Heng Swee Keat 6th in ranking of Asia Pacific finance ministers

Heng Swee Keat 6th in ranking of Asia Pacific finance ministers

SINGAPORE - Newly-appointed Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has been placed in the middle of a regional finance magazine's ranking of Asia Pacific finance ministers.

Hong Kong-based publication FinanceAsia put Mr Heng at number six out of 12 on their list, calling him "one to watch".

Mr Heng only took up the position in September last year after the 2015 General Election, succeeding Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam who had helmed the ministry since 2007.

"Mr Heng ranks in the middle section of our field as he still has to prove himself in his new position, which may just mean maintaining the fiscal health that Mr Tharman stored up over the years," FinanceAsia explained.

According to the magazine, Singapore faced a number of challenges in 2016, most notably the increasing cost of living and buffering its export-driven economy against China's economic slowdown.

"The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore collected a record $43.4 billion in tax revenue in fiscal year 2014/2015. Given pressure on Singapore's economic growth, taxes are likely to be lower this fiscal year," it said, adding that the government may look to raise the goods and services tax (GST) from the current rate of 7 per cent.

FinanceAsia's ranking of Asia Pacific finance ministers

The publication also highlighted that Singapore's budget had swung to the left in recent years with assistance for the poor and higher taxes for the rich, while businesses wanted a reform of restrictive foreign worker policies to soften the impact of wage inflation.

But FinanceAsia said that Mr Heng's most important task is to help maintain stability as Singapore prepares for a transition to a new generation of leaders by 2020. "Mr Heng has been touted as a potential candidate to take over," it added.

This is the second time that the magazine is ranking the finance ministers of the region's 12 largest economies.

It began its ranking on Feb 3 by naming Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as Asia Pacific's worst finance minister of the year.

Since then, Thailand's Apisak Tantivorawong, Japan's Taro Aso, Taiwan's Chang Sheng-ford, Australia's Scott Morrison and China's Lou Jiwei have respectively been ranked from number 11 to number seven.

In last year's rankings, Philippines finance minister Cesar Purisima was named the region's best finance minister.

seanyap@sph.com.sg

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