Who is he?
Ong Ye Kung is Singapore’s acting minister for education (higher education and skills) and senior minister of state at the Ministry of Defence. Ong was elected as a member of Parliament for the Sembawang group representative constituency in September 2015, and is a member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). Prior to his cabinet appointment, he was director of group strategy at Keppel Corporation, and earlier served as deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress. Ong’s earlier government positions included stints as chief executive of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, principal private secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong from 2003 to 2005, and press secretary to the prime minister from 1997 to 2003. He was also the deputy chief negotiator for the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
Why is he in the news?
Singapore’s ruling PAP is priming a new crop of leaders as its third generation, led by Prime Minister Lee, approaches retirement. Lee’s health scare on August 21 during his National Day speech prompted concerns over who will become his successor in a nation that prides itself on decades of political stability. Ong is among the group of highly-regarded PAP legislators who observers consider could become the country’s future prime minister.
What can we expect from him?
Ong has brought a diverse range of experience to the PAP after spending years in Singapore’s labor movement and civil service. He is also the only person with corporate experience among the PAP heavyweights considered to be in the running to become the next prime minister. He is thought to be a resilient leader, having bounced back following an election defeat as a PAP candidate in the Aljunied group representation constituency in 2011. Having spent years working closely with Prime Minister Lee, Ong gained exposure to the inner workings of the country’s top job.