‘We went through baptism of fire together’: Lawrence Wong on choosing Gan Kim Yong as DPM , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

‘We went through baptism of fire together’: Lawrence Wong on choosing Gan Kim Yong as DPM

One was a relationship galvanised during the Covid-19 pandemic, the other was forged through a close working relationship over many years in government.

Appointing Mr Gan Kim Yong and Mr Heng Swee Keat as his two deputy prime ministers in his first Cabinet, Singapore’s next prime minister, Mr Lawrence Wong, described his chosen lieutenants as steady hands whose advice and counsel he valued.

“I’ve known both Kim Yong and Swee Keat for many years,” said Deputy Prime Minister Wong, 51, at a press conference on May 13.

“For me, during this initial period of transition, it will be useful to have two more experienced ministers as my deputies.”

It was Mr Gan – who retains his position as minister for trade and industry – who picked Mr Wong as co-chair of the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, to direct the whole-of-government response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Wong said Mr Gan, 65, was a pillar of strength throughout, and they got to know each other’s working styles better. “We went through the Covid baptism of fire together.”

Mr Gan’s experience in international economics will also help Singapore navigate a more contested global environment, Mr Wong added.

As for Mr Heng, 63, who is already deputy prime minister, Mr Wong said they entered politics together in 2011 and worked closely while at the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance. They also worked on national exercises such the Our Singapore Conversation initiative in 2012, which Mr Heng led.

Mr Gan said he first started working with Mr Wong as MPs in neighbouring wards.

“He’s in Marsiling-Yew Tee and I’m in Chua Chu Kang GRC. We are adjacent to one another. We did many things together, many local projects together, to benefit our residents.”

As Cabinet colleagues and co-chairs of the Covid-19 task force, Mr Gan recognised Mr Wong’s strong leadership, particularly in the midst of crisis, he said.

Mr Heng said he particularly appreciated Mr Wong’s support during the pandemic, especially in 2020, when the Finance Ministry rolled out five government budgets in a year.

Mr Heng added that he and Mr Gan also had a close working relationship when Mr Gan was health minister and he was finance minister, noting how they rolled out the $9 billion Pioneer Generation package and the subsequent $8 billion Merdeka Generation package together.

“I’m very happy that Lawrence has appointed Kim Yong as the other deputy prime minister,” Mr Heng said.

Singapore CabinetLawrence WongGAN KIM YONGheng swee keat