm either the Coordinating Minister post for National Security or the Coordinating Minister post for Infrastructure.

In the same vein, given Minister Chan’s background in the Army, Ministry of Social and Family Development and NTUC, I thought this time round as part of the reshuffle, Mr Chan could be tested for a stint as either the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies or for Infrastructure.

For Mr Ong Ye Kung, given his background in NTUC, MINDEF and Education, he could also be assessed via a post in either the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies or for Infrastructure. Mr Ong had prior infrasrtructure-related experience in the private sector as a former Director of SMRT and a former Director of Strategy for Keppel Corporation.

If my above thinking comes true, I though the current two DPM posts would continue to be helm by DPM Teo and DPM Tharman who though would relinquish their Coordinating Posts and help the potential PMs transition to their heavier responsibilities each. With the three PM-potential PM helming the Coordinating Ministers posts, Singapore will watch how the trio deliver since Singaporeans know that they will assess the potential trio not only in their coordinating Ministers role but also as the next potential fourth Prime Minister of Singapore.

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