Singapore – Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat gave everyone a glimpse of his daily life in the recent episode of Be My Guest and shared how the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the most significant influence on his life.
The episode aired on Channel 8, on Sunday (Mar 8) and was hosted by news anchor Tung Soo Hua. It provided an inside look at the diverse lifestyle and hectic schedule that Minister Heng has. The two met at Our Tampines Hub, but before Mr Heng could reach Ms Tung, he was stopped by residents who wanted to chat and take a photo with him. The minister gladly obliged.
Their itinerary consisted of numerous events that took place last November and December 2019, such as a visit to Tampines Central Park, the Arcadia Residents’ Committee (RC), and a peek at the dialogue session among ministers, DPM Heng and business representatives which gathered opinions for the Budget 2020.
Having experienced a day in the shoes of the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Tung said that it “requires a great deal of stamina and endurance” to attend community events. “He remembers the names of many residents as well as their family situations,” she recalled.
From civil servant to politics
Transitioning from a senior civil servant to an elected representative was a big change for Mr Heng. Before he was a Member of Parliament, Mr Heng focused on policies and had more time to work on policy issues. When he entered politics, “there’s a lot of work to be done,” shared Mr Heng. “As a minister, we spend most of the time interacting with people, so that we can better understand what they aspire to and what they need.”
Learnings from the three Prime Ministers he served under
Mr Heng served as the Principal Private Secretary of the founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew from 1997 to early 2000. He worked with former PM Goh Chok Tong as managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) from 2005 to 2011 before becoming the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance under the current PM, Lee Hsien Loong.
“What have you learned from the three PMs?” asked MS Hung.
“The most important takeaway from them is their lifelong contributions to the country,” replied Mr Heng. “They’re always paying close attention to the happenings in Singapore, however minor or major,” he added before going into detail at the various learnings he acquired from each prime minister.
Lee Kwan Yew had the biggest influence on Mr Heng
When he was the Principal Private Secretary of the late Mr Lee, Mr Heng often got to read the drafts of Mr Lee’s memoirs before they were printed. “Through that, I learned how Singapore had gained its independence. It was an arduous journey,” Mr Heng recalled. “I learned that Singapore’s progress and development had been hard-fought.”
He met with many foreign leaders while accompanying Mr Lee and learned how to handle bilateral relationships through their trips to the US and China. “I was very fortunate to be able to attend most of his meetings with him. We’d often have another round of discussions after the meetings, during which he’d ask me my opinions.” Mr Lee would also explain the rationale behind the things he’d said, added Mr Heng.
“He was 70 years old then, but he was still dedicating his every waking moment to ponder over Singapore’s future and national interests.” Mr Heng agreed that his leadership style and stance on national concerns were primarily influenced by Mr Lee.
Watch the episode here.