19 faces to watch in 2019

(Clockwise from top left) Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and Hyflux chief executive Olivia Lum.
(Clockwise from top left) Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and Hyflux chief executive Olivia Lum.PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIANHE ZAOBAO

These newsmakers are expected to be under the spotlight next year, both in Singapore and overseas.


SINGAPORE/FOREIGN:
 

Heng Swee Keat, Leader of PAP's 4G team Singapore

He has been delivering the Budget speech as Finance Minister since 2016, and next year won't be any different. Except it will be.

Mr Heng Swee Keat was last month unveiled as the leader of the ruling People's Action Party's fourth-generation (4G) team.

This means the 57-year-old is set to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore's fourth prime minister.

READ MORE HERE

Chan Chun Sing, PAP leader

Mr Chan Chun Sing could take on a higher profile role when the Cabinet is reshuffled.
Mr Chan Chun Sing could take on a higher profile role when the Cabinet is reshuffled. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Amid a rising tide of protectionism in the world, he has the demanding role of Trade and Industry Minister, but Mr Chan Chun Sing, 49, is set to have even more on his plate.

Mr Chan was named second assistant secretary-general of the People's Action Party last month. Mr Heng Swee Keat was appointed to the first assistant secretary-general role, seen as a precursor to being prime minister.

As deputy to Mr Heng, Mr Chan could take on a higher profile role when the Cabinet is reshuffled.

READ MORE HERE

Donald Trump, US President


Mr Trump faces tougher terrain with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. PHOTO: REUTERS

After an already tumultuous year for his administration, United States President Donald Trump, 72, is entering the new year on an even shakier footing.

A blue wave during the midterm elections in November means that a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will be sworn in next month - ending two years of Republican control of Congress.

That leaves Mr Trump tougher terrain to navigate if he is to gain any legislative agreements in the two years until the next election. 

READ MORE HERE

Kim Jong Un, North Korean leader


Mr Kim's commitment to reform remains unclear and 2019 should provide some indication. PHOTO: AFP

What a difference a year makes.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, 35, started the year engaged in a war of words with the United States and facing a raft of sanctions - as Washington launched into what it called a "maximum pressure" campaign against Pyongyang.

He now enters 2019 seemingly on a different trajectory, having landed a series of diplomatic victories including a historic summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

READ MORE HERE

Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysian PM


Dr Mahathir Mohamad said after the May elections that he would step down in "about two years". PHOTO: ST FILE

Will he, or won't he?

Next year could be the year that shows if Tun Mahathir Mohamad, 93, will do what he could not two decades ago: hand over the reins of power to former protege Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysia's new ruling pact Pakatan Harapan had agreed on a transition plan before its shock election win in May, whereby Dr Mahathir would step down in "about two years" to make way for the man he sacked as deputy premier in 1998, and who then languished in jail for half of the intervening years.

READ MORE HERE

Joko Widodo, Indonesian President

Mr Joko Widodo will be seeking a referendum on his presidency at the April 17 election next year.
Mr Joko Widodo will be seeking a referendum on his presidency at the April 17 election next year.

Furniture businessman-turned-politician Joko Widodo enjoyed a breakout year in 2014, when he rode a wave of popularity and bested a blue-blood candidate to be elected Indonesia's seventh president.

His promise of reforms in a country long ruled by oligarchs appealed to not only the man in the street but also to a rising middle class in South-east Asia's largest economy.

The 57-year-old will be seeking a referendum on his presidency when more than 192 million voters head to the polls on April 17. He is up against former general Prabowo Subianto, 67, his rival from the last election who has taken aim at the President's handling of the economy.

READ MORE HERE

Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi prince

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's moves are likely to face closer scrutiny after the death of a journalist.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's moves are likely to face closer scrutiny after the death of a journalist.

For the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman, 33, the coming year will likely be one focused on reaffirming his position at home and on the world stage.

Where once he was hailed as a reformer and feted in Western capitals, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi - alongside allegations of the prince's direct involvement in it - has dealt a blow to his reputation.

There is now pressure on him to scale back or end some of the kingdom's more controversial foreign policy forays.

READ MORE HERE

Theresa May, British PM

Observers are questioning if Mrs Theresa May can remain as British Prime Minister till 2022.
Observers are questioning if Mrs Theresa May can remain as British Prime Minister till 2022.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, 63, scored a minor victory in Parliament this month by winning a no-confidence vote - but she emerged a weakened figure as Britain enters the final and most crucial step of its Brexit process.

Mrs May pledged to resign before the 2022 elections, and even then, one-third of her own party MPs voted against her. Observers are now questioning whether she can remain in the job that long.

In the meantime, however, she must implement Britain's exit from the European Union next year and get a deal signed, sealed and delivered by the March 29 deadline.

READ MORE HERE

Pritam Singh, Workers' Party chief



Mr Pritam Singh's first major task will be to lead the Workers' Party in the next general election. PHOTO: ST FILE

It is almost unthinkable. But, next year, Singaporeans will see the Workers' Party (WP) gear up to tackle a general election that must be held by April 2021 - without the venerable Mr Low Thia Khiang at the helm.

This is because Mr Pritam Singh was elected unopposed in April to succeed Mr Low as WP secretary-general. Mr Low had held the post for 17 years.

Mr Singh, 42, understandably, will want to step out from the shadow of the veteran politician to make his own mark.

READ MORE HERE

BUSINESS:

Nadiem Makarim, CEO of Gojek

Mr Nadiem Makarim's company Gojek has announced plans to expand to Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.
Mr Nadiem Makarim's company Gojek has announced plans to expand to Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

When Mr Nadiem Makarim returned to Jakarta after graduating from Harvard Business School in 2011, he found the motorcycle-taxis, or "ojeks", in the Indonesian capital to be unreliable. Riders told him of the difficulties they faced while waiting for their customers.

With borrowed money and his own savings totalling US$100,000 (S$137,500), he launched the Gojek ride-hailing app in January 2015 with a pool of 700 riders. He hoped to find a better way to connect riders with their customers by shortening the long waiting times. As of February this year, his company is valued at US$5 billion.

Gojek has announced plans to expand to Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, heating up the fight to be South-east Asia's No. 1 ride-hailing company. Singapore's current market leader is Grab.

READ MORE HERE

Olivia Lum, CEO of Hyflux

All eyes will be on chief executive Olivia Lum as she navigates local water treatment company Hyflux out of troubled waters next year.

Hyflux, which made its mark in water treatment before going into power generation, cited prolonged weakness in the local power market for its slip into the red when it announced a court-supervised reorganisation of its business in May.

It was reported in October that the company will receive a $530 million lifeline from a consortium in South-east Asia's biggest country.

READ MORE HERE

Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Bank

DBS Bank has big shoes to fill for the next year - its own.

The Republic's largest bank had a great 2018 when it received global awards presented by top-tier financial publications for its digital transformation efforts.

In August, Global Finance named DBS the Best Bank in the World, and The Banker, a publication by the Financial Times, recognised it as the Global Bank of the Year.

READ MORE HERE

Culture/Entertainment:

 

Anthony Chen, film-maker

Film-maker Anthony Chen has a new film, Wet Season, that will be out in the latter half of next year.
 

Following the critical success of his debut feature Ilo Ilo (2013), anything that home-grown film-maker Anthony Chen, 34, puts out next will be much scrutinised.

His highly anticipated second feature, Wet Season, is currently in post-production and will be out in the latter half of next year. Set during the monsoon season in Singapore, it is about a 40-year-old woman trying to redefine herself.

He declines to reveal the name of the actress playing the role, but a familiar face will play the supporting role of a secondary school student: Koh Jia Ler, the child star of Ilo Ilo.

READ MORE HERE

Pooja Nansi, poet and performer



Ms Pooja Nansi is likely to shake up the Singapore Writers Festival next year as its new director. PHOTO: COURTESY OF POOJA NANSI

When asked what one can expect from the first female festival director for the Singapore Writers Festival in 2019, Pooja Nansi quips: "I am bringing my ovaries to the game."  

The poet and performer, not one to mince her words, is the first female director of the annual literary festival. At 37 years old, she is also the youngest.

She takes over from poet Yeow Kai Chai, 50, and before him, poet Paul Tan, 47, deputy chief executive of the National Arts Council (NAC).

READ MORE HERE

Terence Ho Wee San, musician

Mr Terence Ho Wee San, 49, executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO), was among nine new Nominated Members of Parliament named in September.

He is the first Nominated MP from the arts field who is a formally trained musician and from a traditional arts group.

During his 2½-year term, he hopes to start a conversation on building Singapore's soft power overseas through the arts.

READ MORE HERE

TECHNOLOGY:

Sim Wong Hoo, CEO of Creative Technologies

Creative Technologies founder and chief executive Sim Wong Hoo with the new Super X-Fi products.
Creative Technologies founder and chief executive Sim Wong Hoo with the new Super X-Fi products. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Back in its heyday, home-grown technology company Creative Technologies and its chief executive Sim Wong Hoo were the talk of the town.

This year, the spotlight was thrust back on Mr Sim, 63, and Creative, thanks to a new award-winning piece of audio technology called the Super X-Fi - which he said is more revolutionary than colour television.

By using artificial intelligence to tailor custom audio profiles, the software recreates the listening experience of a high-end multi-speaker system in a professional studio, delivering the same depth, detail and immersiveness in headphones.

READ MORE HERE 

David Koh, Singapore's cyber-security czar

Mr David Koh's appointment in August came with the enactment of Singapore's Cybersecurity Act.
Mr David Koh's appointment in August came with the enactment of Singapore's Cybersecurity Act.

Mr David Koh, 52, is Singapore's cyber-security czar. His appointment in August came with the enactment of Singapore's Cybersecurity Act, which empowers him to seize computers to obtain confidential information from local organisations to investigate suspected cyber attacks.

The law could not have come at a better time. This year, Singapore faced its biggest data breach - one involving 1.5 million patients' personal information.

SingHealth's cyber attack in June will spawn big moves next year on ways to protect huge databases in the public and private sectors as the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore plug gaps in the nation's critical information systems. This follows the conclusion of a Committee of Inquiry into the incident last month.

READ MORE HERE

SPORTS:

Joseph Schooling, Olympic gold medallist

Joseph Schooling is set to begin his first season as a full-time professional swimmer, having finished his studies in the United States.
Joseph Schooling is set to begin his first season as a full-time professional swimmer, having finished his studies in the United States.

To say that 2019 will be a big year for Singapore's only Olympic champion Joseph Schooling would be an understatement.

For one thing, it is his first season as a full-time professional swimmer, having finished his studies at the University of Texas in the United States. Instead of juggling his studies and swimming, he will be balancing his time and energy between the pool and his obligations to sponsors.

Next year will also mark a homecoming of sorts for him, after training in the US for almost 10 years, first at Bolles School and then with the Texas Longhorns.

READ MORE HERE

Naomi Osaka, tennis Grand Slam winner

Naomi Osaka has proven that she has the mettle to claim a Grand Slam title against the odds and in trying circumstances.
Naomi Osaka has proven that she has the mettle to claim a Grand Slam title against the odds and in trying circumstances.

Naomi Osaka impressed many not just with her raw talent but also with the grace with which she handled her controversial win at the US Open final in September.

She has proven that she has the mettle to claim a Grand Slam title against the odds and in trying circumstances.

Women's tennis has lacked consistent Major winners over the last decade, with the exception of Serena Williams, so there is a great opportunity for Osaka to stake her claim.

READ MORE HERE

 

Correction note: The story has been edited for clarity.