Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong appeared on 97.2FM this morning, having an hour-long conversation about work and life.
If you don’t have the time to watch the entire video on Facebook, here are ten interesting things he shared during his radio interview.
Came From Humble Background, Earned Scholarship Through Hard Work
When asked about his schooling, DPM Wong shared that although he studied in the US, he actually comes from humble backgrounds.
He studied at Tanjong Katong Technical School, which is now Tanjong Katong Secondary School. Aftewards, he spent his junior college years at Victoria Junior College.
Under the watchful eye of his mother, who was a primary school teacher, DPM Wong excelled and managed to get a Public Service Commission scholarship.
According to archived documents about DPM Wong on the Government’s website, he obtained a Bachelor of Science in economics at the University of Winsconsin-Madison, then a Masters degree in the same field at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He also obtained a Master of Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government under Harvard University.
Secretly Learnt How To Ride a Motorbike
Upon sharing that his mother was pretty strict while raising him, the hosts asked DPM Wong what was the most rebellious thing he ever did.
It turns out that he actually secretly learnt how to ride a motorbike when he was studying in the US, and didn’t tell his mother until he returned to Singapore.
He owned a motorbike and took the exam for a motorbike licence in the US, but when he came back, he bought a scooter instead. In fact, he used to ride a scooter to work daily as a civil servant.
Imagine seeing your DPM riding a scooter and getting stuck in traffic next to you.
Takes Chinese Tuition Classes; Says Practice Makes Perfect
A commenter on Facebook live mentioned that DPM Wong sounds more fluent in Chinese than before, asking him if he’s doing anything to improve it.
DPM Wong shared that his parents used Malay and English at home when he was growing up, so learning Chinese was an arduous journey as a child. He had to learn it through rote memory, like memorising phrases to use in Chinese compositions.
After graduating from school, he didn’t really get a chance to use Chinese again till entering politics, where he started to communicate with residents using the language. Additionally, holding press conferences on COVID-19 for the past two years have provided him ample opportunities to practice speaking Mandarin.
He admitted that it was quite stressful to answer questions in Chinese and to prepare Chinese soundbites for reporters, but the key to improving language skills is to practice more. DPM Wong also shared that he is currently receiving lessons to improve his standard of Chinese.
Within the multi-ministry COVID-19 task force, he ranked Minister Gan Kim Young as the best Chinese speaker, followed by Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Thoughts on ‘Eye Power’ Meme
Remember that one COVID-19 taskforce press conference, where everyone ‘eye power’-ed Mr Wong to answer a reporter’s question?
You can also watch this video for a recap:
When asked about that, he laughed and said that he only kena eye power-ed once, which turned into a huge meme. Afterwards, he didn’t receive any more eye power-ing.
Biggest Challenge of Dealing with the Pandemic
As one of the co-chairs of the COVID-19 task force, people were curious: what was the biggest challenge he faced while dealing with the pandemic?
DPM Wong said that the rapid changes was a key challenge, as it required lots of adaptability for the country to meet the change head-on.
Additionally, it is also hard to decide whether or not to tighten COVID-19 restrictions, especially in the face of a new wave of cases. Nobody likes being under strict measures, and it will affect lots of businesses too.
However, our healthcare system is still able to handle the pressure of the current wave of cases, which is why the Government hasn’t tightened measures. Hopefully, Singapore will be able to safely coexist with COVID-19 in the future.
Didn’t Take Leave for Two Years
Due to the pandemic, DPM Wong has not taken any annual leave in the past two years.
And yes, even ministers and prime ministers get annual leave, just ike you and me. If he wants to take leave, it will have to be approved by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
This then begs the question: what if the PM wants to take leave? It’ll have to be approved by the president.
And if the president wants to take leave? Err, we’ll have to ask Mdm Halimah Yacob about that.
Hasn’t Gotten Infected with COVID-19 Yet
The radio deejays pointed out that a popular question to ask your friends nowadays is: have you gotten COVID-19?
In response, DPM Wong said that no, he hasn’t been infected by the virus so far. He attributes this to the power of the vaccines, which has greatly protected us from getting infected.
And in the event that we do get infected, we’ll be protected from developing serious illness. DPM Wong raised the example of his 82-year-old mother who got infected a few months ago, but didn’t go see a doctor.
As she has taken all of her vaccination shots, including her booster shot, she recovered within a few days thanks to the extra protection that the shots provided.
Relaxing Activities: Guitars, Movies, Exercise
One might wonder how DPM Wong relieves all of that day-to-day stress from holding so many positions. The answer: playing guitar, exercising, and watching movies with his wife.
Apparently, DPM Wong started playing the guitar when he was only 10 years old. His father bought him a guitar as a gift, and he learnt how to play it with a family friend.
He likes to take a brisk walk in the park, go running, and has even tried to do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). He would also go to the mvoies with his wife, and recently watched Top Gun: Maverick in the theatres.
Thoughts On Being Chosen as 4G’s Leader and DPM
One of the hosts asked if DPM Wong accepted the position of DPM immediately, or if he had to take some time to consider the offer.
Responding to that question, Minister Wong said that he had the mindset that if his colleagues chose him, he’ll accept the role and work hard so that he can live up to the trust they placed in him.
Additionally, he believes that leading the team isn’t just about his efforts alone. Instead, it is a team effort, and everyone will have to work together for his leadership to be effective.
When the issue of personal bodyguards was brought up, DPM Wong said he currently doesn’t have any bodyguards when going around his personal business. However, with his DPM status, that might change in the future.
Humorously, he said, “If I have bodyguards while paktor (or dating) with his wife, wouldn’t that be a big deal?”
The other hosts also laughed and said that wouldn’t be a bodyguard, but a lightbulb, which means third-wheeler in Chinese slang.
Biggest Stress as Finance Minister
What does DPM Wong think is the biggest challenge of being a Finance Minister?
With the Ministry of Finance basically managing the piggy bank of the nation, it was only natural that the biggest stressor is not having enough money to satisfy everyone’s requests.
DPM Wong shared that it isn’t just citizens who would request for more financial assistance. Other government departments would also request for more resources, so the ministry is constantly stressed about budgeting to fit everyone’s needs.
He also debunked the myth that being Finance Minister means being cai shen ye, or the God of Wealth. After all, he isn’t able to print more money for everyone!
DPM Wong also took this opportunity to acknowledge that everyone is worried about the rising costs of living, but assured us that there are already measures implemented to help us cope. There will also be more measures that’ll be put in place in the upcoming months.
For instance, those from low-income families will get up to $700 in cash this month. Other measures also include CDC vouchers and GST vouchers.
You can watch this video to know more about GST vouchers:
If situation worsens, the government will definitely implement more measures and help to lessen our burdens.
To end off, DPM Wong shared that his personal belief in life is that he should do everything to the best of his ability. He also believes that there is always room for improvement, so he will review his past actions and think about how to do better the next time round.
With such a humble and hardworking attitude, it is truly no wonder why the fourth generation voted for him as their leader.
You can watch the entire interview below:
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