New ministers of state bring different areas of expertise: PM

Mr Tan (left) and Mr Wong posing for a picture at the start of the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge 2014 last Thursday. Mr Wong was the guest of honour, while Mr Tan participated in the 5km run.

SINGAPORE - This Labour Day will be a little more special for Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

When the holiday to honour workers comes round tomorrow, Mr Tan will be getting promoted to full minister.

Yesterday's announcement of his promotion came eight months after he was asked to relinquish his second portfolio as Senior Minister of State for National Development - a move that raised questions about his performance and prospects.

Another member of the Government's fourth-generation leadership being promoted to full minister is Mr Lawrence Wong, who heads the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Their promotion and other appointments of office-holders were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Both Mr Tan and Mr Wong, he said, had performed well since taking office and had "mastered their portfolios".

"They have also worked hard on the ground, winning the respect and trust of Singaporeans," he added.

Explaining the changes, Mr Lee said that as Singapore undergoes an important transition, major policy shifts require good political leadership, close coordination across ministries, effective ground implementation and strong support from Singaporeans.

Mr Tan, 45, and Mr Wong, 41, entered politics in 2011.

Both were made ministers of state before moving up a year later to be acting ministers.

The duo are members of the "Fabulous Five", a group that is expected to form part of the core of the People's Action Party's (PAP's) fourth-generation leadership.

The other three are Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, and Ms Sim Ann, who is Minister of State for Education as well as Communications and Information.

Mr Tan, a former brigadier-general, was previously commander of the Singapore Armed Forces' Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Under his charge, MOM revised the Workfare Income Supplement for low-wage workers and tightened the eligibility criteria for foreign workers seeking S-Passes, among others.

Speaking to reporters at a May Day celebration for unions last night, he said a lot of the work cannot be done without the support of his colleagues, activists, volunteers and grassroots members.

"The priorities don't change just because your appointments change," he added.

Labour MP Zainal Sapari told The Straits Times that Mr Tan's promotion was "fully deserved".

"He has been very supportive in terms of bettering the lives of workers, and gave strong support to the NTUC in introducing a progressive wage model for the cleaning and security sectors," he said.

Mr Wong, meanwhile, made his mark in a ministry that promotes sports and culture and engages the country's youth - a portfolio PM Lee said aims to provide ways for Singaporeans to lead more fulfilling lives.

The former career civil servant said yesterday he was grateful for the opportunity to serve in a larger capacity, especially in Singapore's period of transition.

His new ministry, he added, had rolled out new initiatives such as free museum entry for all Singaporeans and the setting up of volunteer brigade Youth Corps to meet its goals.

"There is still much more to be done, and I look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders to make Singapore a distinctive and endearing home for all of us," he added.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong congratulated both men in a Facebook post, saying they had performed well in policy formulation and in explaining policies both in and outside Parliament.

This article was published on April 30 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.