Asia Street: What Singapore’s New Cabinet Reshuffle Means

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What Singapore’s New Cabinet Reshuffle Means

April 27, 2021

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (Photo Credit: World Bank).

BGA Singapore Senior Director Nydia Ngiow wrote an update to clients on the country’s cabinet reshuffle on April 23. The update explored the significance of the reshuffle and its implications for the evolution of Singapore’s politics and economic development.

Context

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled his new Cabinet line-up on April 23 – the second cabinet reshuffle that Singapore has had in under a year as the country continues to manage the global coronavirus pandemic and strengthen its economy.

The move came two weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s announcement that he will step aside as Lee’s designated successor in the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and relinquish his appointment as finance minister.

Significance

The Cabinet reshuffle represents a far more comprehensive set of changes than previous appointments made during the one in July 2020, with seven ministers switching portfolios and five new appointments. Key portfolios impacting the private sector saw new ministers, including trade and industry, communications and information and manpower.

The move comes amid uncertainty over Singapore’s future prime minister after Lee, as the government continues to face critical tasks such as combating the Covid-19 pandemic while simultaneously attempting to rejuvenate Singapore’s economy.

Implications

Even after the new cabinet appointments take shape after May 15, businesses should expect policy continuity on most fronts as Lee will continue on as prime minister for the foreseeable future until the group of fourth-generation (4G) leaders decide on a new leader.

In the meantime, the race to be Singapore’s new prime minister remains wide open, with the new appointments expected to exert greater pressures on the front-runners before a decision on Lee’s successor is made next year. Lawrence Wong, Ong Ye Kung and Chan Chun Sing — the key candidates for 4G leadership — have been tasked with leading heavyweight ministries (Finance, Health and Education, respectively) and will need to show in the 12 months ahead that they are capable of successfully leading the country once Lee steps down.

BGA’s Singapore team will continue to keep you updated on developments at home and abroad as they occur and assess the implications for companies and other stakeholders.