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Singapore’s new Prime Minister Lawrence Wong replaces Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore’s new Prime Minister Lawrence Wong (2nd R) shakes hands with Minister Lee Hsien Loong (2nd L) during the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana in Singapore on May 15, 2024. Lawrence Wong was sworn in on May 15 as President of Singapore. new Prime Minister, after the resignation of Lee Hsien Loong after two decades in office.

Edgar Su | Afp | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Lawrence Wong was named the city-state’s fourth prime minister on Wednesday, succeeding former Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has ruled Singapore for 20 years.

At the ceremony, the new prime minister said he was “deeply honoured” and told Singaporeans that he and his new cabinet would “do everything possible to serve you and our country”.

Wong acknowledged that he, along with most of his current cabinet, are beneficiaries of Singapore’s leaders who preceded him and will “continue to think boldly and far ahead”.

Speaking on Singapore’s position in the world, Wong said the country’s position is strong, “but the world around us is changing”.

He pointed out that the Asia-Pacific region enjoyed unprecedented peace and stability for 30 years after the Cold War, but said that “unfortunately, those times are over and they will not return.”

Wong noted that the world’s major powers are competing to shape an as-yet-undefined new world order that will be characterized by geopolitical tensions, protectionism and nationalism.

“We must prepare for these new realities and adapt to a messier, riskier and more violent world,” he said.

Domestically, Wong highlighted that Singapore is at a high economic level compared to most other countries. The country has developed excellent education, housing, health care and transportation systems, he said.

Singapore, however, cannot sail, he warned. “This is my promise to all Singaporeans. I will serve you with all my heart. I will never settle for the status quo. I will always look for better ways to make tomorrow better than today.”

Wong concluded his speech by saying: “My mission is clear: to continue to defy the odds and support this miracle called Singapore, so that we can reach even greater heights, so that we can be a beacon of hope and unity for ourselves and for our citizens. children.”

Continuity within the firm

Even though Lee, the eldest son of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, has resigned as prime minister, he will remain a senior minister in Wong’s new cabinet, announced Monday ahead of the inauguration ceremony.

During his tenure, he saw the nation-state through events such as the 2008 global financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the death of the elder Lee in 2015, which triggered a wave of grief in the public.

Lee announced last month that he would hand over power to Wong in mid-May. He had said in 2023 that he would like Wong to succeed him before November this year, having already delayed his retirement plans due to the Covid pandemic.

The new Prime Minister will also be supported by two deputies. Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong has been promoted to deputy prime minister and will work alongside current DPM Heng Swee Keat.

“I have known Kim Yong and Swee Keat for many years. I value their advice,” Wong said earlier this week.

Gan will also take over as chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank and financial regulator.

Singapore will continue to 'strengthen and deepen' its trade relations with the United States: Gan Kim Yong

Wong worked in public service for 15 years before entering politics in 2011. “It’s my calling, I decided that being in public service is what I would like to do,” Wong said on Tuesday in an interview with local media.

It was during the Covid-19 pandemic that Wong rose to political prominence, guiding Singapore through the crisis alongside Gan and current Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Wong will retain his current position as finance minister. Other promotions and appointments were also announced, but there were no major changes in the list of ministers heading each ministry.

“Continuity and stability are key considerations, especially as we approach the end of this government term,” Wong said.

First Prime Minister after independence

Wong, 51, is the country’s first leader born after its independence in 1965.

He first entered politics in Singapore after the 2011 general election, having worked in various government agencies before his political debut. He held ministerial positions in four Singapore ministries and headed the Ministries of National Development and Education.

Wong also served as principal private secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong from 2005 to 2008.

The political transition has been carefully orchestrated for years.

In April 2022, Wong was chosen as the leader of the so-called fourth generation leadership of the ruling People’s Action Party, thus placing him as Lee’s heir apparent.

He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in June 2022, serving in this role alongside his Finance Ministry portfolio.

With the handover, Wong will lead the ruling People’s Action Party into the next general election, which must be called by November 2025.

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