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Singapore Parliament at half-time recess; to reconvene on May 7 with first President's Address drafted by 4G ministers
THE Singapore Parliament took its customary mid-term break from Tuesday, and will reopen next month with a fresh agenda.
The President's Address to kick off the second session of Parliament on May 7 will be closely watched, as it will be the first one to be drafted by the fourth generation of ministers.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his New Year message this year that the Government "will lay out its agenda for the rest of the term" in this major speech, which is drafted by the government of the day but delivered by the President.
He added that the address "will bear the imprint of the fourth-generation leadership, who are taking on greater responsibilities, and putting forth their ideas for Singapore". "It will give Singaporeans a better sense of them and their thoughts," he said.
The speech will also be notable for another reason: it will be President Halimah Yacob's first President's Address, in the wake of her election as Singapore's eighth president last September.
With the announcement of the Parliament recess, the next major item now on the political calendar is a major Cabinet reshuffle. PM Lee had said that this is "to give the younger (Cabinet) members more exposure and responsibility".
"This way, my successor will be supported by a stronger and more experienced team, committed to leading Singapore to a better and brighter future," said Mr Lee in a Facebook post in February.
The three frontrunners to lead the fourth generation are Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.
Fourth generation ministers are expected to be given heftier responsibilities, as they prepare to take over the reins from Mr Lee after the next general election, due by 2021. But they are not expected in this reshuffle to move into the deputy prime minister posts - currently held by Misters Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
The current Parliament is Singapore's 13th. It opened in January 2016, after a general election that saw the People's Action Party returned to power with a stronger than expected mandate of 69.9 per cent of votes and 83 of the 89 elected seats.
During the first session, key milestones include constitutional changes to the elected presidency, to reserve it for an ethnic group if the president has not come from that group for five continuous terms. President Halimah was the first president elected under the new rules.
Other highlights include the announcement of a goods and services tax increase from 7 per cent to 9 per cent - due to happen some time between 2021 and 2025, the debate on former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road, the convening of a Select Committee to tackle deliberate online falsehoods, as well as several pieces of legislation to enhance security.
Parliament has been prorogued 11 times since Independence. The last break took place in April 2014.
After the delivery of the President's Address next month, Parliament traditionally meets a week or so later for a debate on the address that typically lasts one week.
THE STRAITS TIMES