Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say broke down 3 times in Parliament

March 7, 2017
Madam Speaker, I'm sorry, he said.

Martino Tan

Let’s recap this extraordinary moment in Parliament on March 6, 2017.

This was the scene when Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say was in the midst of a long speech at the Committee of Supply Debates (page 59 out of 113 in fact)

Some MPs were meditating on Lim’s words:

Source: Gov.sg YouTube video.

While others found solace in cleaning their spectacles:

Source: Gov.sg Youtube video.

Then Lim broke down.

Source: Gov.sg Youtube video.

Lim: “Tough. Madam Speaker, I’m sorry.”

Speaker Halimah, who usually urges MPs to keep their speeches succinct, said: “Take your time, Minister.”
And then Lim broke down again.

Source: Gov.sg Youtube video.
Lim: “Argh…Can someone make me laugh? Okay, thank you very much. Okay, I laughed”.
And again.

Source: Gov.sg Youtube video.

You must be wondering, ‘What happened and why did he break down?’Below is the part of the speech when Lim broke down:

Madam, I wish to emphasise that the key factor determining the success of Adapt & Grow is not just how much money we put in to help our job seekers and employers, but rather it depends on how much our jobseekers are prepared to adapt and grow, and how much our employers are prepared to be fair and inclusive.

(Adapt & grow is an MOM initiative to help Singaporeans — PMETs and RnF — affected by the economic slowdown and restructuring.)Members (of the House) shared some unhappy cases where job seekers did not succeed in finding jobs during the Budget debate.

They asked, what went wrong?

Madam, no matter how hard we try how much passion and commitment we put in, still we are unable to succeed in helping every job seeker to find a job.

For rank-and-file workers, our success rate currently is about 70 percent. For PMET (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians), about 60 percent.One of our unsuccessful RnF cases is Mr A.

He left his job as a logistics assistant due to differences with his boss.

He had specific expectations in his job search: It must be within four bus stops from where he lives, work only from 9am to 5pm.

He demanded that the career coach must arrange at least two job interviews every week for him until he can find a suitable job. He refused our help to improve his resume and interview skills.

With his unrealistic expectations, uncooperative and demanding attitude, we have not been able to help him to secure any job.We have not given up on him, even though he has been uncontactable for six months now.

In contrast, Ms B, 50 years old, is a successful rank-and-file case.

She is a single-income parent supporting two children and an elderly mother. She has a brain tumour, but under control.

She left her previous job as a property consultant and approached our career centre after 10 months of unsuccessful job search.She needs to work near her home and end work at 5pm every day due to family responsibilities.

She wanted to join the healthcare sector. With the advice from her career coach, she took up WSQ Higher Certificate in Healthcare Support.

She has financial problem, so we helped her with her transport cost so that she can attend the course.She missed a few modules when she fell ill, but she still persevered to complete the course.

Because of her determination and willingness to learn and improve herself, today, she is working as a Clinic Assistant.

We do not know why Lim suddenly became so emotional, but he broke down at the moment when he recalled the successful but tragic example of this single-income parent with a brain tumour.

Moral of the story?

Let’s hope that Singaporeans without a job can work hard and adapt to his or her changing circumstances.

Because your efforts can inspire others, and even make a minister cry.

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