Cabinet reshuffle April 2019: Heng Swee Keat to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister; DPMs Teo Chee Hean and Tharman to become Senior Ministers
Finance Minister's standing as Singapore's next PM cemented in Cabinet reshuffle
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2019

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will be promoted to Deputy Prime Minister from May 1, in a move that cements his standing as Singapore's next prime minister.

Meanwhile, both existing Deputy Prime Ministers will relinquish their appointments, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced yesterday.

As part of the ongoing process of leadership transition, Mr Teo Chee Hean, 64, and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 62, will become Senior Ministers and remain in Cabinet.

All three will continue to carry out many of their current responsibilities. Mr Heng, 57, will stay on as Finance Minister and continue chairing the Future Economy Council and National Research Foundation. He will also be appointed Acting Prime Minister in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's absence.

Mr Teo will continue to be Coordinating Minister for National Security, while Mr Tharman - who is now Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies - will be redesignated as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies. He will still advise the Prime Minister on economic policies, said the PMO.

Yesterday, sovereign wealth fund GIC also announced that Mr Tharman, who is now a GIC director, will be appointed deputy chairman from next Wednesday. He will assist PM Lee, who is GIC chairman, to lead the board in overseeing GIC's long-term asset allocation and portfolio performance, it said. Mr Tharman is also chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

PM Lee, 67, said the changes are part of the ongoing process of leadership renewal.

"The next-generation leadership is taking shape, and progressively taking over from me and my older colleagues. The team is working closely together, building up public trust and confidence in their leadership," he said in a Facebook post.

"I ask all Singaporeans to support them, and work together to secure a bright future for Singapore." In a separate post, Mr Heng said that he was honoured by PM Lee's trust, and grateful for the older ministers staying on "to share their wisdom". Mr Heng was set to be appointed Deputy PM in this year's Cabinet reshuffle, after he was picked by his peers to be their leader late last year, and appointed first assistant secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party last November.

Yesterday's changes come a year after a major reshuffle last April, which saw younger ministers taking on heavier responsibilities as 10 out of 16 ministries were helmed by fourth-generation (4G) ministers.

At that time, four backbenchers became office-holders to bolster the front bench, as three veteran ministers retired from Cabinet: Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Mr Lim Swee Say and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

Yesterday, Mr Teo said of the reshuffle: "This is the Singapore way of ensuring smooth leadership transition, continuity and stability. Senior leaders make way in good time for the next generation, share their experience and help the next generation of leaders to succeed."

Mr Tharman said: "Swee Keat is the best person to move up to become DPM and take over as PM during the next term of government. He has exceptional ability, mettle and the confidence of the 4G team."

Both DPMs said they hoped to continue serving their residents after the next general election.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who Mr Heng had picked last November as his deputy, said: "As one team, we will continue to work closely together to take Singapore forward and to serve all Singaporeans."

The Cabinet has traditionally had two deputy PMs since the 1980s, with the exception of a short period in the 1990s when PM Lee was the only DPM on board.

Observers said the latest move sends a clearer signal - at home and abroad - about the next PM.

"The way I read it, the focus of this reshuffle is on the DPM," said political analyst and former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin. "He will definitely be the person who's going to take over from the PM... It's very clear who the man in charge is."

Cabinet reshuffle: Heng Swee Keat looks forward to strengthening partnerships
He vows to do his best to fulfil duties, together with colleagues
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2019

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's packed schedule is set to get busier, once he becomes Deputy Prime Minister next Wednesday.

This month, he was in Chiang Rai, Thailand, for the Asean Finance Ministers' Meeting on April 4 and 5, and in Putrajaya for the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat on April 9. From April 10 to 20, he was in Washington for the Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting and the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and in the San Francisco Bay Area for two tech forums, among other events.

In between, he had community engagements lined up.

For Mr Heng, these meetings are about strengthening partnerships - which he indicated will remain a key focus in his new post.

Shortly after his promotion was announced yesterday, he reiterated the importance of such cooperation in a Facebook post.

Mr Heng said he was honoured by the trust Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong placed in him, and vowed to do his best, together with his colleagues, to fulfil their responsibility to Singapore and Singaporeans.

"We look forward to partnering with all Singaporeans for Singapore, and to strengthening our relations with our partners in Asean and around the world," he said.

Partnership - including engaging with views from the public - has been a key theme for him since he helmed a national conversation as education minister from 2011, before moving to the Finance Ministry in 2015. He will remain Finance Minister.

"We have a strong and united team in place - not only in the Cabinet but as a whole Singapore society," Mr Heng said on Facebook.

"In my time in public service, I have gained and learnt much from partners from all parts of industry and society. I am also constantly inspired and encouraged by my residents in Tampines and, of course, by Singaporeans here and abroad."

He added that he was glad both Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam will stay on as Senior Ministers to share their wisdom.

Mr Heng had been tipped as the next deputy prime minister since he was picked by his peers as the first assistant secretary-general of the People's Action Party (PAP) last November. Both PM Lee and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong were deputy PMs before they held the top post.

Mr Heng won a Singapore Police Force scholarship in 1980 to study economics at England's Cambridge University. He was a police officer on his return, before moving to the Administrative Service in 1995.

Between 1997 and 2000, he was principal private secretary to then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who called him "the best principal private secretary I ever had".

Mr Heng joined politics in 2011, contesting in Tampines GRC during an election which the PAP won with its lowest vote share since independence. Shortly after, he was made education minister, where he worked to downplay the focus on grades and emphasise intangibles like character building.

In 2015, he succeeded Mr Tharman as Finance Minister. In May 2016, Mr Heng suffered a stroke at a Cabinet meeting, but his doctors later gave him a clean bill of health. Last year, he told reporters he would not have assumed leadership of the PAP's fourth-generation team if he was not confident of his health.

Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit said Singapore is well known abroad, and Mr Heng has to be more prominent as its next face. "Mr Heng, as the incoming PM, will need to make an impact internationally," he said. He noted Mr Heng has met many business leaders in China and the US.

Political analyst Mustafa Izzuddin said of Mr Heng: "He can show the style of leadership we can expect when he becomes prime minister, and he'll carve his own imprint in time to come," he said.

Additional reporting by Rachel Au-Yong

Latest Cabinet reshuffle sends a clear signal, and reflects the Singapore way
By Royston Sim, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2019

Yesterday's Cabinet reshuffle saw few changes, but it was a significant milestone in Singapore's leadership renewal.

There was only one promotion - Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will become Deputy Prime Minister from May 1, while retaining his finance portfolio and other key appointments like chairing the National Research Foundation.

Current DPMs Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be appointed Senior Ministers, and stay in Cabinet.

Mr Heng had been set to become DPM in the latest reshuffle after he was picked as first assistant secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party and leader of its fourth-generation team last November.

Appointing Mr Heng as the sole deputy to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is another step in that direction and a clear signal he will become the country's next leader.

Singapore used to have only one DPM till 1980, when Mr Goh Keng Swee was founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's deputy.

Mr S. Rajaratnam was appointed second deputy prime minister in June that year, alongside Mr Goh.

Since then, there have been two DPMs in Cabinet apart from a two-year stretch from September 1993, when former DPM Ong Teng Cheong became president.

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam returned to Cabinet in August 1995 and was appointed DPM alongside then DPM Lee Hsien Loong.

Reverting to one DPM removes any ambiguity about Mr Heng's leadership position in Cabinet.

The announcement that Mr Heng will also be Acting Prime Minister when the Prime Minister is away reinforces his standing as PM Lee's No. 2.

Mr Teo described the changes as "the Singapore way of ensuring smooth leadership transition", with senior leaders making way for the next generation and sharing their experience to help the younger leaders succeed.

As Mr Tharman said, the PAP's no-surprise style of renewing its leadership "may be unexciting and predictable, but it works for Singapore".

Mr Teo will continue as Coordinating Minister for National Security, while Mr Tharman will be redesignated Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, and has been appointed deputy chairman of Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC.

Retaining the two men in Cabinet shows that both still have key roles to play in supporting and guiding the 4G leaders as they take over from the third-generation team.

It also continues the tradition of having senior ministers to ensure continuity and allow the younger ministers to tap their experience.

There have been four senior ministers to date - former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, and former deputy prime ministers S. Rajaratnam and S. Jayakumar.

Professor Jayakumar and Mr Goh retired from the Cabinet in 2011, with Mr Goh given the honorary title of Emeritus Senior Minister.

Both Mr Teo and Mr Tharman are poised to continue contributing for some time yet.

Mr Teo has signalled that he will contest the next general election, saying he hopes he will continue to have the support of Pasir Ris-Punggol residents to continue as their MP. Mr Tharman hinted likewise, saying he looks forward to serving his constituents in Jurong "in the years to come".

Yesterday's reshuffle comes about one year after the previous one, which saw extensive changes involving all ministries but one.

One possible reason there were no other changes to Cabinet is that various office-holders, like Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, have been in their ministries only for a relatively short duration. It would thus be too soon for them to take on new portfolios.

No changes were expected in the Foreign and Transport ministries, as Ministers Vivian Balakrishnan and Khaw Boon Wan are handling ongoing and delicate discussions with their Malaysian counterparts over maritime boundaries and airspace respectively.

There was speculation that some senior ministers of state may be promoted to full ministers. That none has moved up suggests that PM Lee wants to test them further in their current roles. Keeping the Cabinet changes to a minimum also keeps the focus squarely on Mr Heng's promotion to DPM.

With the latest Cabinet reshuffle probably the last one in the Government's current term, this should be the Cabinet line-up that will enter the next election, which must be held by April 2021.

Thereafter, Mr Heng could well start playing a role in picking the next Cabinet.

Support in Cabinet for new leaders, says Teo Chee Hean
Senior leaders will help next generation of leaders to succeed, says outgoing DPM
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2019

Relinquishing his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) while continuing in Cabinet to support the new generation of leaders is the "Singapore way of ensuring smooth leadership transition, continuity and stability", DPM Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

"Senior leaders make way in good time for the next generation, share their experience and help the next generation of leaders to succeed," added Mr Teo, 64, in a statement on the upcoming Cabinet changes.

He also said Mr Heng Swee Keat's promotion to DPM is "another important step in our leadership renewal".

From May 1, Mr Heng will be DPM while remaining as Finance Minister. He will continue to chair the Future Economy Council and National Research Foundation.

DPM Teo and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam will relinquish their appointments as DPMs and become Senior Ministers.

DPM Teo will continue as Coordinating Minister for National Security, an appointment he has held since May 2011. In his statement, DPM Teo said he will continue in Cabinet to support PM Lee Hsien Loong and DPM Heng in whatever way he can as well as work with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and other young leaders for the security, safety and success of Singapore.

He congratulated and wished Mr Heng the very best and thanked PM Lee and his colleagues for their support in the 10 years he said he had the privilege of serving as DPM. He was appointed DPM on April 1, 2009.

DPM Teo will continue to oversee the Prime Minister's Office Strategy Group, including the National Population and Talent Division and the National Climate Change Secretariat.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Teo Ser Luck , 50, who was part of the Singapore delegation led by DPM Teo to China in 2012 and 2014, recalls DPM Teo as a good mentor who made himself available to everyone, and shared his opinions and perspectives.

DPM Teo has built up a rapport with the Chinese leaders over the years, said Mr Teo Ser Luck. "He comes across as a respectable statesman in the way he delivers his message to them."

DPM Teo also has a good sense of humour and puts people at ease with his friendly demeanour, he added.

Mr Zainal Sapari, an MP in the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said: "In my interactions with DPM Teo, he has shown to be very experienced and has institutional knowledge."

A former Chief of Navy, DPM Teo became an MP in 1992 after a by-election in Marine Parade GRC. He has been re-elected five times in the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

He has also held a range of portfolios, including Home Affairs, Defence and Education, as well as being the Minister in charge of the Civil Service until 2018.

In his statement yesterday, DPM Teo said he will run in the next general election, saying he hopes to continue to have the support of the Pasir Ris-Punggol residents to continue as their MP.

He helms the six-MP GRC and Mr Zainal said: "Over the years, he has developed a warm rapport with the residents. They are very comfortable with him, despite him being DPM."

Heng Swee Keat is best man to be next PM, says Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Outgoing DPM says Heng Swee Keat has exceptional ability and support of his peers
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2019

With his exceptional ability and the support of his peers, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is the best person to assume the post of Deputy Prime Minister and take over as Prime Minister in the next term of government, said Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

In a Facebook post shortly after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the latest Cabinet reshuffle, the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister described the changes as a major step in leadership succession and a plus for Singapore's future. A sudden change was avoided while ensuring there was renewal along with the changing times, he added.

Mr Tharman and Mr Teo Chee Hean will relinquish their posts as DPMs and assume the mantle of Senior Ministers.

Mr Tharman, who has been Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies since 2015, will be redesignated as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.

He will continue to advise the Prime Minister on economic policies. He has also been appointed deputy chairman of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, where he is currently a board member.

Mr Teo will remain as Coordinating Minister for National Security.

Commenting on the changes, Mr Tharman said: "It may be unexciting and predictable, but it works for Singapore. We will have a strong crew in Cabinet, with PM Lee at the helm, Teo Chee Hean and myself staying engaged as Senior Ministers and, together with our other senior colleagues, providing support to the 4G team as it takes over.

"We each have our strengths and individual characters, but none of us is perfect. Our system of political renewal in Government only succeeds if we complement each other and play as a team, work with Singaporeans and never let success get to our heads or assume that all that worked in the past will work in the future. It is how the Singapore story keeps going."

Mr Tharman also had advice for the next generation of leaders.

With Singaporeans' views and aspirations changing, things will be quite different 10 years from now, and the 4G leadership will have to "carve their own way as leaders, individually and as a team, and progressively leave their own imprint", he said, pledging to help them in every way he can in Government.

"Our 4G leadership will have to keep their ears close to the ground, stay open to new ideas and initiatives, and keep evolving our strategies to keep our society inclusive and vibrant. So that they retain the trust of Singaporeans and lead the country with confidence," he said.

Mr Tharman, who helms Jurong GRC and was first elected in 2001, also said he looked forward to "continuing to serve my constituents in Jurong in the years to come".

Social and Family Development Minister and fellow Jurong GRC MP Desmond Lee said Mr Tharman's focus in Jurong has been on caring for people and working to improve their lives, adding: "We look forward to his continued mentorship."

Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit said it was good to have Mr Tharman remain as an adviser and looking after Singapore's reserves at GIC.

"Economic policy in Singapore is very strong and social policies here need to be carefully crafted, particularly in this situation where inequality is a growing concern," he said, adding that Mr Tharman's presence was reassuring.

Cabinet reshuffle: Strong message on who will be in charge next, say observers
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2019

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has sent a clear message that Mr Heng Swee Keat is the next leader of Singapore by appointing him as the sole Deputy Prime Minister in the latest Cabinet reshuffle yesterday, observers said.

"It's a strong signal to the international community that Mr Heng is next in charge," said Mr Ho Meng Kit, chief executive of the Singapore Business Federation, adding that the move would make for a stable handover later.

Similarly, East Asian Institute senior research fellow Lam Peng Er said the fact that Mr Heng will be Acting PM when PM Lee is not in town is significant in expelling any remaining doubts about the next leader of Singapore. "It's very unambiguous. Mr Heng is the man."

Since Singapore's independence, there have been only three periods when the country had only one second-in-command.

They were from June 1959 to August 1968, when the DPM was Dr Toh Chin Chye; between March 1973 and June 1980, when the No. 2 was Dr Goh Keng Swee; and from September 1993 to August 1995, when Mr Lee Hsien Loong was the DPM.

As a result, some had expected Mr Heng, the Finance Minister, to be appointed the first DPM, and Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, the second DPM.

This would have replicated their respective roles as first assistant secretary-general and second assistant secretary-general of the People's Action Party.

Others had expected a major reshuffle, with other fourth-generation (4G) leaders being moved to other organs of government or promoted. Instead, the only changes were the promotion of Mr Heng, and DPMs Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam being appointed Senior Ministers.

But NUS research fellow Mustafa Izzuddin pointed out two other advantages in having a relatively simple reshuffle and one DPM.

One, it puts the spotlight on Mr Heng, who will work closely with PM Lee in directing the next general election, which must be held by April 2021. "That's another reason this reshuffle was so simple - it's supposed to be non-disruptive, to make it clear who the next PM is and to do that, you first need that person to be DPM," he said.

Two, with just Mr Heng as DPM, he can choose his own deputy and by extension, the rest of his team when he eventually takes the top post.

"This way, Mr Heng is given sufficient space to make the decisions he thinks are best for Singapore, and to make his own mark about his leadership style in time," Dr Mustafa added.

Some challenges lie ahead for Mr Heng.

While he has shown his technocratic abilities, he will need to develop more rapport with the people as the PM-designate, said Dr Lam.

"People want to know what makes him tick. The next GE will be more difficult than 2015's, so he really needs to demonstrate his leadership and who he is," he added.

Mr Heng, with his team, also has to prove that Singapore will not be in weaker hands when leadership change takes place, said fellow Tampines GRC MP and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng.

"The hard work in the GRC will have to continue, even intensify," he said. "I don't think people will think of Tampines as a safe ward. In fact, the opposition may want to put the next PM on his toes.''

In the meantime, the 4G leaders will benefit with Mr Teo and Mr Tharman staying on as Senior Ministers, he said.

"This good practice of having senior ministers has been in place since Mr S. Rajaratnam was first appointed. This is a good way to ensure we can continue to tap Mr Teo and Mr Tharman's experience and strengths," Mr Baey added.

Looking ahead, SIM Global Education associate lecturer Felix Tan said there could be a few more changes later.

He had expected, in yesterday's announcement, that some senior ministers of state would take over as ministers of their portfolios.

"That would clearly demonstrate that the 4G are taking heavier responsibilities, but perhaps they are a little bit cautious this round," he said.