Mr Wong’s success as Finance Minister will affect not only the succession plan of the ruling People’s Action Party but indeed, Singapore’s economic wellbeing.
In the article, writer Luca Ventura acknowledged that “Singaporean politics was rocked when Heng Swee Keat” stepped down from being the standard-bearer of the fourth generation of PAP leaders earlier this year.
Interestingly, he noted that DPM Heng’s announcement to bow out of contention to succeed PM Lee came “following Lee’s poor showing in the 2020 general election”.
However, the writer also noted that the PAP’s succession plan had been crafted “long in advance” and that Mr Wong, “the former second minister of finance—and the public face of Singapore’s largely successful Covid-19 response”, was “quickly” brought in as the new Minister of Finance.
But whether or not Mr Wong is in line to be the next Prime Minister is “not clear,” Mr Ventura added, since “the party is determined to avoid another embarrassment”.
He also quoted Meredith Weiss, professor and chair of political science at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy of the State University of New York at Albany, who said that it would be premature “at this point…to read too much into Lawrence Wong’s appointment as finance minister”.
Prof Weiss added, “While he is succeeding the previous heir apparent to the prime ministry in that role, this reshuffle could prove only just that: a reshuffle.”
Moreover, she is also quoted as saying that Mr Wong’s profile and experience is indistinguishable from that of Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who are the other 4G leaders “most often touted as a potential prime minister”.
Messrs Chan and Ong “retain important portfolios and remain in contention for the top job,” she added.
But Mr Wong’s capabilities will certainly be tested in his capacity as Finance Minister, as he steers Singapore towards a year of positive growth amid the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases.
His “overwhelming priority”, as well as the Government’s, will be to overcome the pandemic and mitigate its economic fallout.
“Should the containment measures recently reactivated do the trick and vaccine rollout continue apace, the government stands not only to achieve economic-recovery targets, but also to burnish the now rather tarnished trust in Singapore’s political leadership,” Prof Weiss said.
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