Business community upbeat over MTI leadership changes

Business community expects perspectives as 4G leaders take over at Ministry of Trade and Industry

Amid challenges such as a looming international trade war and technological disruption, the business community said it expects a fresh perspective from a new generation of leaders taking over at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

With trade and industry tsar Lim Hng Kiang retiring after 14 years at the helm, and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran taking on a smaller role there, MTI is among the ministries that will see the biggest changes in its leadership team after the Cabinet reshuffle announced on Tuesday.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, 48, will take over from Mr Lim, while Mr Chee Hong Tat, 45, has been appointed Senior Minister of State at MTI.

Company executive and Nominated MP Azmoon Ahmad said of Mr Chan: "Since he is younger, I hope to see new ideas from him. I hope he can inject more dynamism into the ministry.

"It is especially important that he stay up to date on technological disruption and how it affects businesses and the economy."

Mr Lim, 64, will be senior adviser at MTI after leaving the Cabinet, while Mr Iswaran, 55, who will be Communications and Information Minister, will stay on at MTI as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

With the two older ministers advising and assisting Mr Chan, business leaders expect policy continuity.

Former MP Inderjit Singh, head of an electronics company, said: "I think it is a good idea for Mr Iswaran to remain involved at MTI as Mr Chan does not have any industry or business experience. This should also reflect some continuity, which will bring greater confidence to the private sector."

I hope he can inject more dynamism into the ministry. Company executive and Nominated MP Azmoon Ahmad on Mr Chan Chun Sing

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman Teo Siong Seng said the new team will benefit from the solid foundation laid by Mr Lim.

"He leaves behind a very capable team to assist the new minister," he said.

While Mr Chan's past portfolios were social- and defence-related, business leaders said he built rapport with the local business community as labour chief for three years.

For example, he engaged business leaders on employee training and workers' rights issues, and has been deeply involved in the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, leading business missions to China.

"He doesn't have the full suite of economic experience like Mr Lim or Mr Iswaran, but he is very engaging, enthusiastic to know more and always ready to come forward to meet our businesses," said SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit, recounting how Mr Chan readily agreed to talk to businesses at a function shortly after being made labour chief.

With 4G leaders set to helm two in three ministries, SBF chairman Teo called it a Cabinet reshuffle for the future.

He added: "But with several senior ministers staying on, I am sure policies will remain pro-business and pro-transformation."