Three veteran ministers are likely to step down when Parliament resumes on May 7, sources say.
They include Trade and Industry (Trade) Minister Lim Hng Kiang, 64; Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, 63; and Information and Communications Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, 62.
A Cabinet reshuffle expected to be announced this month, will see younger ministers being placed in new portfolios to prepare them for bigger leadership roles, MPs and political analysts say.
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Three veteran ministers expected to step down in Cabinet reshuffle
Sources say three veteran ministers are expected to step down from the front bench when Parliament, currently prorogued, resumes on May 7.
They are Trade and Industry (Trade) Minister Lim Hng Kiang, 64; Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, 63; and Information and Communications Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, 62. Collectively, they have 66 years of experience on the front bench.
Mr Lim Hng Kiang - the second longest-serving office-holder in the Cabinet after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - entered politics in the 1991 General Election, and was appointed a minister of state that same year.
Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob entered politics in the 1997 election, and became office-holders in 1998 and 1999, respectively.
When contacted, the three men declined comment. The Straits Times understands that farewell plans are afoot at their respective ministries.
Mr Lim Hng Kiang has helmed the Ministry of Trade and Industry for 14 years, and the business community is bracing itself for change, said a business leader.
"In terms of experience, nobody can match Mr Lim," said Singapore Business Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng.
"He is a very focused and steady minister, and also a good trade negotiator who is well respected among his peers in the region. Whoever the new minister is, he should learn from Mr Lim."
It is not clear if the three will retire from politics altogether at the next general election, which has to be called by 2021. Mr Lim Swee Say previously signalled his desire to do so, saying during the 2011 General Election that he wanted it to be his last, but he went on to contest in 2015.
The three veteran ministers' move to the backbench will allow fourth-generation ministers to assume new roles.
In particular, the three men touted to be in the running to become Singapore's next Prime Minister - Mr Heng Swee Keat, Mr Chan Chun Sing and Mr Ong Ye Kung - may take on responsibilities that plug gaps in their experience, said observers.
Observers predict other movements. Mrs Josephine Teo, who is currently the Second Minister for Manpower, would be a natural choice to take over Mr Lim Swee Say's role, they said.
She has been at the ministry for a year, was assistant secretary-general of the labour movement before that, and is familiar with a wide range of manpower issues, they said.
Another woman minister who might get new responsibilities is Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
Senior ministers of state Janil Puthucheary (communications and information and education) and Chee Hong Tat (communications and information and health) are expected to be promoted.
From the backbench, MP Sun Xueling could join the front bench, said some. The former bank executive is currently the chief executive of non-profit organisation Business China. Such a move would help to boost corporate experience among the front bench, which would be welcomed by the business community, said businessman and Nominated MP Thomas Chua.
With Dr Yaacob's likely retirement, the question of who will take over his ministry arises. Observers said Dr Puthucheary's name has come up.
Dr Yaacob's Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs role is expected to go to Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, said political observer Mustafa Izzuddin from the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute.
Political watcher Lam Peng Er said the reshuffle should provide a "broadening of experience" for many of the fourth-generation leaders, and not just the three front runners.
He added: "The PAP has talked about leadership renewal since the early 1980s, and this is the time for them to put the young ones forward, give them more opportunities and responsibilities, and deepen their experience as a team."
Source: “Three veteran ministers expected to step down in Cabinet reshuffle” (The Straits Times, 14 April 2018)
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