Baey Yam Keng quits job to be full-time MP

SINGAPORE - When Mr Baey Yam Keng announced last week that he was quitting his job to become a full-time MP, he was joining three others who have committed to doing the same since the last general election.

They are Ms Foo Mee Har, Ms Tin Pei Ling and Mr Chen Show Mao.

Mr Baey left his post as managing director of public relations company Hill and Knowlton on Dec 1. He remains with the firm as a senior adviser, with reduced working hours.

The only full-time MP in this batch who has served more than one term, Mr Baey said his decision was motivated by his constituents' changing needs.

When he first started out as an MP in 2006, he saw more low-income families and jobless folk who could be helped easily.

Now, the MP for Tampines GRC sees more complicated cases that require him to intervene more and to persuade the authorities. These include families from the sandwiched middle-class who need financial aid but do not qualify for subsidies, and Singaporeans who marry foreigners and have problems obtaining long-term visit passes for their spouses.

With the use of social media on the rise, the number of avenues for residents to contact him has also increased. He has noticed an uptick in feedback.

"Now, there are a lot more avenues for residents to raise issues and I have to act more promptly in responding," he said.

As for Ms Foo, from next year, she will cease to be Standard Chartered's global head of priority and international banking.

She will take on a non-executive role with the bank, and "explore other opportunities while spending time with my constituents," she said.

An MP for West Coast GRC, she said that having to split her time between the bank and her constituency duties has been "taxing" as she travels for her job, sometimes up to twice a week.

Ms Tin quit her job as a consultant with Ernst & Young in June last year, a month after she was elected a Marine Parade GRC MP.

She said: "I was new to MacPherson and felt that I should invest more time to understand the specific needs and conditions here, as well as implement new programmes."

Mr Chen retired from his post as the managing partner of the Beijing office of Davis Polk & Wardwell in July last year, shortly after he became an MP for Aljunied GRC. He declined to comment.

Full-time MPs were rare in the past. They include former opposition MPs Chiam See Tong and Cheo Chai Chen, and former People's Action Party (PAP) MP Ang Mong Seng.

PAP ministers have in the past opposed the idea, particularly during elections, when opposition parties promised full-time MPs.

In 2006, then Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng warned that full-time MPs would "lose contact with people in business, lose contact with foreigners who come to Singapore."

But the role of an MP has changed since then, said veteran Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh.

"Now we have to be involved in town councils, community development councils, and upgrading projects," he said.

Newer generations of MPs may thus prefer to have a better work- life balance, with some wanting a "half-time" break to concentrate on MP duties before resuming corporate life later, Mr Singh added.

Still, said Ms Foo, there are "clear advantages" in having practising professionals in Parliament.

She said they would be able to give "deep and current insights that inform our parliamentary debates and effective representation of the industries in which they work."

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