Gan Kim Yong — from saving S’porean lives to helping S’pore’s economy recover to becoming DPM

14/05/2024

OUR PARTY’S former Chairman (2018-22) Gan Kim Yong is Singapore’s incoming new Deputy Prime Minister. The position means more responsibilities for the man who co-chaired Singapore’s multi-ministry task force (MTF) tackling the Covid-19 pandemic as then-Minister for Health (2011-21). He is currently the Minister for Trade and Industry.  

“I’ll work with DPM Heng [Swee Keat] and across various ministries and agencies to coordinate the whole-of-government approach to formulate and implement key policies,” said Minister Gan (May 13), who with this new appointment will be responsible for the Strategy Group in the Prime Minister’s Office.  

“Together with DPM Heng, I will do my best to support the Prime Minister and help my younger colleagues in whichever way I can to build a strong team that will lead us forward,” he added. 

Minister Gan, as his track record shows, is up to the weighty task of helping steer Singapore through in this troubled world. 

Saving Singaporean lives during the pandemic

Every public health professional knows that the first response to a public health incident must be to move swiftly — to contain its spread. 

Minister Gan did just that. As Minister for Health, he went to Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on 22 January 2020, the day after Singapore’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) was raised to Yellow during the COVID-19 pandemic. That day, Minister Gan asked to form the MTF, with Prime Minister-designate Lawrence Wong as his co-chair. 

At the MTF, Minister Gan was a hero who quietly saved Singaporean lives. Together with co-chair DPM Wong, Minister Gan implemented circuit breakers, the mask mandates and the nationwide vaccination programme, among other national initiatives on all fronts. The decisive measures slowed the infection rate and kept our nation’s healthcare system functional. His efforts at the MTF, in fact, ensured that Singapore was the first country in Asia to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the virus in December 2020. 

Source: The Straits Times© Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission. 

All this was while COVID-19 took its deadly toll upon the world. 

Minister Gan and PM-designate Wong also made transparency a defining feature of the MTF’s updates and actions to Singaporeans. 

“Whatever we tell you is whatever we know,” he said about these strategic decisions made during the ongoing ‘fog of war’ around the evolving pandemic situation. “If we didn’t know, we said we didn’t know and we’ll go and find out.” 

Beyond the pandemic, Minister Gan built up Singapore’s healthcare infrastructure with new polyclinics as well as community hospitals. He eased healthcare financing for all Singaporeans through enhancing the Pioneer Generation Package, the Merdeka Generation Package and the universal medical insurance scheme MediShield Life. He introduced the Action Plan for Successful Aging to help seniors lead active lifestyles, and memorably spoke at the World Health Assembly in 2016 for changing mindsets about ageing; it should be a positive time where “our people maximise the opportunities of longevity”.         

Now as one of Singapore’s most high-ranking leaders, Minister Gan’s emphasis on decisive action and transparency will serve Singaporeans well during the journey forward.  

Providing livelihoods and opportunities for Singaporeans 

Minister Gan took up his most recent post helming the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) exactly three years ago on May 15 2021. His mission at MTI is clear: “Grow Our Economy”, as per the title of his most recent Committee of Supply speech.   

So, Minister Gan continued the MTF’s battle against the pandemic over at his new Ministry. He helped Singapore’s economy recover. He maintained Singapore’s supply chains of import and export goods, keeping businesses going as well as minimising disruptions to daily life. At the Group of 20 (G-20) Trade and Investment Ministers’ Meeting, he told his counterpart representatives of the world’s key economies that Singapore will work with manufacturers to become a vaccine production hub for Southeast Asia

In recent years, Minister Gan has travelled the world negotiating and signing trade treaties and agreements with world powers.

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Source: Gan Kim Yong / Facebook 

He signed the US-Singapore Partnership for Growth and Innovation a few months (Oct 7) after his May 2021 MTI posting. This Partnership strengthens US and Singapore companies which collaborate in the digital economy, smart cities, advanced manufacturing and supply chains, healthcare and sustainability. The close of 2023 (Dec 7) saw him signing the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) Further Upgrade Protocol. The Upgrade secures for Singapore greater market access to China’s services sectors and as well as unlimited equity limits for Singaporean investors. 

Minister Gan will also become Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) when he becomes DPM. As Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister Gan helped Singapore’s economy grow 1.1 per cent in 2023. This was despite challenges such as supply chain disruptions, great power rivalry, climate change and war facing the world. 

Closer to home, Minister Gan is a longtime fixture in westside neighbourhoods. He is the MP for Chua Chu Kang (2006-), and was previously in the adjacent ward of Zhenghua (2001-2006). 

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Source: Gan Kim Yong / Facebook 

“It has been a pleasure working with [Prime Minister-designate] Lawrence [Wong],” said Minister Gan on serving as MP. “He’s in Marsiling-Yew Tee and I’m in Chua Chu Kang GRC. We are adjacent to one another. We did …many local projects together to benefit our residents.” 

Minister Gan, then, is a presence for “continuity and stability”, as PM-designate Wong said to the press earlier this week (May 13). He is someone who keeps the big picture in mind for Singaporeans while the nation goes forward.