PM Lee Sacked Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan, Raymond Lim?


Did Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong altogether sacked five ministers following the ruling party’s smallest margin of victory at this month’s general election?

In the new cabinet announced by him today, K. Shanmugam will be minister for foreign affairs, succeeding George Yeo who was defeated in the May 7 polls, according to a statement today. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who will retain his position as finance minister, is also deputy prime minister and manpower minister. Teo Chee Hean remains as deputy prime minister.

Wong Kan Seng, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan and Transport Minister Raymond Lim were probably sacked from the cabinet for their incompetence in dealing with the electorate and talking down on them, instead of appeasing them. Monkey and Frog storyteller, Lim Swee Say, also lost his Manpower Ministry mandate though he still keeps his Minister in the PMO (without Portfolio) post.

The new lineup is a “fresh slate after a watershed election,” said Lee at a press conference today. The government will “review existing policies and approaches” and “engage a new generation of Singaporeans,” he said. Shanmugaratnam, who has been Minister of Finance since December 2007, is a former education minister.

The announcement comes after Singapore’s former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong announced May 14 they will resign from the cabinet to make way for younger leaders. Lee Kuan Yew will be made senior adviser to sovereign wealth fund Government of Singapore Investment Corp., while Goh is senior adviser to the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The new cabinet will be sworn in on May 21.

“The most important decisions are still made in the cabinet at a collective leadership level, so you can expect a great degree of policy continuity despite the changes,” said Ng Soon Nam, Singapore-based chief investment officer at Nikko Asset Management, which oversees about $126 billion. “It’s good that they are refreshing the cabinet.”

Prime Minister Lee’s ruling People’s Action Party won the general election with the smallest margin of popular votes since independence. He pledged his party will change the way it rules after the opposition won a record number of seats in elections that must be held every five years.

The party that has ruled Singapore for more than five decades won 81 out of 87 parliamentary seats and 60.1 percent of the popular vote. Lim Hwee Hua, Singapore’s first woman minister and who helps oversee the finance and transport ministries, also lost this month. A parliamentary seat is a requirement to hold a ministerial post in the cabinet.

Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the current premier, was Singapore’s prime minister when it gained independence in 1965 and handed over to Goh in 1990. The younger Lee took over from Goh in 2004, who stayed in the cabinet as the senior minister.

Singapore’s ministers are among the world’s highest paid, earning millions of dollars annually as the government benchmarks their wages against salaries of chief executive officers and other top earners in the country. The government says such earnings prevent corruption and help attract and retain talent.

Opposition parties in this month’s elections decried the amount of ministerial compensation and compared their wages to those of ordinary Singaporeans who are facing a rising cost of living and depressed wages as a result of an influx of foreign workers.

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