Heng Swee Keat

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Heng Swee Keat

Heng Swee Keat.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
Assumed office
1 May 2019
PresidentHalimah Yacob
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byTharman Shanmugaratnam
Teo Chee Hean
Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies
Assumed office
27 July 2020
Preceded byTharman Shanmugaratnam
Minister for Finance
In office
1 October 2015 – 14 May 2021
Preceded byTharman Shanmugaratnam
Succeeded byLawrence Wong
Minister for Education
In office
21 May 2011 – 30 September 2015
Member of Parliament
for East Coast GRC
Assumed office
10 July 2020
Member of Parliament
for Tampines GRC
In office
7 May 2011 – 23 June 2020
Managing Director of the
Monetary Authority of Singapore
In office
1 June 2005 – 2 April 2011
Preceded byKoh Yong Guan
Succeeded byRavi Menon
Personal details
Heng Swee Keat

(1961-04-15) 15 April 1961 (age 60)
Political partyPeople's Action Party
Chang Hwee Nee
(m. 1988)
EducationRaffles Institution
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge (BA, MA)
Harvard University (MPA)

Heng Swee Keat PPA PJG (born 15 April 1961)[1] is a Singaporean politician. A member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), he has served as Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore since 1 May 2019 and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies since 27 July 2020.

Heng is the Member of Parliament (MP) for East Coast GRC. He was previously MP for Tampines GRC for Tampines Central from 7 May 2011 to 23 June 2020. He was previously Minister for Education from 21 May 2011 to 11 September 2015 and Minister for Finance from 1 October 2015 to 14 May 2021. [2]

He was widely believed to be poised to succeed Lee Hsien Loong as the next prime minister following his appointment as deputy prime minister in May 2019 and election as the PAP first assistant-secretary general in November 2018. Heng subsequently withdrew himself from the nomination in April 2021.[3]

Prior to his election to Parliament and political career, he served as the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) from 2005 to 2011.


Early career[edit]

In 1983, Heng began his career in the Singapore Police Force where he was awarded the SPF Overseas Scholarship by President Devan Nair.[4] In 1997, he joined the Singapore Civil Service's administrative service. He served a period at the Ministry of Education, before being appointed the principal private secretary to former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (who was then senior minister) in 1997. In 2001, Heng became the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.[5] He then served as managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 2005 to 2011.[6]

In February 2011, Heng was named the Asia-Pacific Central Bank Governor of the Year by the British magazine The Banker.[7]

Political career[edit]

During the 2011 general election, Heng was a People's Action Party (PAP) candidate in Tampines GRC. When he was introduced as a candidate, former prime minister Goh Chok Tong tipped Heng to be a potential minister and core member of Singapore's fourth generation leadership team.[8] Heng was one of five PAP candidates in his constituency in a team led by Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan, which also included Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli, Irene Ng, and Baey Yam Keng. They faced a team from the National Solidarity Party (NSP), led by the party's secretary-general Goh Meng Seng, along with Reno Fong, Syafarin Sarif, Raymond Lim and Gilbert Goh. On polling day on 7 May, the PAP team won the contest with 57.22% of the votes.[9]

On 24 April 2018, it was announced that Heng will take over responsibility for assisting the prime minister on National Research Foundation matters from deputy prime minister Teo Chee Hean on 1 May.[10]

On 23 November 2018, Heng succeeded Teo as the party's first assistant secretary-general following the party's CEC election.[11][12]

2011–2015: Minister for Education[edit]

On 18 May 2011, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong appointed Heng to the Cabinet as the minister for education. Heng was the second first-term MP-elect to be directly promoted to a member of Cabinet after Richard Hu in 1984.[citation needed]

In August 2012, Heng was tasked to lead a new ministerial committee to conduct a broad-based review of the government's policies and direction.[13]

2015–2021: Minister for Finance[edit]

On 28 September 2015, it was announced that Heng would be the Minister of Finance from 1 October 2015.[14] On 19 February 2018, Heng announced on his annual budget statement in parliament that he plans to raise GST from 7% to 9% some time between 2021 and 2025. He said, "the GST increase is necessary because even after exploring various options to manage our future expenditures through prudent spending, saving and borrowing for infrastructure, there is still a gap".[15]

Heng's fourth budget took place on 18 February 2020. Referred to as the "Unity Budget", it covered measures to cover uncertainties long-term against the backdrop of the developing COVID-19 pandemic. Less than a month after on 26 March, Heng delivered a second budget, an additional S$55 billion "Resilience Budget" in response to the worsening situation of the pandemic and to mitigate the economic impact on businesses. It was the second time in Singapore's history since the financial crisis of 2007–08 that past reserves had to be used to fund the initiatives provided. Measures include a cash grant of S$9,000 for eligible self-employed persons as well as S$3,000 for lower-income recipients under the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme (WIS) as emergency relief against the pandemic. Heng also mentioned that this will likely be the worst contraction ever in Singapore's economy since 1965.[16]

2019–present: Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

On 23 April 2019, the Prime Minister's Office announced that Heng will assume the role as the 12th deputy prime minister effectively from 1 May 2019, taking over Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who previously served in the office for 10 years and 8 years respectively.[17] From 1985 to 2019, Singapore has always had two sitting deputy prime ministers concurrently.[17] The unique circumstance of his sole posting, together with his appointment as first assistant secretary-general of the PAP in November 2018, the second most powerful position of the party after the secretary-general, is seen as paving him a clear way to the premiership by political observers.[18]

On Nomination Day for the 2020 general elections on 30 June 2020, Heng contested in the East Coast GRC which surprised political observers because he had been expected to run for re-election in Tampines GRC where he had been the incumbent MP for two terms.[19] He unveiled the PAP manifesto for the residents living in the East Coast Group Representation Constituency, titled “Together We Care @ East Coast”. The plan became popularly known as the “East Coast Plan” on social media and among Singaporeans.[20]

During the campaigning period, a police report was lodged against Heng after comments which he made to a student forum at Nanyang Technological University in 2019 resurfaced.[21] Whilst responding to a question on the possibility of an Indian prime minister by assistant professor Walid Jumblatt Abdullah from the university's School of Social Sciences, Heng had responded that the older generation was "not ready for a prime minister from a minority race" or someone that was non-Chinese.[22] The police released a statement a few days later that it has consulted with the attorney-general of Singapore, Lucien Wong, who deemed that Heng's remarks had no intent to wound anyone's racial feelings or promote enmity between different races.[23]

On polling day on 10 July, the PAP team won the contest with 53.41% of the votes with Heng leading the East Coast GRC. [24]

Heng was seen as the leading contender to be the next prime minister of Singapore after the 2020 election.[25] He subsequently withdrew himself from the nomination on 8 April 2021, citing age and health concerns, though analysts also attributed the withdrawal to Heng's lower-than-expected result in East Coast GRC during the previous election.[26][27]

On 28 May 2021, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced Heng's reappointment to its board for a further term of three years.[28][29]

Personal life[edit]

Heng is married to Chang Hwee Nee, CEO of the National Heritage Board. Heng has 2 children.[30][31][32]

On 12 May 2016, Heng collapsed from a stroke during a Cabinet meeting. He was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he underwent neurosurgery to relieve pressure in his brain. He was transferred to the ICU after the surgery.[33] Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was immediately appointed to cover Heng's duties.[34]

On 25 June 2016, Heng was discharged from hospital after 6 weeks. The Prime Minister's Office said on a statement that Heng had 'made an excellent recovery", but was still on medical leave as he continued his rehabilitation. He resumed his duties as MP and Finance Minister on 22 August 2016.[35]


He completed his secondary and pre-university education at Raffles Institution.

In 1983, Heng graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Economics from Christ's College, Cambridge.[1]

In 1993, Heng obtained a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.[1]

Notable awards[edit]

  • Asia-Pacific Central Bank Governor of the Year award from the British banking magazine The Banker (2011)



  1. ^ a b c "Heng Swee Keat". Christ's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  2. ^ Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218): Candidates declared to have been elected Members of Parliament at the 2011 general election (G.N. No. 1229/2011)
  3. ^ Ang, Hwee Min (8 April 2021). "DPM Heng Swee Keat steps aside as leader of PAP 4G team, PM Lee accepts decision". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  4. ^ http://www.mha.gov.sg/news_details.aspx?nid=Nzk3-uw4ySnZavTA%3D[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Minister for Education Mr HENG Swee Keat, Cabinet of Singapore, 12 June 2012, archived from the original on 7 December 2013
  6. ^ "MAS chief Heng Swee Keat steps down", The Straits Times, 31 March 2011
  7. ^ "MAS chief named top central bank governor for Asia-Pacific", The Straits Times, 12 February 2011
  8. ^ "Heng Swee Keat has 'potential to be Minister'", The Straits Times, 2 April 2011
  9. ^ 2011 Parliamentary Election Results, Elections Department, 8 October 2013, archived from the original on 6 March 2014
  10. ^ Anthony_chia (24 April 2018). "Changes to Cabinet and Other Appointments (Apr 2018)". Prime Minister‘s Office Singapore. Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  11. ^ "PAP's new CEC". PAP.org.sg. 23 November 2018. Archived from the original on 29 April 2019. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Heng Swee Keat picked as PAP's first assistant secretary-general, indicating he will be next PM". StraitsTimes. 23 November 2018. Archived from the original on 23 November 2018. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  13. ^ "National conversation on common future welcomed: Goh Chok Tong", The Straits Times, 12 August 2012
  14. ^ Nurhidayah (28 September 2015). "Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Statement at the Press Conference on the new Cabinet Line-Up on 28 September 2015". Prime Minister‘s Office Singapore. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "COVID-19 Budget: What you need to know about the Resilience Budget measures". CNA. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  17. ^ a b "Heng Swee Keat to be promoted to DPM in Cabinet reshuffle". Channel NewsAsia. 23 April 2019. Archived from the original on 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  18. ^ hermes (24 November 2018). "Heng Swee Keat picked as 4G leader, with Chan Chun Sing as deputy". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  19. ^ Lai, Linette (30 June 2020). "Singapore GE2020: Heng Swee Keat decided to move to East Coast GRC as it cannot afford a 'succession gap'". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  20. ^ "This is the real 'Together We Care @ East Coast' plan". mothership.sg. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  21. ^ "Police report filed against PAP's Heng Swee Keat over his past remarks that older generation of S'poreans not ready for non-Chinese PM". The Online Citizen. Archived from the original on 7 July 2020.
  22. ^ "Older generation of S'poreans not ready for non-Chinese PM: Heng Swee Keat". TODAYonline. Archived from the original on 5 July 2020. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  23. ^ "Police confirm reports made against DPM Heng over comments at NTU forum, but no offence found". 7 July 2020. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  24. ^ "Singapore ruling party, stung by poll setback, faces succession questions". Reuters. 11 July 2020. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  25. ^ hermesauto (26 January 2018). "Singapore's 4G leaders need more time to gain exposure and experience: Analysts". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  26. ^ Tan, Sumiko (8 April 2021). "DPM Heng Swee Keat steps aside as leader of 4G team, setting back Singapore's succession plan for next PM". The Straits Times. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  27. ^ Tham, Yuen-C (9 April 2021). "Heng Swee Keat's decision catches many by surprise; Pritam Singh pledges to work with next 4G leader". The Straits Times. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  28. ^ "Changes to MAS Board of Directors". MAS. 28 May 2021. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  29. ^ Subhani, Ovais (28 May 2021). "MAS appoints finance minister Lawrence Wong as deputy chair of its board". The Straits Times. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  30. ^ AW, CHENG WEI (2 March 2015). "Two former First Ladies attend Girl Guides event". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  31. ^ "Chang Hwee Nee appointed National Heritage Board CEO". 20 March 2017. Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  32. ^ "Heng Swee Keat: I protested when I was moved". Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  33. ^ "Heng Swee Keat out of surgery; in ICU after stroke". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 19 March 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  34. ^ "Heng Swee Keat in stable condition: PM Lee". Channel NewsAsia. 13 May 2016. Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  35. ^ "Heng Swee Keat resumes duties as Finance Minister".

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Koh Yong Guan
Managing Director
of the Monetary Authority of Singapore

2005 – 2011
Succeeded by
Ravi Menon
Political offices
Preceded by
Ng Eng Hen
Minister for Education
2011 – 2015
Succeeded by
Ng Chee Meng
as Minister for Education (Schools)
Succeeded by
Ong Ye Kung
as Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills)
Preceded by
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Minister for Finance
2015 – 2021
Succeeded by
Lawrence Wong
Preceded by
Teo Chee Hean
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Deputy Prime Minister
2019 – present
Parliament of Singapore
Preceded by
Sin Boon Ann
Member of Parliament
for Tampines GRC (Tampines Central)

2011 – 2020
Succeeded by
Koh Poh Koon
Preceded by
Lim Swee Say
Member of Parliament
for East Coast GRC (Bedok)

2020 – present