As DPM, Heng will assist PM in reviewing longer-term policies

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat cycling on a blender bike to make banana berry shake, with assistance from financial adviser Tan Ling, 25, who was helping out at the booth at the Tampines cycling path completion and ground-breaking ceremony at Our Ta
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat cycling on a blender bike to make banana berry shake, with assistance from financial adviser Tan Ling, 25, who was helping out at the booth at the Tampines cycling path completion and ground-breaking ceremony at Our Tampines Hub yesterday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

As deputy prime minister, Mr 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, said other issues he will examine include the greater use of technology and innovation to drive Singapore's future economy, and 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 yesterday 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, who is the Finance Minister, had returned about a week ago from the United States, where he was in Washington for the Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, among other meetings.

Earlier this month, he 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.

He 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 announced Mr Heng's promotion to DPM last Tuesday, a move that takes 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 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 Cabinet colleagues."

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

All five MPs were at yesterday's event, where they attended the ground-breaking for another 4km of cycling paths for Tampines.

Construction for the remaining 10km of the cycling path network will 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 the Tampines Downtown Line MRT station, making it easier for residents to park and ride for their daily commute.

Some residents welcomed the new infrastructure but expressed 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," added the Tampines resident, who is an administrative officer.

There were 100 accidents involving PMDs on public paths last year.

"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.

He added that programmes in schools will continue to be held to teach students good behaviour.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2019, with the headline 'As DPM, Heng will assist PM in reviewing longer-term policies'. Print Edition | Subscribe