As DPM, Heng Swee Keat will support PM Lee in reviewing policies on ageing population, economic restructuring

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking to residents during an event at Our Tampines Hub, on April 28, 2019. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at the G20 Leaders Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec 1, 2018.

SINGAPORE - As Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will support Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in reviewing longer-term policies on issues such as the ageing population and economic restructuring.

Mr Heng, who assumes his new post on Wednesday (May 1), said other issues he will examine include the greater use of technology and innovation to drive Singapore's future economy, as well as dealing with social issues that will arise as the economy develops amid rapid global shifts.

He was responding to questions from reporters on his role as DPM, at an event on Sunday (April 28) in his Tampines constituency.

He said another crucial part of his role will be to support PM Lee in strengthening Singapore's relations with major partners around the world.

Mr Heng had just returned last week from the United States, where he was in Washington for the Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting as well as the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. He was also in the San Francisco Bay Area for two tech forums, among other events.

Earlier this month, Mr Heng was in Chiang Rai, Thailand, for the Asean Finance Ministers' Meeting on April 4 and 5, and in Putrajaya for the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat on April 9.

The minister said he is going to China and Japan next month.

"A whole range of visits to build good relations with our neighbours, to strengthen our partnership to take Singapore forward," Mr Heng said.

The Prime Minister's Office had announced Mr Heng's promotion to DPM last Tuesday, moving him closer towards succeeding PM Lee as Singapore's next leader.

PM Lee had previously said he hoped to hand over his post to his successor by the time he turns 70 in 2022.

Asked about the fact that he is likely to be DPM for a shorter period of time than PM Lee, who held the post for 14 years, Mr Heng noted that he has been in public service for his entire career.

"So I've been in policymaking for many, many years now, as well as in operational work in the police. So it's not something that's totally new to me," he said.

"But of course the learning curve will be steeper, and I will do my best," he added. "And we will certainly have the good support of the PM, DPM Teo (Chee Hean), DPM Tharman (Shanmugaratnam) as well as the Cabinet colleagues."

On whether his new responsibilities will mean he is less active in Tampines GRC, Mr Heng said he and his fellow constituency MPs have been working closely together all the time, and will "continue to be active in the community".

All five MPs were at Sunday's event, where they attended the groundbreaking of another 4km of cycling paths for Tampines. Construction for the remaining 10km of the cycling path network will also begin next year.

The town's cycling path network will be expanded to 21km by 2022.

About 100 bicycle parking spaces were also added outside Tampines Downtown Line MRT Station - making it easier for residents to park and ride for their daily commute.

The expansion of the cycling path network in Tampines is part of the national effort to construct an islandwide 700km network of cycling paths spanning all 26 Housing Board towns by 2030, with the goal of making Singapore a car-lite nation.

Some residents welcomed the accessibility the new paths offered but expressed their concerns about sharing paths with personal mobility device (PMD) users.

Madam Ivy Lim, 56, recalled near-collisions with PMD users when she was out with her elderly mother, who is a wheelchair user.

"Unlike bicycles, these e-scooters have no bells to warn us that they are approaching. I have to wheel my mother very slowly in order to avoid accidents," the Tampines resident added.

There were 100 accidents involving PMDs on public paths last year, including a fatal accident of a man who died after falling off his e-scooter at East Coast Park in September.

"As users of public paths, whether as cyclists, pedestrians or PMD-users, we must all do our part to behave in a responsible manner - to keep the paths safe and enjoyable for all users," said Mr Heng.

"At the same time, we will continue our programmes to ensure that our children in schools are aware of all these good behaviours."

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