Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat is stepping aside as the leader of the People's Action Party fourth generation (4G) leadership team.
In addition, he will relinquish his portfolio as Minister for Finance at the next Cabinet reshuffle. However, he will continue to serve as DPM and the Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.
Next Prime Minister needs a "sufficiently long runway"
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on April 8, Heng outlined his reasons for his decisions.
He referred to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and said that the next Prime Minister will need a "sufficiently long runway" for the responsibilities of the role. He said:
"This year, I am 60. As the crisis will be prolonged, I would be close to the mid-60s when the crisis is over.
The 60s are still a very productive time of life. But when I also consider the ages at which our first three Prime Ministers took on the job, I would have too short a runway should I become the next Prime Minister then.
We need a leader who will not only rebuild Singapore post-Covid-19, but also lead the next phase of our nation-building effort."
Heng also referred to the stroke he suffered in 2016.
While he has recovered fully, and is in good health today, the demands of the "top job" on the person holding the role are "exceptional."
Heng added that it is in the "best interests of the nation" for someone younger to tackle the "huge challenges" ahead.
Will support next leader
Heng said that he made the decision after careful deliberation and discussion with his family, and the 4G team will choose their next leader, whom he stands ready to support. He also said:
"I appreciate the support of Singaporeans and have made this decision with the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart.
I will continue to do my best, to support you (PM Lee), Cabinet colleagues and the Party, so that we can continue to improve the lives of Singaporeans and emerge stronger post-Covid-19.
Let me express my deep appreciation to you, Cabinet colleagues, and my 4G team for your confidence in me, and for the privilege and honour to serve Singapore together with you. I also thank ESM Goh, who has been my mentor since my time at the MAS."
Subsequently, in a letter from PM Lee to Heng also dated April 8, it was confirmed that Heng will also relinquish the finance portfolio at the next Cabinet reshuffle, something PM Lee said that they had “earlier planned”.
You can see the full letter below:
Top image from Heng Swee Keat's Facebook page.