Cabinet reshuffle: Lawrence Wong to be Finance Minister; Ong Ye Kung, Chan Chun Sing in new roles

Staff Writer
·8-min read
(L-R) Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Education Minister Lawrence Wong, and Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung will assume new ministerial posts. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/MCI/Gov.sg)
(L-R) Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Education Minister Lawrence Wong, and Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung will assume new ministerial posts. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore/MCI/Gov.sg)

SINGAPORE — Lawrence Wong has been appointed Singapore's new Finance Minister, taking over from former PM-designate Heng Swee Keat, by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Cabinet reshuffle less than a year since his team took office. 

Wong will relinquish his role as Education Minister, the Prime Minister's Office said on Friday (23 April). His and all other Cabinet appointments will take effect from 15 May.

Several other leading fourth-generation leaders will also assume new ministerial posts. 

Among them, Ong Ye Kung will be appointed Health Minister and relinquish his appointment as Transport Minister. He will co-chair the multi-ministerial taskforce on COVID-19, together with Lawrence Wong.

Chan Chun Sing will be appointed Education Minister and relinquish his appointment as Trade and Industry Minister. 

The other key ministerial appointments are:

Gan Kim Yong will be appointed Trade and Industry Minister and relinquish his appointment as Health Minister. 

S Iswaran will be appointed Transport Minister. He will remain as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and relinquish his appointment as Communications and Information Minister.

Josephine Teo will be appointed Communications and Information Minister, and remain as Second Minister for Home Affairs. She will relinquish her appointment as Manpower Minister.

Dr Tan See Leng will be appointed Manpower Minister and remain as the Second Minister for Trade and Industry.

Reactions from Lee and Heng

At a virtual news conference on Friday to announce the appointments, Lee was asked if the changes are disruptive, as some of the ministers are changing their portfolios after less than a year. 

Lee said, "It is not desirable to move ministers after less than a year. Sometimes, it is necessary. And then you think very carefully and if it can't be helped, you do it. And next time you will have to think very carefully again. You cannot say that this is a precedent, because last minister served a few months, the next minister likewise."

He added that the ministerial changes came about after "extensive consultations" with ministers, including Heng. 

"I talked to many of the ministers, including DPM Heng, before I settled the moves, and then I had to discuss with each of the ministers to make sure that they understood what their new mission was and what the purpose of the deployments was before settling. That's why it has taken me two weeks rather than just doing it the day after my previous press conference."

Heng also spoke about the new appointments in a post on his Facebook page. 

On Wong replacing him as Finance Minister, Heng said, "He is not new to MOF, having been Second Minister since 2016. Indranee Rajah will also remain in MOF to support Lawrence. We worked closely together on the five COVID-19 Budgets last year. Looking ahead, Lawrence will have the big task of continuing to invest for the long-term, while maintaining fiscal discipline."

Speaking of Chan's new role as Education Minister, Heng added, "He was an invaluable deputy when I was leader of the 4G, and helped me drive economic transformation as part of the Future Economy Council. Jobs and skills will be a key part of our economic agenda, and I look forward to working with him when he is in MOE."

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Other political appointments

Sim Ann will be appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She will continue as the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development, and relinquish her appointment as Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information.

Chee Hong Tat will continue as the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport, and relinquish his appointment as Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Dr Koh Poh Koon will be appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Manpower and continue as the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Health.

Tan Kiat How will be appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information. He will continue as the Minister of State in the Ministry of National Development, and relinquish his appointment as Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Rahayu Mahzam will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Information and continue as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health. 

Additional responsibilities

Josephine Teo will also be appointed as Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, taking over from Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, and Minister-in-charge of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, taking over from S Iswaran.

Edwin Tong will also be appointed Deputy Chairman of the People’s Association, taking over from Chan Chun Sing.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has accepted the proposal for Chee Hong Tat to join the NTUC, as Dr Koh Poh Koon will be returning to the government full-time.

Heng Swee Keat stepping aside two weeks back

Singapore's well-oiled leadership succession was abruptly brought to a halt two weeks ago, when Deputy PM Heng Swee Keat stepped aside as leader of the Republic's fourth-generation leadership team and designated successor to Lee. Heng, 59, cited his age and the disruptions caused by the pandemic as the key reasons for his decision at a media conference.

In response, Heng's 4G colleagues said in a statement that his decisions had been an "unexpected turn of events" and said they would need "more time" to select another leader. Lee said at the same conference that the process of choosing his successor would take "more than a few months", and "should not take more than a couple of years", with a clear outcome before the next general election.

Singapore held its previous General Election (GE) on 10 July last year. Following the GE, Lee unveiled his previous Cabinet on 25 July.  

The next GE is scheduled to be held in Singapore by 23 August 2025.

Full list of Cabinet and other appointments (from 15 May):

Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong

Deputy Prime Minister: Heng Swee Keat

Senior Ministers: Teo Chee Hean, Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Prime Minister’s Office – Ministers: Indranee Rajah, Maliki Osman

Defence – Minister: Ng Eng Hen Senior Ministers of State: Zaqy Mohamad, Heng Chee How

Foreign Affairs – Minister: Vivian Balakrishnan Second Minister: Maliki Osman Senior Minister of State: Sim Ann

Home Affairs – Minister: K Shanmugam Second Minister: Josephine Teo Ministers of State: Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Desmond Tan

Trade and Industry – Minister: Gan Kim Yong Second Minister: Tan See Leng Ministers of State: Low Yen Ling, Alvin Tan (Note: S Iswaran in charge of Trade Relations)

Finance – Minister: Lawrence Wong Second Minister: Indranee Rajah

Manpower – Minister: Tan See Leng Senior Ministers of State: Koh Poh Koon, Zaqy Mohamad Minister of State: Gan Siow Huang

Transport – Minister: S Iswaran Senior Ministers of State: Amy Khor, Chee Hong Tat Senior Parliamentary Secretary: Baey Yam Keng

National Development – Minister: Desmond Lee Second Minister: Indranee Rajah Senior Minister of State: Sim Ann Ministers of State: Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Tan Kiat How

Communication and Information – Minister: Josephine Teo Senior Minister of State: Janil Puthucheary Minister of State: Tan Kiat How Parliamentary Secretary: Rahayu Mahzam

Sustainability and Environment – Minister: Grace Fu Senior Minister of State: Amy Khor Minister of State: Desmond Tan

Law – Minister: K Shanmugam Second Minister: Edwin Tong.

Health – Minister: Ong Ye Kung Second Minister: Masagos Zulkifli Senior Ministers of State: Koh Poh Koon, Janil Puthucheary Parliamentary Secretary: Rahayu Mahzam

Education – Minister: Chan Chun Sing Second Minister: Maliki Osman Ministers of State: Sun Xueling, Gan Siow Huang

Social and Family Development – Minister: Masagos Zulkifli Minister of State: Sun Xueling Parliamentary Secretary: Eric Chua (Note: Desmond Lee in charge of Social Services Integration)

Culture, Community and Youth – Minister: Edwin Tong Ministers of State: Alvin Tan, Low Yen Ling Parliamentary Secretary: Eric Chua

Other appointments, concurrent responsibilities:

Mayors – Central Singapore District: Denise Phua North East District: Desmond Choo North West District: Alex Yam South East District: Mohd Fahmi Aliman South West District: Low Yen Ling

Heng Swee Keat: Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Strategy Group, Future Economy Council, National Research Foundation (assisting PM), Productivity Fund Administration Board (assisting PM)

Teo Chee Hean: Coordinating Minister for National Security, Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, National Security Coordination Secretariat, National Population and Talent Division, National Climate Change Secretariat

Tharman Shanmugaratnam: Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, Monetary Authority of Singapore, National Jobs Council

Indranee Rajah: Population matters (assisting Teo Chee Hean)

Josephine Teo: Smart Nation and Cybersecurity

Tan Kiat How: REACH

Janil Puthucheary: GovTech

Edwin Tong: People's Association

Ong Ye Kung: Aging issues

Sim Ann: Municipal Services Office

Masagos Zulkifli: Muslim affairs, CDC matters (assisting Edwin Tong)

Chan Chun Sing: Public Service Division

Low Yen Ling: Coordinator of Mayors

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