SINGAPORE - The fourth-generation ministers are a "serious-minded" team who are trying to do their best for Singapore, and work very well together, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Jan 22).
"I really enjoy working with... everyone on the team," added Mr Heng in his first remarks on the fourth-generation leadership since the team of 16 ministers and office-holders issued a statement on choosing a person to lead them.
Mr Heng, who is seen as one of the three top contenders for the post of the next prime minister, was asked at the Singapore Perspectives 2018 conference if he was ready to lead the fourth-generation team.
The other two front runners are Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.
While Mr Heng did not answer the question directly, he said it was key for the fourth-generation ministers to work cohesively as a team, as well as for all Singaporeans to do so, to ensure Singapore thrived in this age of complexity.
He added that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has set a very good example on this front, leading a very cohesive team that discusses issues every week across a whole range of topics of import to the country.
Earlier this month, the 16 ministers and office-holders in the fourth-generation team said in a joint statement that they were working closely to pick a leader among themselves.
The statement followed a Facebook post by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who said leadership succession was an urgent issue for Singapore and urged the team to pick a leader within six to nine months.
On the topic of leadership, Mr Heng also said he was happy that Singaporeans believed good political leadership was important for the country.
In many other countries, people have lost confidence in their leaders and often mock them, creating an environment that makes it hard to govern, he added.
Political contest has also exacerbated the problem, leading to deadlock and the government shutting down in some cases, he said.
His comments came amid a government shutdown in the United States, after lawmakers failed to pass a spending Bill over a disagreement on immigration reform.
But Mr Heng said Singapore needs good leaders not just in the political sphere, but also at all other levels, such as in the social and economic sectors.
During the question-and-answer session at the conference held at Raffles City Convention Centre, he was also asked about his health after he collapsed from a stroke in 2016 during a Cabinet meeting.
Expressing gratitude to his Cabinet colleagues and medical team who had provided first aid and medical care, he said: "I am very glad that I'm back to work and doing a lot of things as I used to do, except that I take my exercise even more seriously now."
He added that his doctors were surprised that he had taken ill as he was deemed to be at low risk for a stroke.
Quoting a message that he said was oft-cited when he was in the police force earlier in his career, he said he told them: "Low risk doesn't mean no risk."