SINGAPORE: Singa­pore’s finance minister, Lawrence Wong, will be promoted to deputy prime minister on June 13, according to an official statement released on Monday, taking a step closer to becoming the leader of the city-state.

Wong will be the fourth prime minister to lead the financial hub since its independence in 1965, though the timing of the handover from current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is as yet undecided. Wong, 49, was catapulted into the political spotlight as co-head of the government’s Covid-19 task force.

He has mostly won praise for his handling of the virus. Under his leadership, Singapore imposed strict lockdowns, border curbs and contact-tracing, which kept deaths and infections to a minimum, especially early on in the pandemic. But after achieving one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, many questioned the slow pace at which the city eased restrictions. Singapore dropped nearly all pandemic restrictions in April this year.

Wong broke down in tears during a speech in parliament in 2020 as he thanked healthcare workers and others for their efforts during the pandemic, a rare show of emotion among the city-state’s leaders.

As a civil servant, Wong worked in several ministries and served as Prime Minister Lee’s principal private secretary from 2005 to 2008.

He previously led the education and national development ministries, and became finance minister last year. He delivered his first budget this year, aimed at steering the country into a post-pandemic era and addressing wealth inequality.

Wong is a member of the board of GIC, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, and is also the deputy chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Published in Dawn,June 7th, 2022

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