Singapore’s Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong at a press conference on the country’s Covid-19 situation on April 22, 2021.

Singapore’s Ministry of Communication and Information

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has appointed a new Treasury Secretary to replace Heng Swee Keat, who announced two weeks ago that he will step down as Lee’s designated successor.

Lawrence Wong, the country’s current education minister and second finance minister, will head the finance portfolio from May 15, the prime minister’s office said on Friday. Wong is also co-chair of the Singapore Task Force on Covid-19 and has grown in prominence since the coronavirus outbreak last year.

Wong is among the potential candidates that analysts said could eventually replace Lee as prime minister.

The cabinet shuffling came after Heng’s announcement upset Singapore’s carefully planned leadership succession. Heng, who is 60 this year, cited his age as a barrier to governing the country in a post-pandemic world.

Heng will give up his role as finance minister, but will remain the country’s deputy prime minister and coordination minister for economic policy.

In addition to Wong, the analysts identified three other potential candidates for prime minister:

  • 51-year-old Minister of Commerce and Industry Chan Chun Sing becomes Minister of Education in the new cabinet.
  • Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, 51, becomes Minister of Health.
  • Desmond Lee, 44, who will continue to serve as Minister for National Development.

The ruling People’s Action Party has ruled Singapore since the country gained independence in 1965. The party suffered one of the worst election campaigns last year, winning 83 of 93 seats in parliament and 61% of the vote.

Lee, the current prime minister, had previously said he was ready to retire However, at the age of 70, he said he would postpone his handover to help guide Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis.

Lee is 69 years old this year. Following Heng’s surprise announcement, Lee said he would remain as prime minister until a new successor emerges and is ready to take power.