It looks like now we can rule out Ong, and Chan appears to be the flavour of the day for the PM post, but Heng in his usual slow and steady way might just pip Chan to the finish line.
Why? Because of the Cabinet reshuffle that’s just happened, and how Chan has been primed for the top spot.
(1) Ong Ye Kung, 48-years-old
So, Ong will only have led one full Ministry by himself by 2021 (when PM Lee Hsien Loong is about to step down).
Being Second Minister of Defence (a role he will give up once he’s made full Education Minister) counts for squat seeing how his rivals have much more experience under their belts.
So yeah, Ong is out.
(2) Heng Swee Keat, 57-years-old
Heng has been seen as Singapore’s solution to the PM problem because he fits the bill personality-wise and substance-wise.
Nevertheless, Heng is a good fit – seen as likeable (or at least not a turn-off) by the general populace, he has built a respectable public image while being known as an intelligent, acute problem-solver. If kopitiam uncles say these things about Heng, you know that’s how far the impressions goes.
Career-wise, a former
cardboard mata who later headed the Monetary Authority of Singapore (a BIG position), a Minister for Education (the whole MOE, not just half), and a long-standing Finance Minister.
Oh yeah, and Lee Kuan Yew’s former Principle Private Secretary (it’s probably more difficult to impress LKY than helm a ministry, but hell we’re just guessing over a couple of beers).
Heng has also been given additional charge over the National Research Foundation – a powerful government board that stewards billions of dollars spent on research to support economic growth.
But, with Heng continuing in his Finance Minister position, it looks like the PAP wheels are in spin to keep his biggest rival Major-General Chan Chun Sing on track for the PM post, and one can only guess (and wonder) why.
(3) Chan Chun Sing, 48-years-old
With his latest appointment as Minister of Trade and Industry, he will now have headed 2 ministries – the other being the Ministry of Social and Family Development back in 2013.
And added to that, chief of Singapore’s labour union NTUC, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (no one knows that exactly a PMO minister does), and the head of the People’s Association (that grassroots organisation that contentiously is said to be a PAP propaganda tool).
But, there’s the curious question of Chan’s MTI appointment – former MTI Minister (Industry) S Iswaran has been retained as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, while the other outgoing MTI Minister (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang has been retained as a Special Advisor.
So Chan, having spent his whole career in the army, is worth both ministers? Apparently so, despite needing them to back him up.
Which then begs the question – why are the wheels in spin to keep Chan in the loop by enhancing his portfolio to include 2 ministries?
After all, he lacks the public image of Heng, and the portfolio to match until his latest “upgrade” to the MTI (and his portfolio stills pales in comparison to Heng’s stellar portfolio).
Has succession already been planned?
(4) In Conclusion
At the same time, a question for the future – Chan is not known to have any children, so could be a “Woody” (aka Goh Chok Tong) and serve as a placeholder for Ong or perhaps even Ah Loong’s son, Li Hongyi?