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SDP calls narrative that Heng Swee Keat helped Singapore through 2008 global financial crisis a “fairy-tale”

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The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has blasted the ruling People’s Action Party’s new 1st assistant secretary-general Mr Heng Swee Keat in a media statement. Mr Heng, who presently serves as Finance Minister, is widely expected to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as head of Government after the next General Election.

A Singapore Police Force overseas scholar, Mr Heng served in the police force as a police constable from 1991 before climbing the ranks to become assistant commissioner in about six years. He left the SPF in 1997 and served as principal private secretary to then-Senior Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, for the next three years. Mr Lee later described Mr Heng as “the best principal private secretary” he had ever had.

Mr Heng went on to become permanent secretary at the Trade and Industry Ministry in 2001 before joining Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), in 2005. Mr Heng has widely been credited with helping Singapore through the 2008 financial crisis, during the time he served as director of MAS.

Sharply criticising Mr Heng’s contributions in the past, the SDP called the narrative that Heng helped Singapore safely come through the 2008 global financial crisis “a fairy-tale”:

“The idea that Mr Heng helped Singapore’s economy “come through safely” from disaster during the 2008 financial is but a fairy-tale. The GIC and Temasek Holdings were on the brink of losing hundreds of billions of dollars invested in Western banks.
“If the US government had not pumped in enormous amounts of funds through its Troubled Assets Relief Program to bail out the banks, Singapore would have been in a deep crisis of our own.”
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In 2011, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew called Heng the “man who saw Singapore through the financial crisis” and noted that Singapore “recovered faster than other countries” in the 2007-2008 period.

The late elder statesman’s views were echoed by his son, current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said of Heng: “during the global economic crisis… he helped our financial system come through safely — a critical job at a high-pressured time.”

2011 was the same year that Heng, then a top civil servant, left the central bank where he had been serving since 2005, to contest that year’s General Election.

Unlike his fellow fourth-generation (4G) leaders Chan Chun Sing and Tan Chuan-Jin, Mr Heng did not have to serve as Acting Minister. He was made Minister immediately after the 2011 election. Since then, he has led several high-profile committees which is almost unheard of for new political office holders of the PAP Government.

Commenting on Mr Heng’s recent appointment as 1st secretary-general of the ruling party, the SDP asserted: “Judging by what Mr Heng has said and done in the past, it seems that he is more concerned about toeing the party line rather than thinking and acting out of the box for Singapore’s sake.”

The opposition party proceeded to lambaste the actions Mr Heng has taken as Finance Minister, chair of the Committee on the Future Economy and during his tenure as Education Minister and blamed him for raising taxes, not providing “viable economic plans” and not making enough changes to the education system:

“For example, Mr Heng chairs the Committee on the Future Economy which came up with a plan that was widely panned by analysts for mouthing platitudes and resurrecting old ideas that have failed while not offering the country viable economic plans.
“When he was Education Minister, Mr Heng, apart from making inconsequential tweaks here and there, continued with the exam-oriented system that has not taught students to think critically and creatively. Our youth are, therefore, ill-equipped to face a changed and changing global system where ideas and innovation determine a nation’s place in the world.
“As Finance Minister, he went along with a slew of tax hikes and price increases that have made the most expensive city in the world an even costlier one, effectively piling on the financial stress for the average Singaporean.”

Noting that Mr Heng has yet to reveal his plan for Singapore’s future, the opposition party said that the Minister is “on auto-pilot mode” alongside his fellow 4G leaders and said that “nothing has changed” in Singapore since the new leaders are expected to simply follow the “PAP script” that has been laid out for them:

“Mr Heng has not articulated a plan that would take this country to a brighter future. Instead, he has been on auto-pilot mode cruising along with his fellow ministers, bankrupt of ideas but continuing to collect the astronomical salaries that they all feel entitled to.
“No matter who gets chosen to be the next PM, the PAP script has been written and all the next leader will do is to follow it. Nothing has changed – and therein lies the danger for Singapore.
“This is in sharp contrast to the anxiety and frustration that Singaporeans have over the present system. They want a change from the PAP’s politics of greed, exploitation and intimidation. They want a government that allows them to think and express themselves freely, one that inspires and maximises opportunity for them.”

Read the opposition party’s statement in full here:

“Mr Heng Swee Keat’s appointment as the PAP’s 1st Assistant Secretary-General and likely choice as the next Prime Minister has not come as a surprise. He has been mentioned repeatedly as one of the candidates for the PM post.

“The question that Singaporeans are concerned about is not who becomes the next PM but rather what he will do for the country.

“Singapore’s future faces many unprecedented challenges that require bold and visionary leadership. Judging by what Mr Heng has said and done in the past, it seems that he is more concerned about toeing the party line rather than thinking and acting out of the box for Singapore’s sake.

“For example, Mr Heng chairs the Committee on the Future Economy which came up with a plan that was widely panned by analysts for mouthing platitudes and resurrecting old ideas that have failed while not offering the country viable economic plans.

“When he was Education Minister, Mr Heng, apart from making inconsequential tweaks here and there, continued with the exam-oriented system that has not taught students to think critically and creatively. Our youth are, therefore, ill-equipped to face a changed and changing global system where ideas and innovation determine a nation’s place in the world.

“As Finance Minister, he went along with a slew of tax hikes and price increases that have made the most expensive city in the world an even costlier one, effectively piling on the financial stress for the average Singaporean.

“Also, the idea that Mr Heng helped Singapore’s economy “come through safely” from disaster during the 2008 financial is but a fairy-tale. The GIC and Temasek Holdings were on the brink of losing hundreds of billions of dollars invested in Western banks.

“If the US government had not pumped in enormous amounts of funds through its Troubled Assets Relief Program to bail out the banks, Singapore would have been in a deep crisis of our own.

“Mr Heng has not articulated a plan that would take this country to a brighter future. Instead, he has been on auto-pilot mode cruising along with his fellow ministers, bankrupt of ideas but continuing to collect the astronomical salaries that they all feel entitled to.

“No matter who gets chosen to be the next PM, the PAP script has been written and all the next leader will do is to follow it. Nothing has changed – and therein lies the danger for Singapore.

“This is in sharp contrast to the anxiety and frustration that Singaporeans have over the present system. They want a change from the PAP’s politics of greed, exploitation and intimidation. They want a government that allows them to think and express themselves freely, one that inspires and maximises opportunity for them.”

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