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Ong Ye Kung sides with PM Lee and rejects ESM Goh’s “artificial deadline” to pick new PM

by Vincent Low

It was earlier reported that ESM Goh Chok Tong had wanted the 4th generation PM to be picked this year but PM Lee disagreed and basically told him off publicly.

On 31 Dec 2017, ESM Goh posted a message on his Facebook page saying that Singapore needs to tackle the pressing and longer term challenges for Singapore and one challenge is to settle Singapore's 4th generation political leadership.

"Every succession is different, but one thing remains the same: each cohort will have to pick one amongst themselves to lead, and support him," he said. "I hope the current cohort will do so in 6 - 9 months' time. Then PM can formally designate their choice as his potential successor before 2018 ends."

"This is my wish for the new year - a Singapore in good hands, a Singapore that all of us build together," he added.

But about a month later on 26 Jan, speaking through the media, PM Lee disagreed and said, "ESM (Goh) is speaking with the privilege of watching things rather than being responsible to make it happen. I think we know it's a very serious matter."

"They (4th gen ministers) need a bit of time for Singaporeans to get a feel of them - not just to be known as public figures, but to be responsible for significant policies... carrying them, justifying them, defending them, adapting them, making them work, and showing that they deserve to lead," he added.

"I would not be able to say for certain that it will be settled within the next six to nine months, but it will have to be done in good time."

"Successor designation - that will depend on the dynamics and I would not say that that is imminent," he said. "If it is settled, everybody will know."

Ong Ye Kung sides with PM Lee

Yesterday (28 Jan), at a community event, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung told the media that it is good that Singapore leaders are not constrained by an "artificial deadline" when choosing the next PM from among the 4th generation ministers.

Referring to what PM Lee has said, Ong echoed, "PM has said that it will need a while longer. I think it's useful. As our younger-generation ministers have said, we would select somebody to be the leader among us in good time.”

“So I think it's good not to be constrained by six or nine months," he added. "We still need time to work together, know each other well and, among us, I'm sure a leader will emerge."

Ong has been identified by the mainstream media that he, along with Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing, as possible candidates for the PM post. He was giving out goodie bags to the low-income families at Sembawang GRC yesterday as part of the campaign to reach out to 6,000 families in his constituency.

Keppel's net profit down 72% for FY2017

Meanwhile, Keppel Corp, which Minister Ong was working in as its Director of Group Strategy from 2013 to 2015, announced last Thursday (25 Jan) that its net profit went down 72% for FY2017.

It reported an annual net profit of only $217 million this time. This was 72% lower than the S$784 million net profit for FY 2016, due mainly to the one-off financial penalty of US$422 million arising from Keppel O&M's admission to the corruption charges brought forth by authorities in US, Brazil and Singapore.

On a quarterly basis, Keppel registered a net loss of S$495 million in 4Q 2017, compared to a net profit of S$143 million for 4Q 2016. Without the higher profits from its property business, as well as fair value gains from assets recognised during the quarter, the quarterly loss would have been more.

Keppel's annual revenue was also 12% lower than that for 2016.

Keppel CEO said, "We have put in place effective compliance controls to ensure that this (corruption) does not happen again."

"We look forward to continuing on our growth trajectory and building a more disciplined and sustainable business - a Keppel that will remain trusted and admired by all our stakeholders," he added.

So far, Keppel's property division remained the largest contributor to the Group's FY2017 net profit. This increase was due mainly to higher fair value gains on investment properties and higher contribution from Singapore and Vietnam property trading and the en-bloc divestment of development projects.

It's not known how Minister Ong had contributed to Keppel's business strategy when he was the Director of Group Strategy in Keppel.