World Singapore's leader-in-waiting steps aside as future PM in succession setback
Inside Singapore’s Unusually Shaky Leadership Transition
The rumblings started shortly after Singapore’s ruling party won 89% of seats in last year’s election. © Bloomberg Heng Swee Keat, Singapore's deputy prime minister and finance minister, speaks before a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Singapore's budget provides a "fairly large fiscal boost" to the economy to counter the impact of the coronavirus, with the government still expecting positive growth for the year, Heng said.
By Aradhana Aravindan and Anshuman Daga
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is stepping aside as the country's designated future leader to let a younger person take over when current premier Lee Hsien Loong retires, according to his letter published on Thursday.
"I would have too short a runway should I become the next prime minister then," Heng said in the letter posted on the website of the prime minister's office.
"We need a leader who will not only rebuild Singapore post-COVID-19, but also lead the next phase of our nation-building effort," he added.
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Heng, who turns 60 this year, is also set to give up his portfolio as finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle expected to take place in about two weeks, local media reported.
Succession in the wealthy Southeast Asian city state - which has been governed by the People's Action Party (PAP) since independence in 1965 - is normally a carefully planned affair.
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Lee, 69, has flagged that he may have to delay his plans to hand over to a successor by the time he is 70 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heng will continue as deputy prime minister but will step aside as leader of the ruling party's fourth-generation team, a term used to describe a group of members seen as future leaders.
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"This unexpected turn of events is a setback for our succession planning. We recognise that Singaporeans will be concerned. We seek your support and understanding, as we choose another leader," the 4G leaders said in a separate letter.
Heng - who steered the central bank through the global financial crisis - has doled out billions of dollars in stimulus to help carry the country through the country's worst-ever rececession caused by the pandemic.
But questions were also raised about his health after he suffered a stroke and collapsed during a cabinet meeting in 2016.
"For such an announcement to be made this early, it seems that the leadership is pretty confident that the economy is in a far better shape today than a year ago and they are on top of the situation," said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking.
"I always saw Heng as a bridge between the older and newer group of leaders."
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Anshuman Daga; Editing by Martin Petty)
Facts about Queen Elizabeth II .
Read CNN's Fast Facts about Queen Elizabeth II and learn more about the Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms. © Lewis Whyld/WPA-Pool/Getty Images Queen Elizabeth II PersonalBirth date: April 21, 1926 Birth place: London, EnglandBirth name: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Father: King George VIMother: Queen ElizabethMarriage: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (November 20, 1947-April 09, 2021, his death) Children: Edward, Earl of Wessex (March 10, 1964); Andrew, Duke of York (February 19, 1960); Anne, Princess Royal (August 15, 1950); Charles, Prince of Wales (November 14, 1948) Grandc