IMDA CEO Tan Kiat How to leave post, expected to enter politics in upcoming Singapore general election

SINGAPORE – Mr Tan Kiat How, chief executive of the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), will step down on Saturday (June 20).

He is the latest of a string of senior public servants to have recently left their posts. Party sources have tipped them to enter politics under the banner of the ruling People’s Action Party in the upcoming general election, with Mr Tan possibly fielded in East Coast GRC.

The constituency, which was hotly contested by the Workers’ Party in previous elections, is expected to see two MPs leave – Mr Lim Swee Say and Mr Lee Yi Shyan.

Mr Tan was a guest speaker in a webinar on digitalisation for East Coast residents and MPs last Saturday (June 13). Earlier this month, he also took part in a webinar on job opportunities and digital skills, hosted by Mr Lee Yi Shyan.

In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Communications and Information said Mr Tan will be succeeded by current deputy chief executive Lew Chuen Hong, the former Chief of Navy, as part of leadership renewal.

The others public servants who have recently stepped down are Mr Yip Hon Weng, former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Health Ministry, and Ms Ng Ling Ling, who was chief of future primary care and director of community engagement at the Health Ministry’s Office of Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) until end March.

Mr Yip has left the Health Ministry, while Ms Ng has taken up the role of senior consultant at MOHT.

When approached, Mr Tan said his plans are still being firmed up, and “it would be premature to share them now”. He added that he will be taking a short break to prepare for the arrival of his first child in August.

He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic poses both a crisis and an opportunity, saying: “ I will want to continue leveraging my experience, especially in the area of digital technology, to contribute to this effort.”

Mr Desmond Tan, who was formerly chief executive of the People’s Association (PA), also left the public service on Monday (June 15). He did not indicate where his next move is, although he told The Straits Times earlier this month that he hopes to continue to serve the community “in other capacities”.

All four senior public servants have featured prominently in virtual discussions with residents and grassroots leaders over the past few months, along with other potential new faces.

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In Ang Mo Kio GRC, Ms Ng joined Jalan Kayu MP Intan Azura Mokhtar for an online meet-the-people session last Thursday.

Mr Yip took part in a meeting with Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon and Silver Generation Ambassadors earlier this month. Dr Koh is MP for the Yio Chu Kang ward, which has been carved out as a single seat under the latest electoral boundary changes.

Mr Desmond Tan has also been highlighted in Facebook posts on grassroots matters by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is anchor minister for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Mr Tan Kiat How was appointed chief executive of IMDA in 2017. Under his leadership, the organisation took steps to build up Singapore’s connectivity infrastructure, such as the rollout of the country’s fourth telco.

It also worked with the Trade and Industry Ministry on the new Digital Economy Partnership Agreement between Singapore, Chile and New Zealand, which was signed last Friday.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran thanked Mr Tan for his work to further Singapore’s digital economy ambitions.

“Domestically, Kiat How has also played a key role in fostering a digitally inclusive society by keeping a close sense of the ground to address people’s concerns with going digital, and enabling workers to seize exciting opportunities in the tech sector, so that all Singaporeans have a part in our digital future,” he wrote.

Before taking up the top post at IMDA, Mr Tan was previously deputy secretary for cyber and technology at the Ministry of Communications and Information, where he worked on Singapore’s national cybersecurity strategy.

He has also worked at the Finance Ministry and Pioneer Generation Office.