According to PAP Organising Secretary Dr Ng Eng Hen, the PAP slate for the general elections has a record number of office-holders. From the PAP perspective, the elections are about leadership renewal, that is, the potential leaders whom they have chosen. They have always placed minister-wannabes in junior roles for a while, before promoting them to be full ministers.
Take for example Lui Tuck Yew, minister for information, communications and the arts. After GE 2006, he was appointed minister of state for education, a junior role. Slightly less than two years later, in April 2008, he was promoted to be senior minister of state for education and MICA. Then one year later (April 2009) he became the Acting Minister for MICA. Finally, in November 2010, he became a full minister. All within one parliamentary term.
He might be a high-flier minister, but he seems to be lacking some PR skills, according to this.
Anyway, since there are so many potential office-holders, are there sufficient offices to go around? And how is the PAP leadership going to evaluate these 4th Gen leaders? For example, what did Lui do in MICA which gave him a promotion to full minister within 5 years? Of course, he must have done something right and nothing wrong, or it would be politically costly to promote him.
Currently, there are total 15 ministries, including the Prime Minister’s Office, but there are 21 full ministers in the Cabinet:
- Prime Minister
Mr LEE Hsien Loong
- Senior Minister
Mr GOH Chok Tong
- Minister Mentor
Mr LEE Kuan Yew
- Senior Minister
Prof S. JAYAKUMAR
- Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security
Mr WONG Kan Seng
- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence
Mr TEO Chee Hean
- Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr George Yong-Boon YEO
- Minister for National Development
Mr MAH Bow Tan
- Minister, Prime Minister’s Office
Mr LIM Boon Heng
- Minister for Trade and Industry
Mr LIM Hng Kiang
- Minister, Prime Minister’s Office
Mr LIM Swee Say
- Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs
Dr YAACOB Ibrahim
- Minister for Health
Mr KHAW Boon Wan
- Minister for Finance
Mr Tharman SHANMUGARATNAM
- Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence
Dr NG Eng Hen
- Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports
Dr Vivian BALAKRISHNAN
- Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Raymond LIM Siang Keat
- Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law
Mr K Shanmugam
- Minister for Manpower
Mr GAN Kim Yong
- Minister, Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Transport
Mrs LIM Hwee Hua
- Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts
Mr LUI Tuck Yew
Of the 21, two are retiring, but they do not hold any portfolios.
Now, look at the number of political office-holders in each ministry.
- MCYS (3): 1 minister (M), 1 minister of state (MOS) (retiring), 1 parliamentary secretary (PS)
- MINDEF (3): 1 M, 1 second M, 1 MOS (retiring)
- MOE (4): 1 M, 2 Senior MOS, 1 MOS
- MOF (2): 1 M, 1 second M
- MFA (3): 1 M, 1 second M, 1 Senior MOS (to become Speaker of Parliament)
- MOH (2): 1 M, 1 Senior PS
- MHA (4): 1 DPM (strangely, on the website, DPM Wong still heads the list), 1 M, 1 Senior MOS (retiring), 1 MOS
- MICA (2): 1 M, 1 Senior PS
- MINLAW (2): 1 M, 1 Senior MOS (retiring)
- MOM (3): 1 M, 1 MOS, 1 Senior PS
- MND (3): 1 M, 1 Senior MOS, 1 Senior PS
- MEWR (2): 1 M, 1 MOS
- MTI (4): 1 M, 1 Senior MOS, 1 MOS, 1 Senior PS
- MOT (3): 1 M, 1 second M, 1 Senior PS
- PMO (7): 1 PM, 2 SM (one retiring), 1 MM, 2 DPMs, 2 Ms (1 retiring), 1 MOS (why the PMO needs a junior minister?)
In any case, if there are insufficient political offices, it’d be very easy for the PM to create new roles. For him to test out the PAP’s core of 4th Generation leadership, there are only a few key ministries – defence, education, trade and industry (where PM Lee himself began), foreign affairs.
If the current number of political appointees remains, no further ministry is created, then there should be sufficient places to go around. According to the media, there are 5 heavyweights with potential to be full ministers – generals Tan Chuan-Jin, Chan Chun Sing, former MAS director Heng Sweet Keat, NTUC assistant SG Ong Ye Kung, former EMA chief executive Lawrence Wong.
Where might they go, since they are heavyweights? MOE and MTI look full, but the PM can ask the Senior MOS in each ministry (who is the same person) to step down, giving space for two new MOS positions to be created for two different people. MINDEF definitely requires a new MOS and perhaps a PS, who can be picked from the rest of the 24 new candidates. MFA also has a vacancy for MOS, as the current Senior MOS is moving on to become Speaker (assuming the PAP team for Aljunied is elected la, since Aljunied is a battleground, and two ministers in Aljunied are from MFA). In MHA, the current MOS can be bumped up, freeing another space for a new MOS. MOF also looks like they need a MOS. These are the important ministries, and logically the PM would choose these as training grounds for his 4G core leadership. From my observation here, there are definitely sufficient offices for the 5 heavyweight candidates.
There are also other ministries which seem to lack MOS – MICA, MOH, MINLAW, MOT. Given the PAP preference for the Admin Service as their recruiting grounds, I think some new candidates from the Admin Service could become MOS too. They include Sim Ann and Low Yen Ling, formerly from the civil service. As there are quite a few candidates from NTUC (7, if I’m not wrong), they are probably excluded as of now from the group of potential ministers, but in future they might be given political offices.
However, how does the PM evaluate the performance of these new office-holders? Is it a one-way climb? Out of the ‘Super Seven’ in the 2001 elections, Dr Balaji Sadisvan did not make it to full minister while Cedric Foo resigned. These are signs that those who can’t make it are halted. But the decision of the PM is arbitrary and opaque. Since the PAP claims to introduce a record number of office-holders, it seems logical as well for S’poreans to ensure some checks and balances on the new leadership. And that’s how the WP insurance kicks in.