Lee Hsien Loong: End of era as Singapore PM hands reins to Lawrence Wong

Lee Hsien Loong: End of era as Singapore PM hands reins to Lawrence Wong
Singapore PM Lee Hsien LoongGetty Images

Lee Hsien Loong, the island nation’s long-serving prime minister, is stepping down, bringing the end of a social time for the beach state.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Lee did fully hand over the reins to deputy prime minister Lawrence Wong and finance minister Lawrence Wong.

Only three prime ministers, all of whom are members of the People’s Action Party ( PAP ), have been in Singapore since 1965, when it first gained independence.

The first was Lee Kuan Yew, Mr. Lee’s papa, who dominated Singapore for 25 years and is widely regarded as the father of modern Singapore.

Even though Mr. Lee will be in the cabinet as a top minister, analysts believe the transition indicates a shift in Singapore’s political leadership as it leaves the Lee family’s shadow.

In his last meeting as prime minister with regional media over the weekend, he thanked Singaporeans for their assistance.

” I did n’t try to run faster than everybody else. I made an effort to get everyone to work with me,” he said. ” And I think we did include some success”.

He added that he had tried to “do ( things ) my way” in a different fashion from his father and other predecessor, Goh Chok Tong.

While his parents was still in power, Mr. Lee joined elections in 1984 as a parliamentarian. Before taking over the head in 2004, he rose up the ranks under Mr. Goh, Singapore’s next prime minister.

The beginnings of his political profession were unavoidably marred by extreme attention. The Lees ‘ family was accused of corruption and claimed that they were creating a political dynasty, which critics have consistently refuted. In secret, some Singaporeans joked about “fami- Lee politicians” and the godhead of “father, boy, and the sacred Goh”.

But over two years as president of Singapore, Mr Lee made his mark.

Under his view, Singapore’s market developed and grew, as the area transformed into an international economic powerhouse and major tourist destination. Its GDP per capita has more than doubled in the last 20 times. Mr. Lee’s administration is also credited with successfully guiding the nation through a number of recessions, the Covid crisis, and the global financial crisis.

The Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino and the Merlion statue in Singapore, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024

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In a region where the superpowers are increasingly engaged in a tug-of-war for loyalty, Mr. Lee properly balanced Singapore’s relations with the US and China in global geopolitics. Following years of lobbying from Gay groups, his government ultimately repealed a contentious anti-gay sex law, though freedom of speech is still firmly stymied.

With his social lineage and grandfatherly, formal image, Mr Lee is typically nicely- liked by Singaporeans. He has topped the most popular politicians in Singapore in surveys, and his area constantly receives the highest voting discuss in elections.

But he has not escaped censure nor discussion.

His government’s decision to let in large numbers of refugees to resolve employment shortfalls in the late 2000s triggered serious suffering. As Singapore became wealthier, social injustice increased and the money gap widened. Under Mr. Lee, the PAP received its lowest-ever voting discuss in 2011 and again in 2020.

According to Singapore leadership expert Donald Low, an educational with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,” Lee Hsien Loong’s major reputation would be the way he supercharged the economy.”

” But in the first half of his career, that came at the price of increasing suffering at rising injustice, the higher occurrence of foreigners, competition for jobs, overcrowding and the possible degradation of membership identity”.

Social analyst Sudhir Vadaketh claimed that Mr. Lee’s administration was” entirely ready to support the higher immigration they deemed essential for their push to become a worldwide city.”

By “failing to get a purchase- in” from Singaporeans, they seeded” a really bad form of prejudice and hatred” that persists to this day, said Mr Vadaketh who runs the impartial information magazine Jom. According to surveys, a growing number of Singaporeans believe racism is a problem and that the pandemic caused it to become more prevalent.

Some analysts also claim that Mr. Lee’s government has not adequately addressed a complex, long-term issue involving public housing, which is where the majority of Singaporeans reside. These flats are leased from the government for 99 years and will lose value as they get older. Many people’s savings are invested in these apartments.

The government has tried to address these issues by enforcing stricter immigration laws, creating new housing initiatives, and updating proposed anti-racism laws.

A simmering private family feud over the property of Mr. Lee’s father broke out in the public in 2016, one year after Lee Kuan Yew passed away. Singaporeans watched agogically as their most prominent family slugged it out as the PM was plunged into a years-long public conflict with his siblings.

At one point, Mr Lee’s siblings called him a “dishonourable son” and alleged he was capitalising on their father’s legacy to build a political dynasty. They also asserted that he was using the “organs of the state” against them and that he was abusing his power. Some members of Mr Lee’s family including his brother now live abroad in self- imposed exile, claiming persecution.

Mr Lee has denied all these accusations. Additionally, he stated that neither his children are interested in politics.

A well-known face in the unknown waters

Lawrence Wong

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Mr. Wong, a former economist and civil servant who at one point served as his principal private secretary, is now set to take over the reins of Mr. Lee.

It is uncharted waters not only for Mr Wong but also Singapore, which has had a Lee leader for 45 of its 59 years of nationhood. ” He is the first PM without a Lee in waiting, and this allows Singapore to be a more normal democracy”, said Mr Low.

The Lees have always had such a significant impact on Singapore, and Mr. Vadaketh praised the fact that we are about to transition sociopolitically.

Mr. Wong’s appointment as his successor was telegraphed two years ago when he was appointed deputy prime minister, as is customary for the PAP.

But the 51- year- old was not the obvious choice from the start. When his political cohort, known as the “4G” or fourth-generation PAP leadership, made their debut more than ten years ago, was viewed as a dark horse.

Another minister, Heng Swee Keat, was slated to take over as PM before he bowed out citing his age and health.

It became clear that Mr. Wong would be the pandemic’s leader in Singapore. As co- chair of a government taskforce, he became a familiar face to Singaporeans, appearing in weekly press conferences calmly explaining convoluted anti- Covid measures.

His team and the local media have written about his reputation as an “everyman.” He is the first PM to study in non- elite local schools, just like most Singaporeans, and he was born in a public housing estate.

Following a nationwide consultation exercise that he launched, he has promised to build a more inclusive Singapore with more support for an ageing population and the needy. He has also promised to spread a message of unity. He stated in a recent interview with The Economist that Singaporeans would” not at all” become a minority and that immigration would continue to be regulated.

He also signalled no deviation in his approach to one of the biggest foreign policy issues for Singapore, the US- China relationship, by insisting the government sides with neither superpower- rather, he said, they are “pro- Singapore”.

Mr Low described him as an “open- minded conservative” who would be amenable to making changes but would likely introduce them “incrementally, marginally, rather than in a ‘ big bang'”.

This is why analysts believe he represents a wise choice by the PAP to emphasize continuity, which he is also eager to demonstrate.

When Mr. Wong revealed his cabinet lineup on Monday,” Continuity and stability are important considerations, especially as we are approaching the end of this term of government.”

He made mention of the requirement for the government to hold an election by November of that year. As Singaporeans decide on their future in a post-Lee era, it will be Mr. Wong’s biggest political test, having held a public vote for the first time as prime minister.

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