Succession Planning: Potential Singapore Prime Minister Promoted to Trade Ministry

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has made changes to his cabinet effective May 1, 2018, promoting three office holders to top posts being vacated by veteran officials, and naming four backbench MPs to new political positions. The appointments are seen as part of succession planning as the 66-year-old Lee marks his 14th year in power.

Attention is focused on Chan Chun Sing, 48, who was named to succeed Lim Hng Kiang, 64, as Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry. A former army chief, Chan entered politics in 2011. He has been rotated in various government agencies, including the Ministry for Family and the Prime Minister's Office. Analysts have identified Chan and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 57, as contenders to replace Lee, who has said he intends to retire in the coming years.

In the reshuffle, Heng was given the added responsibility for assisting the Prime Minister on National Research Foundation matters, taking over from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. For his part, Chan takes over responsibility for the Public Service Division from the deputy prime minister, while continuing as Deputy Chairman of People's Association. 

Leadership transition

Other appointments include 49-year-old Ng Chee Meng becoming Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, 48-year-old Ong Ye Kung becoming Minister for Education, and 49-year-old Josephine Teo becoming Minister of Manpower, bolstering the number of women in the cabinet to three. 

"The younger ministers will progressively take over more responsibility for governing Singapore," Lee wrote on his Facebook page, noting the they will be heading two-thirds of ministries. "The leadership transition taking place in the next few years is well underway."

The ruling People's Action Party founded by Lee's late father, Lee Kuan Yew, has been in power since the country's founding in 1959 and there is no other party that is positioned to replace it in the foreseeable future.