What’s happening in Singapore?: Major developments within the cabinet and the status of India-Singapore ties

Singapore Cabinet Reshuffle
Singapore Cabinet Reshuffle

Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore has extended help to India by supplying four cryogenic tanks that can be used to fill liquid medical oxygen.

The Indian Air Force’s C17 Aircraft with 4 cryogenic containers for storage of liquid O2 from Singapore landed at Panagarh airbase on Saturday evening. Then after getting refilled, they will be transported to different parts of the country.

India and Singapore have always maintained a close bilateral relationship, particularly in the defence sector.

Recently, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong assured his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, that Singapore will look out for Indian migrant workers in Singapore.

On Thursday PM Lee shared a statement on Facebook that stated: “I thanked PM Modi for India’s help when we brought home some Singaporeans from India recently. I assured him that we will care for Indian migrant workers here, just as we care for Singaporeans”.

India-Singapore has always had strong bilateral relations based on the shared values and culture, economic opportunities and convergence of interests on key issues. There is a good political connection between the two countries and the technological ties are extensive and growing.

Let’s have a look at the democracy in Singapore

The Asian country follows the Parliamentary Representative Democratic Republic which means the President of Singapore is the head of the State. The PM is the head of government and of a multi-party system. The cabinet in Singapore has exclusive power from the Parliament.

The cabinet is accountable to its Parliament and has control of the government. The government of Singapore has three branches that follow the Westminster system, these are the legislature, executive and judiciary.

The politics in the country has always been dominated by the People’s Action Party since the general elections of 1959. Lee Kuan Yew became the first PM of Singapore after it was free from the British empire. Earlier, Singapore was a self-governing state with the British empire. Since then PAP has been the only ruling party to form a government.

Singapore has had only three Prime Ministers namely the Independence leader Lee Kuan Yew, his cabinet colleague Goh Chok Tong and Lee Kuan Yew’s son, the present Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore’s major Cabinet Reshuffle

As the cabinet has extensive power in Singapore, the recent developments there calls for attention.

Singapore witnessed a major Cabinet reshuffle on Friday, following which 7 out of 15 ministers will be switching their portfolios from May 15, this year.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Lawrence Wong as the next Finance Minister replacing Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. This is a major development that followed soon after Heng Swee Keat announced two weeks ago that he will step aside as Lee’s designated successor.

In PM Lee’s extensive cabinet reshuffle apart from the ministry of Finance, Education, Health, Transport, trade and industry, Communications and information, Home Affairs will also get new ministers.

Ong Ye Kung as Health Minister

Chan Chun Sing will be the Education Minister

S. Iswaran set to be the Transport Minister

Gan Kim Yong to be Trade and Industry Minister

Josephine Teo will be the Communications and Information Minister

Whereas Tan See will continue as the 2nd minister for Home Affairs.

PM Lee while announcing the new line-up sited two reasons for the Cabinet reshuffle:

“I have two reasons for this: One is that the Minister for Finance is changing. Following Budget 2021, DPM Heng is relinquishing the Finance portfolio. Finance is a key ministry, so when the Finance Minister changes, there are many repercussions for the other appointments.”

PM Lee added that he is moving the ministers for health, manpower, and trade and industry, which was scheduled after last year’s General Election, but couldn’t happen because Singapore was still “in the thick” of fighting COVID-19.

Most of the 4G ministers have already accumulated experience in a wide range of portfolios. This round of Cabinet changes will allow them to gain new experience and exposure,” said PM Lee

“They have to get to work quickly because although our COVID-19 situation is stabler now, we are still in the midst of a public health and economic crisis.”

The reshuffle is an opportunity for ministers to work together in new capacities so that they can understand each other better, and strengthen their cohesion as a team.

“This will make the new team readier to take over from me and my older colleagues,” added Prime Minister Lee.