SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will step down as leader of the fourth generation People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership team, he said on Thursday (April 8th).
“This year, I am 60,” Heng said, adding that he would be in his 60s when the COVID-19 crisis is over.
“When I also consider the age at which our first three prime ministers took office, I would have too short a track if I then became the next prime minister,” he said at a press conference announcing her decision.
“We need a leader who will not only rebuild Singapore after COVID-19, but also lead the next phase of our nation-building efforts.”
Mr. Heng said, “After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I have decided to step down as 4G team leader (fourth generation), so that a young leader who will have a more track long can take over. “
Along with Mr. Lee and other high-ranking ministers, he will continue to mentor the younger ministers and identify another leader among them, he added.
READ: DPM Heng says he is stepping down as leader in youth 4G with ‘longer trail’ to become future PM
Heng will remain deputy prime minister and minister for economic policy coordination, but will step down as finance minister during the next cabinet reshuffle, which will take place in about two weeks.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he understood and respected Mr. Heng’s decision. The two had discussed and agreed that Mr. Heng would give up his financial portfolio.
“We agreed that the 2021 budget will be a big budget, not an emergency budget like the five in 2020. But a budget to bring Singapore beyond COVID-19,” Lee said.
“I told him it would be good for him to see through the 2021 budget and then he would abandon the finance ministry portfolio to focus on the broader coordination responsibilities. There will be consequential changes in other ministries. , and I plan to announce the reshuffle in about two weeks. “
Mr. Lee also noted Mr. Heng’s “many contributions” during his tenure as Minister of Education and Minister of Finance, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I asked you to take over the financial portfolio in 2015, we both knew you had a tough job. Even before COVID-19 hit, Singapore had reached a crossroads. We have had to overcome fiscal challenges while strengthening social safety nets as well as transforming our economy in the face of global earthquake disruptions, ”Lee wrote in his response letter.
READ: PM Lee thanks DPM Heng Swee Keat for his ‘altruistic decision’ to step down as 4G team leader
“Thank you for your selfless decision to step down. Your actions are now fully in line with the spirit of public service and the sense of duty that motivated you to move forward when I asked you to run for the 2011 election.”
“Having worked with PM, ESM (Minister Emeritus) and MM (Minister Mentor), I know that the high level position places exceptional demands on the incumbent,” Heng said.
“It is in a very different post-COVID-19 world that the demands will be even more demanding. Although I am in good health today, it is in the best interests of the nation, for someone younger to tackle the enormous challenges ahead. “
In response to Mr. Heng’s decision, the PAP 4G team said they have asked Mr. Lee to remain prime minister until a new successor is chosen by the team and is ready to go. take over.
“Addressing Singapore’s urgent immediate challenges and making Singapore emerge stronger from this crisis remains our top priority. Under these circumstances, the 4G team will need more time to select another leader among us,” said they stated in a joint statement.
“This unexpected turn of events is a setback to our succession planning. We recognize Singaporeans will be concerned. We seek your support and understanding as we choose another leader for the team.”
READ: ‘Step back to succession planning’: 4G team to pick new leader as PM Lee
READ: Teo Chee Hean will be Acting Prime Minister in Prime Minister Lee’s absence until 4G team chooses new leader
On whether the general election results influenced his decision, Mr. Heng said, “The performance results of GE2020, especially in the East Coast RCMP, are not the reason why I decided to retire. “
Adding that he was the representative of Tampines for 10 years before moving to the East Coast because it “needed reinforcement”, he said: “I did my best with my team. went during the election period, there were locals who told me that they changed their minds, voted for the PAP, since I was there.
“It’s not for me to judge, it’s for others to judge. My decision is, as I pointed out, that I’m 60 this year, and the COVID situation has disrupted all of our plans.”
Responding to a question about when the next 4G team leader will be chosen, Lee said the succession is a “very, very important and urgent matter.”
“Choosing a leader isn’t just about ranking people and saying who will be the best choice. It’s also really about team building and team development, and developing relationships between members. of the team so that over time, from that balance and that chemistry, you are able to identify who among the people can maximize the performance of the team and ensure that all the pieces work together. ‘fit together and add up more than the sum of its parts. “
This process “takes more than a few months,” but it “shouldn’t take more than two years,” Lee said. The prime minister said he hoped there would be a “clear result” before the next general election.
As to who will be the acting prime minister in his absence, Lee said it would be the senior minister and Minister for National Security Coordination Teo Chee Hean.
“Now that DPM Heng has stepped down as the 4G leader, I am going back to the previous arrangement and will appoint SM Teo Chee Hean as Acting Prime Minister in my absence in the future,” Mr. Lee in response to questions from the media.
“This is the interim arrangement until 4G chooses a new leader from among them.”
FOCUS: The implications of a delayed transition to Singapore’s next generation of leaders
Mr. Lee was 52, Prime Minister Emeritus Goh Chok Tong was 49, and Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was in his 30s when they became Prime Minister. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and Mr. Goh resigned before they turned 70.
In 2012, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he planned to step down by the age of 70 in 2022.
4G leaders, or the youngest political office holders, chose Mr. Heng as their leader – “first among peers” – in early 2018.
Mr. Heng was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in May 2019. He was appointed Minister of Economic Policy Coordination in the cabinet reshuffle following the 2020 general election.
At the time, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the PAP 4G team was “in perfect unity” behind Mr. Heng’s leadership.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. Lee said in July last year he would see Singapore go through the crisis before handing the reins over to the next generation of leaders.
“You have my word: together with my older colleagues like Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as our fourth generation young ministers, I will see this through. I am determined to put Singapore back intact and in good working order, to the next team, ”he said at a PAP online rally for the general election.