With his exceptional ability and the support of his peers, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is the best person to assume the post of Deputy Prime Minister and take over as Prime Minister in the next term of government, said Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.
In a Facebook post shortly after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the latest Cabinet reshuffle, the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister described the changes as a major step in leadership succession and a plus for Singapore's future. A sudden change was avoided while ensuring there was renewal along with the changing times, he added.
Mr Tharman and Mr Teo Chee Hean will relinquish their posts as DPMs and assume the mantle of Senior Ministers.
Mr Tharman, who has been Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies since 2015, will be redesignated as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.
He will continue to advise the Prime Minister on economic policies. He has also been appointed deputy chairman of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, where he is currently a board member.
Mr Teo will remain as Coordinating Minister for National Security.
Commenting on the changes, Mr Tharman said: "It may be unexciting and predictable, but it works for Singapore. We will have a strong crew in Cabinet, with PM Lee at the helm, Teo Chee Hean and myself staying engaged as Senior Ministers and, together with our other senior colleagues, providing support to the 4G team as it takes over.
"We each have our strengths and individual characters, but none of us is perfect. Our system of political renewal in Government only succeeds if we complement each other and play as a team, work with Singaporeans and never let success get to our heads or assume that all that worked in the past will work in the future. It is how the Singapore story keeps going."
Mr Tharman also had advice for the next generation of leaders.
With Singaporeans' views and aspirations changing, things will be quite different 10 years from now, and the 4G leadership will have to "carve their own way as leaders, individually and as a team, and progressively leave their own imprint", he said, pledging to help them in every way he can in Government.
"Our 4G leadership will have to keep their ears close to the ground, stay open to new ideas and initiatives, and keep evolving our strategies to keep our society inclusive and vibrant. So that they retain the trust of Singaporeans and lead the country with confidence," he said.
Mr Tharman, who helms Jurong GRC and was first elected in 2001, also said he looked forward to "continuing to serve my constituents in Jurong in the years to come".
Social and Family Development Minister and fellow Jurong GRC MP Desmond Lee said Mr Tharman's focus in Jurong has been on caring for people and working to improve their lives, adding: "We look forward to his continued mentorship."
Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit said it was good to have Mr Tharman remain as an adviser and looking after Singapore's reserves at GIC.
"Economic policy in Singapore is very strong and social policies here need to be carefully crafted, particularly in this situation where inequality is a growing concern," he said, adding that Mr Tharman's presence was reassuring.