Singapore announces new Cabinet structure in look to future

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2015 8:49 AM
Singapore announces new Cabinet structure in look to future

SINGAPORE (AP) — Less than three weeks after a landslide general election win by the ruling party, Singapore announced a new Cabinet structure Monday in a pitch for leadership renewal, with some senior officeholders taking on wider coordinating roles overseeing younger ministers.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has helmed the city-state's parliament since 2004, described the changes as "bold," saying that countries including Britain and Indonesia had made similar moves.

"This is a transition team, so it is a bit bigger than usual," Lee said at a news conference, noting that half of the 20-member Cabinet, up from the previous 19 members, is below 55 years of age.

In the new Cabinet structure, senior officeholders of three portfolios — home affairs, finance and national development — will drop their previous duties and take on guiding roles. Of the three, the two who have served as deputy prime minister will continue to do so, while the other will take on a new transport portfolio.

Since the Sept. 11 general election, Lee, 63, has said that he is looking for a successor from elected members of parliament, but has not yet given any names. The ruling People's Action Party won about 70 percent of the vote, up from 60 percent in the previous general election, in 2011.

Analysts said the landslide victory could be attributed to factors such as a real effort on the PAP's part to fix its problems, including accusations that it is out of touch with the electorate. The death in March of Lee Kuan Yew, the party's founder and Singapore's first prime minister, may also have swung some votes in the PAP's favor.

"We don't have time to lose. To that end, I have given heavy responsibilities to the next generation of ministers," Lee said Monday. "They will be stretched and tested, they have to improve themselves and gel together as a team. Soon after the end of this term, we must have a new team ready to take over from me."

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The current parliament has a maximum sitting period of five years before the next general election.

While younger ministers will be taking on more responsibilities, they are largely being shifted around, with the Cabinet seeing only two new faces.

The changes come on the back of international security concerns and a tightening economy. In the last quarter ending in June, Singapore's economy contracted by 4 percent, and the annual growth rate is projected to be 1.8 percent.