Unless you have been leaving under a rock, you would have heard that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat would most likely succeed Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong as the next PM if the PAP wins the next General Elections.
In a press conference on 23 Nov 2018, the People’s Action Party (PAP) revealed the breakdown of the office-holders for its top decision-making body and Minister Heng was picked as first assistant secretary-general of PAP. This means that Minister Heng is most likely candidate for the PM post. We have been wondering about PM Lee’s successor ever since the last general election and we are glad that speculations can be put to rest (at least for now). Time to see how he is like and how our future may be like.
Before we start, here are some quick facts about Minister Heng:
- Age: 57
- Birth date: 1 November 1961
- Marital Status: Married with a son and a daughter, both in their 20s.
- Year he joined politics: 2011 (Tampines GRC)
1) Praised by the Late Mr Lee Kwan Yew
Minister Heng served under the late Mr Lee Kwan Yew as his Principal Private Secretary (PPS) in 1997 and was described as “best principal private secretary” Mr Lee had ever had. That is not all, Mr Lee also described Minister Heng as the “man who saw Singapore through the financial crisis” of 2007 and 2008, and the country “recovered faster than other countries”.
Their close bond and mutual respect for each other could be seen in Minister Heng’s touching eulogy of Mr Lee on his Facebook page. With such high accolades and praises from Singapore’s most beloved leader, we are confident that Minister Heng would be able to step up into his new role.
2) Impressive Credentials
Apart from glowing reviews from the late Mr Lee, Minister Heng also have impressive education and work credentials to show that he is the best man for the position. He studied at both Cambridge and Harvard University – two of the most prestigious universities in the world! He completed his Economics degree from Cambridge University in 1983 and attained a Masters of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1993.
Minister Heng has also an equally illustrious career, even before entering politics in 2011:
- 1995: Director of Higher Education, Ministry of Education
- 1997: Principal Private Secretary to then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew
- 2001: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry
- 2005: Managing director, Monetary Authority of Singapore
- 2011: Minister for Education
- 2015: Minister for Finance
In 2011, Minister Heng was named the ‘APAC’s Central Bank Governor of the Year’ by British magazine, The Banker.
After entering politics, Minister Heng left his mark at MOE by abolishing school rankings and emphasising more pathways to success, especially at the polytechnic and ITE level. (Remember ‘every school is a good school’?) At MOF, he chaired the Committee for the Future Economy, which was in-charge of laying out a road-map to keep Singapore competitive.
3) Served in the Singapore Police Force
Interestingly, Minister Heng is also one of the few Minister who have served in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) instead of the Singapore Armed Forces. In 1983, he began his career in SPF where he was awarded the prestigious SPF Overseas Scholarship. After returning from his studies, he rose quickly from the rank of a constable to Assistant Commissioner of the Police. One of his first jobs in SPF was to implement the Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP) system, with aim of getting police officers closer to the community and get residents’ help to prevent and solve crimes. This created a paradigm shift of instilling ownership and getting the public to help prevent and solve crime, which have set the foundation of many SPF initiatives we see today. Impressive right?
4) Immense Dedication to his Work
In May 2016, Minister Heng shocked Singaporeans when he had a brain aneurysm during a Cabinet meeting. But when he came out of a coma six days after his stroke, the first words he scribbled on paper were: “Is there a Cabinet meeting today? Where are the papers?”
His dedication to his work touched Singaporeans and many well-wishes poured in. Minister Heng recovered after spending 6 weeks in Tan Tock Seng hospital and promptly resumed his duties as Finance Minister. In response to questions about his health, Minister Heng reassured that his health is “better than before”.
From a kampong boy to a prime candidate for the next PM, Minister Heng is proof of Singapore’s meritocracy and whom I believe will take Singapore to greater heights. What about you? Are you convinced that he is suitable to be our next PM? Or do you think that Minister Chan Chun Sing is a better candidate? We shall wait and see as nothing is set in stone till after the next general elections!