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Ong for Defense, Grace Fu for Foreign Affairs, Indranee for Education? Analysts predict possibilities for next cabinet reshuffle




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Changes in the cabinet are likely to occur by April 2019, and may be the last ones before the next General Elections, TODAY reported on November 29. The next GE must occur by 2021 but may actually be held as soon as late next year.

Experts predict that the heads of three departments will most likely change in the next cabinet reshuffle—defense, foreign affairs, and education—positions that did not change last May, among others. They are also saying that it’s possible that these posts will be given to new Ministers from the fourth generation of leaders.

Analysts are uncertain whether the Law Minister will change in the reshuffle since the three Law Ministers since Independence have held their posts for long periods of time.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) announced last Friday, November 23, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing as the first and second assistant secretaries-general respectively of the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced upcoming changes in the cabinet.

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Read related: Heng Swee Keat officially appointed first assistant sec-gen of PAP, on the way to become 4G PM

Analysts predict that Heng and Chan will be named as Deputy Prime Ministers (DPM) while keeping their current portfolios. Incumbent DPMs Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam are expected to become Senior Ministers.

However, some experts say that it’s also possible that Shanmugam, concurrently the Home Affairs Minister, could also become one of the Deputy Prime Ministers, due to his many years of experience in governance and security, even though Shanmugan himself seems to have brushed this prediction of as mere speculation.

It’s more possible that he will be appointed Coordinating Minister for National Security, according to Woo Jun Jie, a political scientist with Nanyang Technological University.

As for Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, once touted as a possible successor for PM Lee, experts predict that he could helm either the Defense or Foreign Affairs ministries, which could position him to become a DPM under Heng, should Heng be elected Prime Minister.

According to Bilveer Singh, a political scientist with the National University of Singapore, “He was one of the three frontrunners to succeed Mr. Lee. He is still young and as long as he performs, we cannot rule him out for higher office.”

If Ong does not become Minister of Foreign Affairs, this position may go to Grace Fu, who at present is at the helm of Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth. Fu held the position of Second Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2015.

Professor Woo said, “Among the 4G leaders, Ms. Fu and Mr. Ong possess strong backgrounds in trade and economic co-operation, particularly with China.”

And should Ong be transferred from his post at the Education Ministry, Indranee Rajah, at present the Second Minister for Education, may be appointed to helm the ministry. However, there is also the possibility that either she or Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong, may take over the law ministry should Shanmugan be appointed elsewhere.

For the ministries of Transport, Health, and Home Affairs, experts predict that the incumbent heads will keep their positions. Khaw Boon Wan, Minister of Transport will likely stay on to continue to solve current issues, and the same goes for Shanmugam, who will possibly stay to oversee the changes to the Penal Code as keep an eye on online falsehoods, according to Associate Professor Tan.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong will also most likely keep his job, but will more challenges due to an aging population, a Second Minister Health could also be appointed.

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