SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (April 8th) thanked Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat for his “selfless decision” to step down as the head of the country’s fourth generation of ministers.
This follows Mr. Heng’s letter to Mr. Lee announcing his intention to step down as 4G team leader, to allow a young leader to take over.
Noting the demands of the post-COVID-19 world, Mr Heng said, “Although I am in good health today, it is in the best interest of the nation, for someone younger to take on the huge challenges ahead. ”
Mr. Heng has been an “important member” of his team for 10 years, Mr. Lee said at a press conference Thursday. Mr. Lee, Mr. Heng and other 4G ministers, including Minister of Education Lawrence Wong, Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong, Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung, and Minister of Commerce and ‘Industry Chan Chun Sing were in attendance.
In his letter to Mr. Heng, Mr. Lee said he understood and respected Mr. Heng’s decision. While Heng will continue to remain deputy prime minister and minister responsible for economic policy coordination, he will relinquish his finance portfolio during the next cabinet reshuffle, as previously planned, Lee said.
In addition, Heng will continue to chair the Joint Committee on Bilateral Cooperation with China and lead the Singapore Together movement, Lee said.
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Mr. Heng will also remain as the first deputy general secretary of the People’s Action Party (PAP).
“You have done an exceptional job as Minister of Finance, especially over the past year under the difficult circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lee wrote.
“In the space of twelve months, you delivered five unprecedented budgets that supported Singaporeans and their families, helped businesses survive and protected everyone. In fact, during your five years as Minister of Finance, you presented a record ten budgets.
Mr. Lee acknowledged the “hard work” Mr. Heng took on when he took over as finance minister in 2015.
“Even before COVID-19 hit, Singapore had reached a crossroads. We have had to overcome fiscal challenges while strengthening social safety nets and transforming our economy in the face of global earthquake disruptions. “
Mr. Lee said Mr. Heng did not hesitate to take up the challenge and put “heart and soul” into the task, adding that Mr. Heng’s work with the Future Economy Committee and the Council of the future economy had helped workers acquire new skills and abilities. and “building new industries and sectors for the future”.
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He added that he looked forward to Mr. Heng continuing this work as the minister responsible for the coordination of economic policies.
“It fits with your role as president of the National Research Foundation, where, under your leadership, we make steady progress in research, innovation and business development.”
Mr. Heng and the prime minister discussed Mr. Heng’s relinquishment of the finance portfolio last year, when drawing up cabinet appointments after the general election, Lee said at the press conference. .
“We agreed that the 2021 budget would be a big budget, not an emergency budget like the five in 2020, but the budget to bring Singapore beyond COVID-19,” he said.
“I told him it would be good for them to see through the 2021 budget and then he would drop the MOF (Ministry of Finance) portfolio to focus on the broader coordination responsibilities.”
There will be back-to-back changes in other departments, and he will announce the reshuffle in about two weeks, Lee said.
MR HENG TO MENT YOUNGEST MINISTERS
Mr. Lee also noted in his letter the five years Mr. Heng spent at the Ministry of Education, before serving as Minister of Finance.
“There, your inclusive vision of excellence in every school inspired teachers and students,” he said.
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Heng had proposed increasing government-funded university education to 40% of each cohort, which paved the way for the establishment of two new universities, Lee said. These are the Singapore Institute of Technology and the Singapore University of Social Sciences.
Mr. Lee also noted how Mr. Heng broadened the definition of success, which led to the national SkillsFuture program, and emphasized the development of the character and values of young people.
“The result is an education system that not only prepares our young people for good jobs, but also nurtures honest citizens who are open to the public,” he said.
Mr. Heng’s withdrawal as 4G leader is “fully in line with the spirit of public service and the sense of duty” that motivated him to run when he was asked to run for office in the elections. 2011, said the Prime Minister.
“Together with the Senior Ministers, you will help me mentor the younger ministers as the team grows and identifies another leader among them, in order to make a smooth and timely leadership transition.
“By working closely together, we will guide Singapore safely through this health and economic crisis, and secure our future for many years to come.”
Citing the 4G team’s statement that this is a “significant setback” for succession plans, Mr Lee told the press conference that he had agreed to stay until he left. ‘a new leader is chosen and ready to take over.
“I think it will take more than a few months, but I hope that (the 4G leaders) can reach a consensus and identify a new leader before the next general election. I have no intention of staying any longer. than necessary, ”he said. .