Minister for Transport and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan has retired from politics.
In a letter sent out by the Prime Minister’s Office today (June 26), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wished Khaw a “happy, healthy and well-deserved retirement” and thanked him for a “lifetime of public service to Singapore.”
Before Khaw became a Minister, he was a civil servant who served as principal private secretary to then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
2020 marks Khaw’s 20th year in politics (he entered politics in 2001) and he has been at the head of several important ministries during his time in Parliament.
Known as Mr Fix-it, the 67-year-old has helmed not one, not two but three ministries during their most difficult periods — Health, National Development, and Transport.
He was a Senior Minister of State for Health during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak and subsequently took on the role of Minister for Health in 2004.
In PM Lee’s letter, he wrote: “Learning the painful lessons of SARS, you instituted new processes and extensive preparations, to get us ready for the next novel disease outbreak. These served us well when Covid-19 came upon us.”
After the 2011 general election, when public housing waiting times and affordability were hot topics of public concern, he was appointed Minister for National Development.
According to PM Lee, Khaw was responsible for ramping up the HDB building programme, reducing Built-to-Order (BTO) waiting times and introducing policies that enabled newlyweds to own their first flat earlier and live near their parents.
“These measures gave young Singaporeans the confidence that an affordable home would always be within their reach.”
With Singapore’s transport sector undergoing many issues in 2015, PM Lee said that Khaw “volunteered to take on the politically spiky transport portfolio” and as Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, which was a newly created role, he improved the reliability of Singapore’s MRT system, while strengthening the country's air hub and sea hub status.
PM Lee went on to highlight the contributions that Khaw has made to the People’s Action Party (PAP). It includes leading a post-mortem to identify where PAP had fallen short after the 2011 general election and holding the role of party Chairman from 2011 to 2018.
Khaw’s dedication to his residents in Sembawang GRC, where he has been MP since 2006, was also highlighted.
Calling Khaw “one of his most reliable lieutenants”, PM Lee wrote that he “deeply appreciated our personal friendship and greatly benefitted from your advice.”
He also revealed that Khaw is the reason why we have an insight into PM Lee’s life and thoughts on social media. “Having now done it for eight years, I have found it a fascinating and worthwhile journey.”
While Khaw is officially retiring, it seems that he will still be advising younger ministers. PM Lee wrote: “I am thus happy that even after you retire, you have agreed to continue to be available to advise your successors on the issues that you have handled as a Minister, and to share with them your experience and wisdom.”
The question now is, who will be the new Mr Fix-it for Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is likely to succeed PM Lee soon.