New faces to helm four govt policy watchdogs

New faces to helm four govt policy watchdogs
Ms Denise Phua (left) will be Mayor of Central Singapore District on May 27, and will replace Mr Seah Kian Peng as the chairman of the GPC for Social and Family Development. Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin (right) will be chairman of the GPC for Defence and Foreign Affairs.

FRESH faces will head four of the 11 parliamentary groups that scrutinise government programmes and policies.

These four government parliamentary committees (GPCs) deal with health, the economy, defence and foreign affairs, and social issues.

Their new chiefs will take charge today when Parliament reopens for the second half of the term, said the People's Action Party (PAP) yesterday when announcing the changes in the top two positions of each GPC.

Among the new faces is Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who will chair the GPC for Health. An MP in Tanjong Pagar GRC, the political newbie - who was elected in the 2011 General Election - will replace Dr Lam Pin Min, who will join the frontbench as Minister of State for Health on Aug 1.

His deputy is Ms Tin Pei Ling of Marine Parade GRC, who is also a first-time MP.

The quality of medical professionals will be one of his key priorities.

"We've looked at health-care costs and infrastructure a lot in the previous term, so I hope to look more closely at manpower," Dr Chia told The Straits Times yesterday.

"We want to have well-trained, productive medical professionals. And we need to look at their career prospects and how to attract and retain health-care workers."

He said he also hopes to have more dialogues with people to understand the health concerns on the ground.

Another new chief is first-time MP Sitoh Yih Pin of Potong Pasir. He will replace Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak as chairman of the GPC for Defence and Foreign Affairs.

Mr Sitoh, who hopes to see Singapore build stronger bilateral ties in the coming years, will work with new deputy chairman Alex Yam, a first-time MP in Chua Chu Kang GRC.

Ms Denise Phua, former deputy chairman of the GPC for Social and Family Development, will step up to take the place of Mr Seah Kian Peng, a two-term MP in Marine Parade GRC.

Her move up comes on top of another new appointment: Mayor of Central Singapore Community Development Council. The Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP will be mayor from May 27.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Lily Neo will be her GPC deputy.

The issues Ms Phua hopes to focus on include problems arising from new technology, such as online gambling, cyber bullying and cyber addiction.

As social service offices sprout in the heartland and pre-school education receives better funding and training, Ms Phua wants to "ensure policies translate to positive impact on the very lives we want to help".

Another deputy moving up is Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa.

He will replace East Coast GRC MP Jessica Tan as chairman of the GPC for Finance and Trade and Industry. His deputy is first-time MP Ong Teng Koon of Sembawang GRC.

Mr Liang plans to explore ways to grow the economy to benefit Singaporeans, by giving them better jobs for instance. "Increasingly, our economic policies need to harmonise more closely with our social agenda," he said. "Economic and social development do not need to be one at the expense of the other."

GPCs were introduced by the PAP in 1987 and are made up of PAP backbenchers.

Dr Chia said he is aware of the GPC's watchdog role, and will pay close attention to the effects of recent policy changes. "After the euphoria of added subsidies and universal health-care coverage, some Singaporeans have asked if we will over-consume on health care. Will we have enough manpower to keep up with demand?" he said.

"As a watchdog, the GPC has to scrutinise things on both sides: not just what ministries do, but also how policies affect people - in good and bad ways."


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