What Were Singapore’s Fourth Generation Leaders’ Jobs Before They Entered Politics?

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What Were The Past Jobs Of Some Of Singapore’s 4th Gen Leaders?

Nobody starts out as a Member of Parliament (MP) or a full-fledged Minister — not even the 16 PAP MPs primed to form the core of the Singapore’s next generation of political leaders.

You have to work your way up to it.

Collectively given the catchy moniker of “4G16” by local media, they recently made headlines after releasing a joint statement regarding Singapore’s next Prime Minister.

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But amidst discussion over PM Lee’s successor, let’s instead take a step back and look at where these 16 individuals were before you knew them as they are today.

Here’s what the 4G16 were doing before they entered politics. In alphabetical order, of course.

1. Chan Chun Sing

Kicking off the list is one of the front runners of the 4G16, and we’re pretty sure you already know what he did before entering politics.

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Pre-Politics Career: Chief of Army, SAF (2010 – 2011)

Mr Chan’s military background is a fairly impressive one. Having excelled at the US Army Command and General Staff College – whose hall of fame he was inducted into –  he was the first foreign student to be awarded the “Distinguished Master Strategist Award”.

Some of his appointments include Chief Infantry Officer, Chief of Staff of Joint Staff, and of course, Chief of Army.

He would eventually leave the SAF on 25 March 2011 – where he was replaced by Brigadier-General Ravinder Singh – to run for MP at Tanjong Pagar under former PM Lee Kuan Yew.

  • MP, Tanjong Pagar GRC (2011 – Current)
  • Minister of State, Information, Communications and the Arts (2011 – 2012)
  • Acting Minister, Community Development, Youth and Sports (2011 – 2013)
  • Senior Minister of State, Defence (2012 – 2013)
  • Minister, Social and Family Development (2013 – 2015)
  • Second Minister, Defence (2013 – 2015)
  • Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (2015 – Current)

He was also one of the youngest ministers to be appointed to the Singapore Cabinet at age 42. No wonder he’s one of the three considered to be Singapore’s next Prime Minister.

2. Chee Hong Tat

This next individual recently made headlines after accusing Workers’ Party’s (WP) Leon Perera of implying that Mediacorp intentionally edited their parliamentary footage.

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Pre-Politics Career: Chief Executive, Energy Market Authority (2011 – 2015)

Having graduated at the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Mr Chee would eventually obtain a Masters of Business Administration at Adelaide University in 2006.

From 2008 to 2011, he also served as then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s principal private secretary.

  • MP, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (2015 – Current)
  • Minister of State, Communications and Information and Health (2015  – 2017)
  • Minister of State, Health (2015  – 2017)
  • Senior Minister of State, Communications and Information (2017 – Current)
  • Senior Minister of State, Health (2017 – Current)

Fun fact: Mr Chee succeeded Mr Lawrence Wong – another entry in this list – as CEO of Energy Market Authority.

What a coincidence they both ended up here.

3. Grace Fu Hai Yien

Next is Ms Grace Fu who shares a similarity with Mr Chee — in that they both tekaned Mr Leon Perera.

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Pre-Politics Career: CEO, PSA South East Asia and Japan (2004 – 2006)

As the second woman in the history of Singapore to command the status of full Minister – after Lim Hwee Hua – Ms Fu commands a rather impressive resume. Beginning her career as an auditor with Overseas Union Bank, she would join the PSA Corporation in 1995 and eventually become the CEO for their South East Asia and Japan wing in 2004.

Education wise, she currently holds a Bachelor of Accountancy and Master of Business Administration from NUS.

She would end up being one of the 24 new PAP candidates introduced by PM Lee in 2006, and was eventually elected as an MP of Jurong GRC.

  • MP, Jurong GRC (2006 – 2011)
  • Minister of State, National Development (2006 – 2008)
  • Senior Minister of State, Education (2008 – 2011)
  • Senior Minister of State, National Development (2008 – 2011)
  • MP, Yuhua SMC (2011 – Current)
  • Senior Minister of State, Information, Communications and the Arts (2011 – 2012)
  • Senior Minister of State, Environment and Water Resources (2011 – 2012)
  • Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (2012 – 2015)
  • Second Minister, Environment and Water Resources (2012 – 2015)
  • Second Minister, Foreign Affairs (2012 – 2015)
  • Minister, Culture, Community and Youth (2015 – Current)

Incidentally, her dad was once the press secretary for the then-PM Lee Kuan Yew.

4. Heng Swee Keat

Alongside Mr Chan Chun Sing and another individual on the list, this next person is also widely considered to be in the running to become Prime Minister.

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Pre-Politics Career: Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore (2005 – 2011)

Beginning his career in the Singapore Police Force, Mr Heng would see himself working at the Ministry of Education and Trade and Industry and was once even former-PM Lee Kuan Yew’s principal private secretary.

Prior to that, he graduated from Cambridge University with an MA in Economics and also holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University.

He would eventually serve as the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) managing director for six years before leaving to run as MP for Tampines GRC.

  • MP, Tampines GRC (2011 – Current)
  • Minister, Education (2011 – 2015)
  • Minister, Finance (2015 – Current)

Did you know that Mr Heng was also named Asia-Pacific Central Bank Governor of the Year by British magazine The Banker in 2011?

That’s probably one of the reasons why he’s currently our Finance Minister.

5. Koh Poh Koon

You might recognise this next entry for his infamous gaffe in 2013 when he declared during the Pungool East by-election that “everybody has a car“.

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Pre-Politics Career: Medical Director and Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre

That aside, Dr Koh is quite the formidable surgeon in the healthcare industry. He graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in NUS and obtained a Master of Medicine in surgery as well.

Not only was he was the founding Director of the Colorectal Cancer Genomic Health Service at the Singapore General Hospital, he also served as an Adjunct Clinician Scientist with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

Prior to his entry into politics, Dr Koh had started his own private practice at Capstone Colorectal Surgery Centre in Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

  • MP, Ang Mo Kio GRC (2015 – Current)
  • Minister of State, Trade and Industry (2016 – 2017)
  • Minister of State, National Development (2016 – 2017)
  • Senior Minister of State, Trade and Industry (2017 – Current)
  • Senior Minister of State, National Development (2017 – Current)

He was also an ex-Lieutenant Colonel in the SAF and served as CO and Deputy Brigade Commander of a Combat Service Support Battalion.

6. Desmond Lee

You might mistake this next person as American comedian Jordan Peele, but rest assured Mr Desmond Lee is anything but a joke — he holds the distinction of being the youngest full minister in Singapore’s cabinet.

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Pre-Politics Career: Associate Director, Temasek Holdings (2011 – 2013)

Rivaling his impressive career in politics is his equally as impressive stint in law.

Before becoming an MP for Jurong GRC, Mr Lee obtained a Bachelor of Laws from NUS and would see himself working alongside then Attorney-General Chan Sek Keong as Deputy Public Prosecutor in the Criminal Justice Division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

After shifting around various companies, he would join Temasek Holdings as their Associate Director in the Legal and Regulations Department.

If that’s not impressive enough, he also completed his Masters degree in Civil Law at the University of Oxford in 2005.

  • MP, Jurong GRC (2011 – Current)
  • Minister of State, National Development (2013 – 2015)
  • Senior Minister of State, Home Affairs (2015 – 2017)
  • Senior Minister of State, National Development (2015 – 2017)
  • Second Minister, Home Affairs (2017 – 2017)
  • Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (2017 – 2017)
  • Second Minister, National Development (2017 – 2017)
  • Minister, Social and Family Development (2017 – Current)

Seemed that being a politician had been in his blood all along though, as the elder Mr Lee was actually a former PAP Minister, just like his son.

7. Masagos Zulkifli

Another politician to make history in Singapore is Mr Masagos Zulkifli — who is one of two Malay full ministers in the Cabinet. His promotion was praised by PM Lee as a reflection of the progress of the Malay community.

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Pre-Politics Career: CEO, Singtel Global Offices

Graduating from NUS with a First Class Honours Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and a Master of Science Electrical Engineering, Mr Masagos began his career at Singapore Telecommunications Limited in 1988. He would then be awarded a SingTel Postgraduate Scholarship and went on to obtain a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern California.

Eventually, he rose to the top as he was appointed CEO of SingTel Global Offices before leaving to run as MP for Tampines.

  • MP, Tampines GRC (2006 – Current)
  • Minister of State, Education (2010 – 2011)
  • Minister of State, Home Affairs (2010 – 2012)
  • Minister of State, Foreign Affairs (2011 – 2012)
  • Senior Minister of State, Home Affairs (2012 – 2015)
  • Senior Minister of State, Foreign Affairs (2012 – 2015)
  • Second Minister, Home Affairs (2015)
  • Second Minister, Foreign Affairs (2015)
  • Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (2015)
  • Minister, Environment and Water Resources (2015 – Current)

We’re beginning to see a trend what with all these politicians having outstanding educational backgrounds.

8. Ng Chee Meng

Continuing the trend of being really good with their studies is Mr Ng Chee Meng. However, you might perhaps better know him from his days wearing the pixelated uniform.

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Pre-Politics Career: Chief of Defence Force, SAF (2013 – 2015)

We’re pretty sure many young adults would recognise Mr Chee as the former Chief of Defence Force (CDF) instead.

Joining the SAF in 1986, Mr Chee was a fighter pilot who went on to hold several appointments including Changi Air Base’s Commander and the Chief of Air Force — which he took over from his elder brother. After four years of leading the Republic of Singapore Air Force, he would became the second air force general in Singapore’s military history to be appointed as CDF.

However, just two short years later, Mr Chee would retire from the SAF and entire politics.

  • MP, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC (2015 – Current)
  • Senior Minister of State, Transport (2015 – 2016)
  • Acting Minister, Education (Schools) (2015 – 2016)
  • Second Minister, Transport (2016 – Current)
  • Minister for Education (Schools) (2016 – Current)

If that’s not impressive enough, check out what his brothers accomplished. His elder brother, Ng Chee Khern was the Chief of Air Force from 2006 to 2009 and his younger, Ng Chee Peng was the Chief of Navy from 2011 to 2014.

That’s a lot of power for a trio of brothers to hold.

9. Ong Ye Kung

Did you know that we actually have two Ministers for Education? Sharing the title alongside Mr Chee is the last of the three widely considered to be in the running for Singapore’s next Prime Minister.

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Pre-Politics Career: Director of Group Strategy, Keppel Corporation (2013 – 2015)

Prior to his Cabinet appointment, Mr Ong held the position of Director of Group Strategy at Keppel Corporation. He also held positions in several Government organisations such as the Ministry of Communications and Trade and Industry.

He’s also the only member of this list to have worked under PM Lee twice — first as his principal private secretary and then as press secretary.

  • MP, Sembawang GRC (2015 – Current)
  • Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) (2015 – 2016)
  • Senior Minister of State, Defence (2015 – 2016)
  • Second Minister, Defence (2016 – Current)
  • Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) (2016 – Current)

Ironically, his dad was once an MP and part of opposition party Barisan Sosialis who resigned to protest the “undemocratic acts” of the PAP government. However, Mr Ong noted that his late father had been fully supportive of his decision to become a member of the PAP himself.

10. Janil Puthucheary

This next person stirred up quite a bit of controversy after Singaporeans found out that he did not serve national service (NS) here.

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Pre-Politics Career: Senior Consultant, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital

In fact, his candidacy is the reason WP leader Low Thia Khiang called for an amendment to the constitution to only allow male candidates who had served their NS to run for elections.

Nonetheless, Dr Puthucheary has done much for Singapore despite that.

Before he entered politics, the Pasir Ris-Punggol MP had studied medicine and worked at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. In fact, he’s currently still a Senior Consultant at their intensive care unit — which means that he’s been spending the past few years saving the lives of kids.

  • MP, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC (2011 – Current)
  • Minister of State, Communications and Information (2016 – 2017)
  • Minister of State, Education (2016 – 2017)
  • Senior Minister of State, Communications and Information (2017 – Current)
  • Senior Minister of State, Education (2017 – Current)

Like Mr Ong, Dr Puthucheary’s dad was involved with the PAP — in fact, he was one of their founding members!

However, he eventually joined an opposition party but has expressed pride in his son for his decision to serve the society.

11. Indranee Rajah

Following Dr Puthucheary is the daughter of Singapore’s former Police Deputy Commissioner and National Olympic Council President.

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Pre-Politics Career: Deputy Head, Drew & Napier (2003 – 2012)

Like Mr Desmond Lee, Ms Indranee is quite the esteemed lawyer herself.

Having obtained a Bachelor of Law from NUS, she started out her career at Freshfields as a legal associate before joining Drew & Napier in 1988 where she would become their Deputy Head.

In 2003, Ms Indranee was even granted the title of Senior Counsel by the Chief Justice of Singapore.

  • MP, Tanjong Pagar GRC (2001 – Current)
  • Deputy Speaker, Parliament (2006 – 2011)
  • Senior Minister of State, Education (2012 – 2015)
  • Senior Minister of State, Law (2012 – Current)
  • Senior Minister of State for Finance (2015 – Current)

Can she succeed Mr K. Shanmugam as Singapore’s Law Minister? Only time will tell.

12. S Iswaran

Let’s now take a look at our Minister for Trade and Industry’s past credentials.

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Pre-Politics Career: Managing Director, Temasek Holdings

Commanding a very impressive repertoire of jobs, Mr Iswaran has excelled in both public and private sectors.

Most recently he was the Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Temasek Holdings. Before that, he served as Director for International Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, became the Singapore Indian Development Association’s first CEO, and Director at Singapore Technologies Pte Ltd.

  • MP, West Coast GRC (1997 – Current)
  • Deputy Speaker, Parliament (2004 – 2006)
  • Minister of State, Trade and Industry (2006 – 2008)
  • Senior Minister of State, Trade and Industry (2008 – 2011)
  • Senior Minister of State, Education (2009 – 2011)
  • Second Minister, Home Affairs (2011 – 2015)
  • Second Minister, Trade and Industry (2011 – 2015)
  • Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (2011 – 2015)
  • Minister, Trade and Industry (Industry) (2015 – Current)

Not to mention, he has been MP of West Coast since 1997 — that’s a whopping 21 years.

13. Sim Ann

Next up is Holland-Bukit Timah GRC’s very own Sim Ann.

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Pre-Politics Career: Director, National Population Secretariat (2009 – 2011)

Having graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and Stanford University with a Master of Arts in Political Science, Ms Sim began her career as a civil servant. By 2006 – just eight years after graduation – she had already worked various roles such as Assistant and Deputy Director in the Ministry of Health, Home Affairs and Trade and Industry.

Since then she served as Regional Director for International Enterprise Singapore and more recently, Director of the National Population Secretariat before running for MP at Holland-Bukit Timah’s GRC.

  • MP, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC (2011  – Current)
  • Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Law (2011 – 2012)
  • Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Education (2011 – 2013)
  • Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Communications and Information (2012 – 2013)
  • Minister of State, Education (2013 – 2015)
  • Minister of State, Communications and Information (2013 – 2015)
  • Senior Minister of State, Finance (2015 – 2016)
  • Senior Minister of State, Culture, Community and Youth (2015 – Current)
  • Senior Minister of State, Culture, Trade and Industry (2016 – Current)

Ms Ann was also the first MP in Singapore to give birth while holding office — when she gave birth to her second son during her stint as Senior Parliamentary Secretary.

14. Tan Chuan-Jin

This next entry is perhaps one of the more interesting amongst the 16.

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Pre-Politics Career: Commander Training and Doctrine Command, SAF (2009 – 2011)

The former army General may not be in the running for Prime Minister anymore after taking over President Halimah as Speaker of Parliament, but he certainly one ups the other 15 on one key aspect — social media.

Seriously, he’s a legit travel photographer, he vlogs events on Facebook Live and he knows how to work social media better than some of us reading. He’s pretty popular with Singaporeans around here — except for that one time with the cardboard lady.

  • Marine Parade GRC (2011 – 2015)
  • Senior Minister of State, National Development (2012 – 2013)
  • Acting Minister, Manpower (2012 – 2014)
  • Senior Minister of State, Manpower (2013 – 2014)
  • Minister, Manpower (2014 – 2015)
  • Minister, Social and Family Development (2015 – 2017)
  • Speaker, Parliament (2017 – Current)

Mr Tan is also an avid sportsman, having served as the President of the Singapore National Olympic Council since 2014.

15. Josephine Teo

Following him is the infamous Josephine “you don’t need much space to have sex” Teo.

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Pre-Politics Career: CEO, Business China (2009 – 2011)

Don’t let her comments about the birds and the bees or milk powder fool you, this NUS alumni has quite the accomplished track record.

Having begun her career at Singapore’s Economic Development Board, she quickly rose to Head of Human Resources and served at a similar position at A*STAR as well. She then became Director of Human Resources at NTUC and would see herself as the CEO of Business China before being appointed Minister of State in 2011.

  • MP, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (2006 – 2015)
  • Minister of State, Transport (2011 – 2013)
  • Minister of State, Finance (2011 – 2013)
  • Senior Minister of State, Finance (2013 – 2015)
  • Senior Minister of State, Transport (2013 – 2017)
  • Senior Minister of State, Foreign Affairs (2015 – 2017)
  • Senior Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office (2015 – 2017)
  • Second Minister, Foreign Affairs (2017 – 2017)
  • Second Minister, Manpower (2017 – Current)
  • Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (2017 – Current)
  • Second Minister, Home Affairs (2017 – Current)

In fact, she’s also been awarded several prizes including the Rachel Meyer Book Prize, which basically meant that she was the best female student during the final examinations at NUS.

16. Lawrence Wong

Last but not least, we have another one of the key members of PAP’s fourth-generation leadership.

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Pre-Politics Career: CEO, Energy Market Authority (Until 2011)

As Mr Chee Hong Tat’s predecessor as CEO of Energy Market Authority, Mr Wong holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Michigan as well as a Master of Publication Administration from Harvard.

Some of his notable positions include being a secretary to Singapore’s first elected President, Ong Teng Cheong, and serving as principal private secretary to PM Lee. He’s also responsible for our Botanic Gardens being recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and all museums in the country permitting free entries.

  • MP, West Coast GRC (2011 – 2015)
  • MP, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC (2015 – Current)
  • Minister of State, Education (2011 – 2012)
  • Minister of State, Defence (2011 – 2012)
  • Senior Minister of State, Education (2012 – 2012)
  • Minister of State, Information, Communications and the Arts (2012 – 2012)
  • Senior Minister of State, Communications and Information (2012 – 2014)
  • Acting Minister, Culture, Community and Youth (2012 – 2014)
  • Second Minister, Communications and Information (2014 – 2015)
  • Minister, Culture, Community and Youth (2014 – 2015)
  • Minister for National Development (2015 – Current)
  • Second Minister, Finance (2016 – Current)

Incidentally, he’s also the only entry on this list to have played himself in a Mediacorp drama, when he made a special appearance of two episodes for Channel 8’s World at Your Feet.

Fourth generation leaders of Singapore

Whew, what a list it has been! Were you surprised at what some of the entries were doing before becoming MPs?

It’s astounding how educationally proficient each and every one of them were in their respective studies, guess not everyone can just enter politics as they please.

Did you gain a greater amount of respect for the following politicians after reading this?

Featured image from Lee Hsien Loong and Parliament of Singapore.

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This has to be the most boring profile ever, I can't believe you are reading this. I could type random crap here and no one will really see it. Seriously, close this page and go out and do something. Actually I was kidding, come get your latest dosage of news here. You little curious reader, you.

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