Parliament Sidelights: Was Heng Swee Keat hinting at portfolio changes for education ministers?

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a slip of the tongue that Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng (right) and Ong Ye Kung are "continuing to build on the work of previous finance ministers" to improve prospects for Singaporean students.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a slip of the tongue that Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng (right) and Ong Ye Kung are "continuing to build on the work of previous finance ministers" to improve prospects for Singaporean students. PHOTOS: SEAH KWAN PENG, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - He was in the thick of a serious exchange with Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim in Parliament on the need to safeguard Singapore's reserves and ensure social mobility.

But Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat momentarily lightened the mood with a slip of the tongue - Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung are "continuing to build on the work of previous finance ministers" to improve prospects for Singaporean students, he said.

This drew a round of booming laughter from the House.

Could this be an indication of the future portfolios that the two ministers - identified as core members of Singapore's fourth-generation leadership - would take up when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reshuffles the Cabinet this year?

After all, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing had inadvertently predicted that Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob would take up the presidential post, when he accidentally called her "Madam President" instead of "Madam Speaker" in Parliament in February last year.

Not at all.

" I am not hinting at any changes. I got distracted," clarified Mr Heng, who apologised and corrected himself after realising his mistake.

" Sorry, (it should be) education minister, sorry," he said.

Parliament Sidelights is an occasional blog on what goes on in the House.