Singapore

Desmond Lee: My first priority is to listen and learn

At age 41, Mr Desmond Lee is the youngest member of the Singapore Cabinet.

Next Monday, he will helm the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), in addition to his portfolio as Second Minister for National Development.

In 2011, Mr Lee, son of former Cabinet minister Lee Yock Suan, made a quiet entry into politics.

But over the past six years he has carved a niche for himself.

At the Ministry of National Development (MND), he plays a key role in balancing Singapore's competing needs of development and conservation.

One of his traits is to go down to the ground to solicit views and gain support across the board, said those who have interacted with him.

DIALOGUES

He holds regular dialogues, whether with wildlife experts, from whom he learnt how to identify birds, or construction company bosses, whom he would nudge to get on board the Government's industry transformation plan and invest in technology.

It is an approach he is expected to bring to MSF, which is facing its own balancing act in meeting the growing needs of an ageing population with increasing demands from other segments of society.

Senior lecturer N. Sivasothi of the National University of Singapore's department of biological sciences said: "Desmond brought to the fore a ground-up approach, pulling members of the different communities in to discuss specific issues, which helps to reach out to a wider community.

"It is a trait he can bring into the social sector."

Mr Lee indicated as much in a reply to The Straits Times yesterday.

"My first priority at MSF is to listen and learn.

"I hope to meet our front-line social workers and community partners to hear from them," he said.

"This is because MSF's role is to bring stakeholders and the community together, to meet not only the needs and aspirations of today, but also anticipate and start preparing for the needs and aspirations of tomorrow."

politicsMINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT (MSF)People's Action Party