Heng Swee Keat no longer in the running to become Singapore’s next leader

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in a September photo. Image: LH Goh
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in a September photo. Image: LH Goh

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is no longer in the running to become Singapore’s next leader.

Heng announced today that he was stepping down as chief of the country’s fourth generation of leaders, citing his age. He will also relinquish his finance portfolio following a cabinet reshuffle due in the coming weeks. Heng turns 60 this year. 

“I have decided to step aside as leader of the 4G team, so that a younger leader who will have a longer runway can take over. It will be for the 4G team to choose the person, and I stand ready to support the next leader,” he said in a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Heng told reporters at today’s press conference that he would have a “short runway” compared to earlier prime ministers should he be chosen to lead the country. The late Lee Kuan Yew was in his 30s when he became Singapore’s first prime minister, Goh Chok Tong was 49, and Lee Hsien Loong was 52.

The prime minister had in 2012 said that he wished to step down by the time he turns 70, which is next year. 

Other fourth-gen leaders include Education Minister Lawrence Wong, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

A joint statement by the fourth generation team said the “unexpected turn of events is a setback for our succession planning.”

“We recognize that Singaporeans will be concerned. We seek your support and understanding, as we choose another leader for the team,” it said.

Heng has served as the finance minister since 2015 and had addressed parliament nine times last year over four budgets during the pandemic. 

He will remain as deputy prime minister and coordinating minister of economic policies.

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