ESM Goh Chok Tong dishes on Prime Minister-in-waiting Heng Swee Keat in recent interview

He has no illusions or confusion over who the next PM will be, though.

Martino Tan | November 27, 2018, 06:15 PM

On New Year's Eve 2017, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong shared a Facebook post on the fourth-generation leadership, in the hopes that his New Year's wish will be fulfilled.

"One urgent challenge I would like to see settled is our fourth generation leadership... I hope the current cohort will do so in 6 - 9 months' time".

Almost 11 months later, he now has his answer: Heng Swee Keat.

And three days after the 4G leadership issue was (finally) addressed, Goh has said that the choice of Heng by the 4G leaders "is very good".

Heng's strengths

In a Channel NewsAsia interview on Monday, Nov. 26, Goh said he knows Heng very well, having been the Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) from August 2004 to May 2011, which overlaps entirely Heng's tenure (2005 - 2011) as Managing Director of the central bank.

"During the Lehman Brothers financial crisis, (in 2008), I saw how he worked. I think he could take crisis, and he could manage crisis. Heng Swee Keat also has a lot of experiences in ministries — MTI Permanent Secretary, running the Finance Ministry, so his strengths are in governing, in running the civil service."

Heng's weaknesses

However, Goh observed that Heng "hasn’t quite been exposed to the mobilisation of people, working with the PAP, working with the NTUC (National Trades Union Congress), and working with the PA (People’s Association)".

Goh added that those are areas Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing does possess experience in, though.

Chan has since October 2015 been the Deputy Chairman of the PA. 

Before being appointed as MTI Minister, Chan was Secretary-General of the NTUC for slightly more than three years (May 4, 2015 to May 22, 2018).

Hence Goh's conclusion that the two leaders will complement each other with their experiences and abilities.

Goh: Heng Swee Keat will definitely be PM

Goh is not hedging his bets on who the next Prime Minister will be, though.

Photo by Joshua Lee.

The sight of Heng and Chan fronting the People's Action Party (PAP) press conference together may have led some to think the premiership will be a joint one.

During the press conference, Heng said of him and Chan:

"What Chun Sing said reminds me of what Mr Lim Swee Say (former Manpower Minister and Labour Chief) used to say, 'same same but different'. We are same same in that we are all united by a common sense of purpose, which is to take Singapore forward, to improve the lives of Singaporeans. And I can say this of all our MPs and all our party members. But the different perspectives actually strengthen our team."

Goh happens to be much clearer about this.

"That’s (the choices made by the 4G leaders to choose Heng and Chan as leaders) not quite so, you see.

The ministers and office holders decided on who should be leading the team. So Mr Heng Swee Keat was chosen to be the leader, and Mr Heng, in my view, quite wisely chose Chan Chun Sing to complement himself."


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Top photo from SUTD Facebook page.