BEIJING: Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will take on more political responsibilities when he becomes Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), and this includes playing a greater role in the next General Election, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Apr 29).
Mr Lee also described the latest Cabinet reshuffle as a “natural follow-up” to the leadership adjustments at the People’s Action Party (PAP) last year, and said that he is working to his previously announced timeline of handing over the reins to his successor by the time he turns 70 in 2022.
The Prime Minister was speaking to Singapore reporters after wrapping up a five-day visit to Beijing – his first media interview following last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, which promoted Mr Heng to DPM.
Mr Heng, in an interview on Sunday, said he will support Mr Lee in reviewing Singapore’s longer-term policies on issues, such as ageing population and economic restructuring.
When asked by reporters if Mr Heng will also be taking on a leading role in the next General Election that must be held by early 2021, Mr Lee said: “Yes of course, I think (Heng) Swee Keat understated what he will be doing."
As DPM, Mr Heng will be “carrying more of the political responsibilities”.
“That means setting the agenda. That means pitching the Government’s stance and policies to the public. That means building the younger team and being ready in all respects to take over from me and my older ministers as soon as possible," Mr Lee said.
On the timing of the latest Cabinet adjustments, Mr Lee said it was a “natural follow-up” to the events last year, which included a major reshuffle that saw younger ministers heading two-thirds of Singapore’s ministries.
There was also “further progress” made when Mr Heng emerged as the frontrunner among the fourth-generation ministers and was appointed the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general.
“The younger ministers have all endorsed Swee Keat … so it’s a strong position to be in and as a natural follow-up to have Swee Keat take over as DPM.”
“My preferred timeline is I have this (Cabinet reshuffle) cleared before the General Elections,” added Mr Lee. “Within the next term, by the time I’m 70, I hope to have handed to my successor. I’m working to that timeline.”
Mr Lee left the door open to further adjustments in the Cabinet, though he said that it will unlikely be this year.
“It’s not the final position and we will make further adjustments as we go along,” he said.
“I usually make Cabinet adjustments or reshuffles every year so I don’t think I will change it again by the end of this year. But I think every year is a good schedule.”