Singapore— Shortly before Heng Swee Keat assumes the position as the country’s Deputy Prime Minister on May 1, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told members of the Singapore press that Mr Heng will be assuming more political responsibilities in this new position.
“He is not just a minister, but also carrying more of the political responsibilities. And that means setting the agenda, pitching the Government’s stance and policies to the public, building the younger team, and being ready in all respects to take over from me and my older ministers as soon as possible.”
Additionally, PM Lee told journalists that Mr Heng will be taking a crucial leading role during the campaign period for the next general election.
At the end of a 5-day visit to China, PM Lee also indicated to members of the media that more changes in the Cabinet this year are not likely to happen.
“I usually make Cabinet adjustments or reshuffles every year so I don’t think I will change it again by the end of this year. But I think every year is a good schedule.”
Whereas the country has previously had two Deputy Prime Ministers—Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam—from May 1 onwards Mr Heng will be the sole DPM. Messrs Teo and Tharman will now serve as Senior Ministers in the Cabinet.
But TODAY reports that PM Lee did not close the door on Singapore having another DPM, though he called the changes in his Cabinet, a “natural progression from the party leadership adjustments last year”.
In November, Mr Heng was appointed First Assistant Secretary-General of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), which makes him PM Lee’s heir presumptive.
Concerning the number of Deputy Prime Ministers, PM Lee had this to say, “Sometimes we’ve had two, sometimes we’ve had one. Most of the time, we’ve had two. Right now, we have one. But it’s not the final position and we will make further adjustments as we go along.”
The Prime Minister also said that Mr Heng had actually “understated” what his new position would entail in a recent grassroots event at Tampines Group Representation Constituency, telling the press that his role as DPM would be to support PM Lee with the countries longer-term policies as it moves forward to the next decade.
On Sunday, April 28, Mr Heng, who has retained his position as the country’s Finance Minister as well as assuming the role of Deputy Prime Minister from May 1 onwards, told reporters, “A very important part of it is to support the Prime Minister in strengthening our relations with major partners around the world. As you know I’ve just been back from the United States. I just spent a week in Thailand and Malaysia.
I’ll be going to China next month, as well as Japan. So there’s a whole range of visits I’m doing to build good relations with our neighbours to strengthen our partnership to take Singapore forward.”
However, PM Lee said on Monday, April 29, “I think Swee Keat understated what he will be doing.”
He added, “The younger ministers have all endorsed Swee Keat … so it’s a strong position to be in and as a natural follow-up to have Swee Keat take over as DPM.
My preferred timeline is I have this cleared before the General Elections. Within the next term, by the time I’m 70, I hope to have handed to my successor. I’m working to that timeline.”/TISG
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