Our Future Deputy PM Chan Chun Sing

Cyberspace has been abuzz with talk about Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat becoming our next Prime Minister (PM).

On Friday (23 Nov), Mr Heng was named the party’s First Assistant Secretary-General — a role that naturally advances the person to PM.

Felow front-runner Mr Chan Chun Sing was named Second Assistant Secretary-General. He will likely become our next Deputy PM in the future.

While Mr Heng may have ‘won the race’, Mr Chan should in no way be discredited. Being considered for the country’s most important role is no cheap matter.

Here are 7 things you may not know about man who almost became our next PM.

1. Raised by a single mother

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Mr Chan’s parents got divorced when he was young. His mother then had to work 2 jobs to support both Mr Chan and his sister. In the morning, she would clean offices and for the rest of the day, she would operate a machine at a manufacturing plant.

2. Stayed in a 3-room flat till mid-20s


Where Mr Chan’s flat used to be
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Mr Chan lived in a 3-room flat in MacPherson with his mother, sister, grandparents and aunt. A 3-room flat may be fairly spacious, but with 6 people living in it maybe not so much.

Mr Chan only moved out when he went overseas to pursue his degree. That means living in the crammed flat for about 21 years.

3. Taught to be content

On talk show Hear Me Out 2, Mr Chan talked about how he never had many of things his friends had. Among them was a trendy backpack which his family could not afford. Instead, he carried one of those free bag packs from a travel agency.

Possibly what he carried when he was younger
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His grandmother would then tell him to think of it as being unique. She also taught him how to be content with what they had rather than always lamenting what they did not.

4.  Worked odd-jobs as a kid

Mr Chan also revealed that he used to work 3 part-time jobs when he was younger — manufacturing caps for bottles, tutoring younger students and working as a scout.

This was to alleviate his mother’s financial burden. Her pay from working as a machine operator was a measly $500 — which converts to a little over $1,000 today.

5. A consistently stellar student

President's Scholar Chan Chun Sing and his mother, Madam Kwong Kait Fong (red outfit) chatting with guests at reception following the President's Scholarship awards presentation at Istana.President’s Scholarship Ceremony at the Istana in 1988
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All through his education years, Mr Chan was a top performer. In primary school, he was always either the top or second-best scorer.

Then in Raffles Junior College, he graduated among the top 4 scorers. He was later awarded 2 prestigious scholarships: President’s Scholarship and Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship.

A few years later, he was awarded with yet another scholarship – Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship – under which he completed the Sloan Fellows programme at MIT, one of the top universities in the world.

6. Loves his no-frills Casio watch

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Those of us who have served in the army will probably recognise the watch in the picture. It’s the classic no-frills Casio watch. Compared to other watches, it goes for a cheap $12.50.

In a 2015 post, Mr Chan expressed joy in managing to find a replacement strap for his Casio watch. Given his humble upbringing, his frugality should come as no surprise.

7. Extremely down to earth

During a talk show, hosts asked Mr Chan how they should address him. He casually joked that even if they called him ‘oi’, he would respond.

Sometimes, he would be asked about his infamous ‘kee chiu‘ line. Instead of trying to explain his action, he laughs about it. And when he learnt about parodies made about that, he replied with the question:

Do I want to be a popular politician or a genuinely efficient one?

Clearly, he doesn’t mind them at all.

In case you don’t know about the phrase, Mr Chan had conducted an informal poll at a PAP address 2011, and had asked his audience to ‘kee chiu’ – Hokkien for ‘hands up’ – to vote.

8. Might have ended up as a librarian

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As a child Mr Chan didn’t have very big ambitions. He said that all he wanted was to get a scholarship to become a librarian.

His ambition was fuelled by 2 reasons. First, he likes reading books. Second, he wanted to enjoy the air-conditioning. He explained that back then, the library was the only place you could enjoy air-conditioning at.

9. Had a first date at a MINDEF canteen

Some people spend days thinking about where to take their first date. Not Mr Chan. He had his first date with his wife at a MINDEF canteen, where they each had a plate of ‘cai png’, or economy rice.

Not the most romantic setting
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Mr Chan would years later make up for this lack of romance with a proposal at a park in Marina Bay.

10. Schoolmates with other ministers

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During his time in Raffles Institution, he was schoolmates with ministers Tan Chuan-Jin and Ong Ye Kung.

Mr Chan admitted that Mr Tan and Mr Ong were much smarter than him, and that they often required only “30 percent of their effort” to score well in tests.

A humble man with a mission

From growing up with only 1 parent and in a 3-room HDB flat, Mr Chan has come a long way.

He worked hard, rose through the ranks of the army, assumed various ministerial roles, and has emerged as the likeliest candidate for Deputy Prime Minister.

And all through his rise to power, he has managed to remain humble and focused on his mission to do good for fellow Singaporeans.

With Mr Chan at the helm of our country’s leadership, we can be sure that we’re in good hands. If you agree, ‘kee chiu’ in the comments.

Featured image from Chan Chun Sing’s Facebook & National Archives of Singapore.