Singapore—As talk of the upcoming General Election has heated up due to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement on Wednesday, September 4, that the Electoral Boundaries Committee has officially been convened, extra attention is now being paid to the designated heir apparent, who was the focus of an article from Reuters, which characterizes Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s current Deputy Prime Minister and most likely its next leader, as ‘cut from the same cloth as the Lee family.’
The Reuters article, which was also published in the Malay Mail, Free Malaysia Today, Malaysiakini, China Daily, New Sarawak Tribune and other news outfits, emphasizes how analysts perceive that Mr Heng, who is also the current Finance Minister, will provide continuity for the country.
The article begins by mentioning that Mr Heng is “mild-mannered, studious and seen as ‘cut from the same cloth’ as his predecessors,” but has a momentous task ahead of him, especially in terms of the country’s economy.
Analysts are saying that Singapore’s next General Election will most likely occur six months after next February when DPM Heng announces the national budget. Under the law, the next election must be held before April 2021.
And while in one sense Mr Heng’s leadership would be a “break from the past” in that he is not Lee, since the Lee family has been in leadership for 40 out of the 54 years since Singapore’s independence in 1965.
And whether or not PM Lee will completely step down from the political arena or he’ll continue on as a senior minister remains to be seen.
The Reuters article quotes Singapore Management University law professor as saying about Mr Heng, “He is cut from the same cloth and provides change amid continuity.
Voters are likely to find Mr Heng amiable.”
Analysts believe that he will be the kind of leader that the country is accustomed to—that he will keep a sharp eye on the economy and investments while maintaining a cautious and impartial demeanour on global issues such as US-China trade tensions.
The issues that will face him, however, should not be taken lightly, such as the challenges of a swiftly ageing society, increasing protectionism, and the shifting the focus of the economy according to technology, and no longer on trade.Professor Tan said, “A key challenge is to studiously ensure that (leaders) don’t fall into the seductive trap of group-think and that they are always ready to go beyond tried-and-tested methods.”
Mr Heng, who helmed the country’s central bank from 2005 to 2011, is seen as responsible for steering the way through past global financial crises. Like Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, as well as the current PM Lee, Mr Heng also went to Cambridge University, and in addition, obtained his master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.
A longtime observer of Singapore’s politics, Garry Rodan, a professor at Australia’s Murdoch University, is also quoted by Reuters.
“Heng has sought to promote consultative authoritarianism as an alternative to oppositional politics to resolve conflicts.
Clearly the PAP hopes he can calm the waters in challenging times.”