SINGAPORE: Singapore's finance minister will be promoted to deputy prime minister, the government announced on Monday, in the clearest sign yet that he could become the city-state's next leader.
Lawrence Wong will take up his new post with effect from June 13, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement.
The 49-year-old was earlier handed a key role in the country's ruling party in April, in an initial signal of how the succession process would take shape.
Lee, 70, is the son of Singapore's late founding premier Lee Kuan Yew, and the upcoming leadership change is seen as sensitive because it marks the founding family handing power to a new generation of ruling party leaders.
The financial hub of 5.5 million has been ruled by the People's Action Party (PAP) since 1959, and leadership succession is usually a carefully choreographed affair.
The process was thrown into disarray last year, when the leader-in-waiting and then-finance minister, Heng Swee Keat, gave up his claim to the job after the party saw its support slip in national elections.
That cleared the way for Wong's emergence.
"Mr Lawrence Wong will be promoted to deputy prime minister. He will be the acting prime minister in the absence of the prime minister," Lee said in a statement.
Wong will continue as finance minister, added Lee, who also announced cabinet changes and other political appointments.
"The next generation leadership is taking shape," Lee said in a separate Facebook post.
"I ask everyone to give your full support to this important transition, to steer Singapore safely out of the pandemic and into a brighter future."
Several ministers had been touted as potential replacements for Lee but Wong – who took over as finance minister in May last year, and also played a prominent role in coordinating Singapore's fight against Covid-19 – came out on top.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Education Minister Chan Chun Sing had earlier been seen as other contenders to succeed Lee. — AFP