Singapore’s leader Tuesday promoted his heir apparent to deputy prime minister as the city-state’s founding family prepares for a sensitive transfer of power to a younger generation.
The cabinet reshuffle comes amid speculation elections could be held as early as this year, as part of a carefully orchestrated political transition that has been a hallmark of the country since independence in 1965.
Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, 67, said in a statement that finance minister Heng SweeKeat, 57, will become deputy prime minister from May 1. He will retain his post as finance minister and act as premier in Lee’s absence.
In November, Heng was named to a key post in the People’s Action Party — which has held power in Singapore for decades — putting him on course to become the next prime minister in the coming years.
The power handover will be a sensitive moment for the financial hub of 5.6 million people, which has been mostly ruled by either Lee or his father, late founding leader Lee Kuan Yew.
The country’s transformation into one of the world’s wealthiest and most stable societies is linked in many people’s minds to the rule of the Lee family.
Premier Lee, who will lead his party into the forthcoming elections before handing over power, said that the cabinet changes are ‘part of the ongoing leadership renewal’.
‘The next generation leadership is taking shape, and progressively taking over from me and my older colleagues,’ he said.
Lee also announced that two deputy prime ministers, Teo CheeHean, 64, and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 62, will relinquish their posts and be appointed as senior ministers in the cabinet.
Heng is set to become the country’s fourth prime minister and the second from outside the Lee family.
He entered politics in 2011 and served as education minister before becoming finance minister. Prior to that, he was head of the central bank.
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