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Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan retires from politics

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Transport Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan is retiring from politics and will not contest the upcoming General Election (GE).

TRANSPORT Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan is retiring from politics and will not contest the upcoming General Election (GE).

In a valedictory letter to him on Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked him for his "lifetime of public service to Singapore".

Mr Khaw entered politics in 2001 after a career in the public service, and was Minister for Health and then Minister for National Development prior to his transport portfolio.

In a Facebook post filled with photographs and reminiscences, he expressed his gratitude to Singaporeans, his constituents and his colleagues in Parliament and the Cabinet.

"Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. Today, PM announced my retirement from politics, after 42 years of public service," he wrote. "It is a week of high emotion for me. Gratitude fills me to the brim!"

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Mr Lee noted that Mr Khaw's career, bookended by global crises - the aftermath of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and the Covid-19 pandemic today - has landed him "the most challenging jobs in the Cabinet".

When the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) outbreak happened, Mr Khaw - then senior minister of state for health - was "on the front line, going into the hospitals to check on the arrangements and encourage the medical staff", noted Mr Lee.

As health minister subsequently, Mr Khaw instituted new processes and preparations to get Singapore ready for the next novel disease outbreak, he added. "These served us well when Covid-19 came upon us."

At the Ministry of Health, Mr Khaw also reformed MediShield and MediSave, introduced ElderShield, expanded healthcare capacity, and established Singapore's second medical school.

After the 2011 GE, Mr Khaw took on the national development portfolio. There, he ramped up the public housing building programme, cutting waiting times and introducing policies to make it easier for newly-weds to live near their parents.

And after the 2015 GE, during which the reliability of the public-transport system was a hot-button issue, Mr Khaw "volunteered to take on the politically spiky transport portfolio", noted Mr Lee.

As transport minister, he set a target of one million mean kilometres between failures for the MRT system, a target "which at the time many thought unrealistic" but has since been surpassed, said Mr Lee. Singapore's status as an air and sea hub also strengthened under his watch.

Ministerial duties aside, Mr Khaw has made significant contributions to the People's Action Party (PAP), leading the post-mortem after the "disappointing results" of GE 2011, in which the PAP earned its lowest post-independence vote share of 60.1 per cent.

"The honest introspection and self-critique set the party on a fresh course," said Mr Lee. Mr Khaw took over as party chairman, playing his part to drive change from within, which Mr Lee said "contributed much to (the PAP's) decisive win" in 2015.

"Beyond your ministerial and political contributions, I have deeply appreciated our personal friendship, and greatly benefited from your advice," added Mr Lee, noting that Mr Khaw had been the one to suggest that he venture into social media in 2012.

Noting that Mr Khaw has been "a role model and a source of sage advice" to younger ministers, Mr Lee said he was happy that even after retirement, Mr Khaw has agreed to be available to advise his successors on the issues handled as a minister.

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