The Prime Minister’s Office announced yesterday (23 Apr) that Heng Swee Keat would be promoted to Deputy Prime Minister on May Day. He will remain Finance Minister and continue chairing the Future Economy Council and National Research Foundation, PMO said.
Current Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam will relinquish their roles but remain in the Cabinet as Senior Ministers.
According to political watchers, the move to name Heng as the next – and only – Deputy Prime Minister is a “clear signal” by the ruling PAP that he is set to become Singapore’s next prime minister.
Gillian Koh from IPS commented that the latest appointment means “it’s patently clear that (Mr Heng) is on track to becoming our next Prime Minister”.
“With the appointment of just one Deputy Prime Minister, what is being signalled is that there is a clear pecking order, and there should be no confusion, there should be no sort of questions raised as to whether the previous group of contenders for the premiership post will be given more duties, more responsibilities, such that they are still in the running for the position,” Dr Koh said.
It was only last November that Heng was appointed the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general and emerged the frontrunner to succeed PM Lee.
Heng supports having 10 million population in Singapore
Last month (29 Mar), at a ministerial dialogue at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Heng told the students that Singaporeans need to be open to foreigners.
He said that it would be very negative for Singaporeans to draw an exclusive circle for themselves as Singapore would then have no place in the world. “We don’t want a world where people build walls around themselves,” he said. “Our pledge – regardless of race, language or religion – is not to be taken lightly… but really as a way of life for Singapore.”
“Beyond that, we ought to deepen our understanding of other people… whether they are new immigrants, our immediate neighbors, students from NTU, National University of Singapore or other universities,” he said.
On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government’s 2013 Population White Paper, Heng openly said that Singapore’s population density is not excessive, noting that other cities are even more crowded and dense.
He went on to cite former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.
Heng supports increasing GST from 7 to 9%
Heng also supports increasing the GST from the current 7 to 9%.
During the budget debate in Parliament last year (Feb 2018), he told everyone that GST is set to increase from the current 7 per cent to 9 per cent some time between 2021 and 2025.
The exact timing will depend on three factors: the state of Singapore’s economy, how much the country’s expenditures grow, and how buoyant Singapore’s existing taxes are. But Heng said he expected that the Government would need to do so earlier rather than later.
Heng said that the GST increase is “necessary because even after exploring various options to manage our future expenditures through prudent spending, saving and borrowing for infrastructure, there is still a gap”.
He said the 2 percentage point increase will provide the Government with revenue of almost 0.7 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product per year.
It looks like even before Heng becomes the PM, Singaporeans are already in for a rough ride with him.
With the little Singapore island having a 10 million population flooded with countless foreigners living and working here, more Singaporeans will have a hard time competing with the cheaper foreigners for work. And to add to their headaches, they will have to pay a 9% GST on top of their expenses.
No wonder even patients are forced to commit suicide inside public hospitals these days. It’s not known if Heng knows or cares about the incident.