SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has said he is stepping down as 4G team leader for someone younger with a “longer trail” to become the next prime minister.
He informed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of his decision in a letter on Thursday, April 8, saying it was taken after “careful deliberation and discussion” with his family. Mr. Lee accepted his decision.
Mr. Heng turns 60 in November.
He has agreed to remain deputy prime minister and minister for economic policy coordination, but will step down as finance minister during the next cabinet reshuffle in two weeks, Lee said.
READ: DPM Heng Swee Keat steps down as PAP 4G team leader, PM Lee accepts decision
Mr Heng was appointed the People’s Action Party (PAP) first deputy general secretary in November 2018, a post which indicates he is the frontrunner to be Singapore’s next prime minister.
“I have decided to step down as head of the 4G team, so that a young leader who has a longer track can take over,” he wrote in the letter to Mr. Lee.
“Although I am in good health today, it is in the best interest of the nation, for someone younger to take on the enormous challenges ahead.”
Citing the protracted COVID-19 pandemic, Heng said it would be close to the mid-1960s when the crisis is over.
“The 60s are always a very productive time of life. But if I also consider the age at which our three prime ministers took up this post, I would have too short a track if I then became the next prime minister, ”he added.
“We need a leader who will not only rebuild Singapore after COVID-19, but also lead the next phase of our nation-building effort.”
READ: PM Lee thanks DPM Heng Swee Keat for his ‘altruistic decision’ to step down as 4G team leader
Mr. Lee became Prime Minister in 2004 at the age of 52, while former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong assumed the post in 1990 at the age of 49.
Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was 35 when he took office.
Mr Heng said the next prime minister should have a “long enough track” to harness the demands of Singapore’s leaders, formulate and develop longer-term strategies for the country, and gain Singaporeans’ confidence and support for it. to build a common future together.
“This long-term orientation of successive PAP governments and the support of our people has been essential to Singapore’s success,” he said in the letter.
Having worked with Mr. Lee as well as the two former prime ministers, Mr. Heng said he knew that “the high-level position places exceptional demands on the incumbent.”
“In a very different post-COVID-19 world, the demands will be even more demanding,” he added.
Mr Heng said the top priority of the 4G team was to deal with the immediate crisis and ensure the safety of the people of Singapore, while thanking Mr Lee for his commitment to remain as Prime Minister until ‘at the end of the crisis.
It will be up to the 4G team to choose their next leader, he said, adding that he stood ready to support this person, stressing that the pandemic was a “real turning point”.
READ: ‘Step back to succession planning’: 4G team to pick new leader as PM Lee
Speaking at a press conference, Heng said he started thinking about the issue of succession when he was appointed head of 4G in 2018.
“I don’t want to take any job that I can’t offer,” he said.
“As those of you who have worked with me know, I am a workaholic and I put my heart and soul into what I do. And therefore, I thought about it to see if I am there. good person?”
Mr Heng also said his team’s performance in the 2020 general election, when he led the PAP team at East Coast GRC, was not the reason he was stepping down.
The PAP retained the challenge of the Workers’ Party, winning 53.41 percent of the vote.
“I have been an MP for Tampines for 10 years and have worked very well with the team and established a certain rapport with the locals,” Heng said.
“But when the East Coast needed reinforcement, I decided to go there. It’s completely new terrain for me and I did my best with my team.”
Nonetheless, he said in his letter to the Prime Minister that he appreciated the support of Singaporeans and had made up his mind. “with the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart”.
“I will continue to do my best, to support you, Cabinet colleagues and the party, so that we can continue to improve the lives of Singaporeans and come out stronger after COVID-19.”