Why Lim Swee Say can make Tripartism Betterer…

So, finally the news is out confirming the rumours that have been going around as to where Minister Lim Swee Say would be heading to when he relinquishes his NTUC Secretary-General post, earlier than expected on 4 May 2015.


Several social media commentators suggested other Ministries Minister Lim could be posted to.

One even proposed he become “an economic poet”

And many thought the Secretary-General changeover would take place later this year during the Labour Movement’s once in four years National Delegates Conference.

As a journalist, I have been trailing Minister Lim Swee Say for much of his tenure in the Labour Movement since 1999.


He always made sure workers and unionists understood the challenges and problems the nation faced by adopting simple ways and day-to-day examples to explain and convince them to give their strong support to battle a recession together.

In fact, after his briefing and dialogue with unionists and workers, you would think- “Is Singapore really going through a recession now?”. He would have put workers at ease and rallied their support by the time the session concluded.

So, with Mr Lim Swee Say’s move to the Ministry of Manpower, this probably makes him the first NTUC Secretary-General to move over to a “tripartite partner” Ministry.

Anything wrong with that?

Absolutely nothing.


All this while, Minister Lim is already a member of the Singapore Cabinet as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and from the days of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, it has been made a practice to appoint the Labour Movement’s Secretary-General, a Minister in the Cabinet as seen in the appointments of the past SGs- Lim Chee Onn, Ong Teng Cheong, Lim Boon Heng, Lim Swee Say and now Chan Chun Sing, the next NTUC Secretary-General.

So the Secretary-Generals have from the outset Singapore’s interest at heart, not just the NTUC’s interest!

On that account, Mr Lim Swee Say’s appointment as the next Manpower Minister,  in my view, brings about many more pluses to tripartism and economic development in Singapore.

Having heard and represented the views of workers and unionists for a good eight years as Secretary-General of NTUC and previously in his other posts in NTUC since 1999, Minister Lim would have an equally good appreciation of what more the government can do from the Manpower Ministry angle to improve the lot of workers at all Collars, Ages and Nationalities, “C.A.N.”

And improvement is not just at the level of helping them to up their wages.

skills training

There’s also the all-important challenge of making Continuing Education and Training a  way of life for workers in Singapore and this is probably one key focus area Mr Lim would dive into with the introduction of the slew of initiatives under SkillsFuture.

Another focus for the new Manpower Minister would be to urge companies in Singapore to press on with re-employing older workers and working together with NTUC and the employers bodies to up re-employment age till 67,  a target which the government hopes to achieve in the next two years.

cpf building

Then, there are the slew of recommendations put forth by the CPF Advisory Panel and public education is key to ensuring Singaporeans understand the importance of ensuring that they have enough savings to see them through their old age.

Mr Lim Swee Say’s plate at the Manpower Ministry is already full and from the statements issued by the tripartite partners from the NTUC Central Committee and the Singapore National Employers’ Federation, there is no doubt that the task of upholding tripartism Singapore is only going to get “Betterer”

Chan Chun Sing

And that is something he can look forward to from his newly-appointed successor too, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Chan Chun Sing and the NTUC Team who has wasted no time since coming over to the NTUC earlier this year, to hit the ground, meet union leaders, feel their pulse ad chart the road ahead.

The same “brotherly” style which stands out in Singapore’s union movement, fighting for “Solidarity Forever”





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