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Laughter, then tears, as former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say gets farewell

SINGAPORE — For his 21 years of public service, former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say will be remembered as a firm leader who never held back on praise, and was quick to recognise the efforts of others, said Mrs Josephine Teo on her predecessor.

Laughter, then tears, as former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say gets farewell

Mr Lim Swee Say, who was visibly moved to tears by the tributes and gifts, was known during his 21-year career for being a problem solver, as well as for his passion for tripartism, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

SINGAPORE — For his 21 years of public service, former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say will be remembered as a firm leader who never held back on praise, and was quick to recognise the efforts of others, said Mrs Josephine Teo on her predecessor.

Manpower Minister Teo, who took over the role from Mr Lim after he stepped down on Labour Day as part of the Cabinet reshuffle, paid tribute to her former boss at the ministry’s annual workplan seminar on Monday (May 28).

Mrs Teo noted the 63-year-old’s ability to distill ideas to their essence, and communicate them in a “catchy way”. “When you get a leader like brother Swee Say… you wish he will stay on for much longer,” she said.

As a show of appreciation, employees from the various ministries Mr Lim worked with also presented him with gifts, which included a cartoon illustration of Mr Lim, a figurine made in his likeness, and even a faux employment pass.

Mr Lim, who was visibly moved to tears by the tributes and gifts, was known during his 21-year career for being a problem solver, as well as for his passion for tripartism, added Mrs Teo. Tripartism is the collaboration between the unions, employers, and the Government.

Since his election as an Member of Parliament (MP) of the Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in 1997, Mr Lim had served in various ministerial positions, including as Environment Minister, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

In 2007, he was appointed secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). After eight years in that role, he left the labour movement and took office as Manpower Minister.

At the Manpower Ministry, Mr Lim — who is also MP for East Coast GRC — oversaw the launch of the Government's Adapt and Grow initiative to support jobseekers during a period of rising retrenchments and unemployment.

Under this, schemes such as the Career Support Programme were introduced which saw the Government footing part of the wage bill of employers who hire and train retrenched mid-level employees.

Mrs Teo also acknowledged Mr Lim’s wife, Mrs Elaine Lim, in her tribute on Monday as she called her the “single most important part” in her husband’s life. The couple have two children, and Elaine gave up her career as a software engineer and computer sales manager in 1991 to take care of her family.

“It's hard for some people to imagine what it's like to be the spouse of a person in public life,” said Mrs Teo.

Mr Lim had previously told TODAY that he would like to spend more time with his family and his residents in Bedok — where he is also a grassroots adviser — after retirement.

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