Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said he did not want to be the country's next prime minister after current premier Lee Hsien Loong retires, according to his letter published in local media on Thursday.
He is also set to give up his portfolio as finance minister, local media reported. Heng will step aside as leader of the ruling People's Action Party's fourth-generation team, a term used to describe the group of ruling party politicians seen as future leaders.
The Straits Times reported that Heng, who turns 60 this year, cited the long-term and profound challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, his age, and the demands of the top job, as reasons for his decision.
In a letter to Prime Minister Lee he said: "This year, I am 60. As the crisis will be prolonged, I would be close to the mid-60s when the crisis is over. The 60s are still a very productive time of life. But when I also consider the ages at which our first three prime ministers took on the job, I would have too short a runway should I become the next prime minister then. We need a leader who will not only rebuild Singapore post-Covid-19, but also lead the next phase of our nation-building effort."
Responding to the letter, Lee said he understood and respected Mr Heng's decision.
Heng is expected to stay on in Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies. As had been earlier planned between the two men, he will relinquish his finance portfolio when a Cabinet reshuffle takes place in about two weeks' time.
Heng will also remain the PAP's first assistant secretary-general, the Straits Times reported.
Lee also thanked Heng for his "selfless decision to stand aside." He also said: "Your actions now are fully in keeping with the spirit of public service and sense of duty that motivated you to step forward when I asked you to stand for election in 2011."