Political transition to 4G leaders

Heng on how he plans to lead

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 57, was announced as the ruling People's Action Party's first assistant secretary-general on Nov 23, 2018, making him the most likely successor to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 57, was announced as the ruling People's Action Party's first assistant secretary-general on Nov 23, 2018, making him the most likely successor to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO FILE

The newly confirmed leader of the ruling People's Action Party's fourth-generation team has said he will lead in an open and consultative manner.

And when a decision needs to be made, he will move decisively, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 57, said yesterday.

Reporters had asked Mr Heng, frequently described as soft-spoken, about his leadership style.

The PAP's new first assistant secretary-general said this was best answered by the people he worked with in his three decades of public service.

But he added: "My own sense is I am very open, I listen to all views, and I decide what needs to be done.

"When it is important enough, we will be fast and decisive about it, just like what I did during the global financial crisis (in 2008 and 2009), because every minute of delay means far greater risk."

Since his entry into politics in 2011, Mr Heng has garnered a reputation for being consultative, having chaired multiple committees to gather the views of Singaporeans, including the Our Singapore Conversation in 2013, and more recently, the Future Economy Council.

OPEN, FAST AND DECISIVE

My own sense is I am very open, I listen to all views, and I decide what needs to be done. When it is important enough, we will be fast and decisive about it, just like what I did during the global financial crisis (in 2008 and 2009), because every minute of delay means far greater risk.

MR HENG SWEE KEAT

The consultation process has had a long history in government and will continue under his watch, Mr Heng said. "Increasingly, as more Singaporeans have interesting perspectives, we will enlarge this consultation. And I will say we are going beyond consultation," he added.

"We want to encourage our people to not just offer a view but, where they can, to play a part in building Singapore, whether it is at the community or national level."

He cited the example of the Community Network for Seniors, which taps a huge network of voluntary welfare organisations, grassroots groups and government agencies to provide social and healthcare services to the elderly.

"We were able to mobilise the younger seniors as well as some very young people to form a network with our seniors and, as a result, we can take much better (care) of our seniors," he said. "That is the way to go: That as our needs multiply significantly, this partnership will grow in importance."

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah said one of Mr Heng's defining traits is that he consults widely, but also has a clear vision.

"He will not act on his vision until he is satisfied he has heard from others," she said.

 
 
 

Another hallmark is his emphasis on partnerships, she added.

"He is very keen to work with people and different groups because he is firmly of the belief that it is not one entity, one person or one organisation that can do it alone," she said.

Even as he highlighted his decision-making skills, Mr Heng also underscored the importance of teamwork.

"It is important that we have a strong, united team in Cabinet... because I have seen so many examples in other countries where the energy is not focused on going forward but instead the energy is focused on the internal squabbles and on looking at the past," he said.

His deputy, second assistant secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, said: "Teamwork, going forward, is not just about the two of us, not even just within the Cabinet or between fellow party members. It is the mobilisation of the entire Singapore to come together.

"No matter how good we are individually, it is... not sufficient. What distinguishes the Singapore team from the rest of the countries with whom we are competing is the fact that we have a very cohesive team."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Heng on how he plans to lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe