Lawrence Wong sworn in as Singapore’s new Prime Minister

Economist Lawrence Wong was on Wednesday sworn in as Singapore’s fourth prime minister in a planned political transition for the island state.

Wong, 51, succeeded Lee Hsien Loong, 72, who relinquished his position after two decades; both belong to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) that has been driving Singapore’s economic progress for more than five decades.

Wong, who was the deputy prime minister, will be leading the fourth generation PAP politicians’ government as the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.

President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 67, administered the oath to Wong, described by the local media as a low-key leadership transition.

Wong cited continuity, stability and the need to avoid disruptions as reasons for not making major changes at the minister (cabinet) level.

“With all other ministers holding on to their portfolios across the leadership transition from Lee Hsien Loong’s government to Wong’s, it also testifies to the consistency in Wong’s decision-making,” a Channel News Asia report said.

In April 2022, Wong was named as the leader of the PAP’s fourth-generation, or 4G, team, and in June of that year promoted as the Deputy Prime Minister.

Wong is married to Loo Tze Lui. Prior to entering politics, Wong was a civil servant for 14 years before joining the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1997.

The Wong-led government is expected to continue pro-business policies, given Singapore’s status as an Asian financial hub generating investments for Asia, including India, and a trading centre with a global network.

Lee will stay on in the Cabinet as senior minister as has been the case with the first two Prime Ministers of the city state – Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

Wong is retaining Heng Swee Keat, 63, and promoting Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, 65, as his two Deputy Prime Ministers.

President Tharman said he has full confidence in Wong’s ability to lead as Singapore ventures into uncharted waters internationally, noting Wong’s key role in shaping the country’s economic and social policies, Channel News Asia said.

“He will be his own person, with his own approach to building consensus and finding the best way forward for the country. And he will no doubt do so to his own rhythm and beat,” Tharman said at the ceremony.

All eyes are now set on the next General Election, which must be held by November 2025, only after which significant changes to the Cabinet are expected.

At a press conference earlier this week, Wong said: “Continuity and stability are key considerations (for the cabinet), especially as we are approaching the end of this term of government.”

“There is no higher priority for me and that is to form the best possible team to serve Singapore and Singaporeans,” he added.

Among Indian PAP parliamentarians, Murali Pillai, 56, has been promoted as minister of state in the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Transport. Pillai, a lawyer, will be sworn in on July 1, 2024.

The other Indian origin ministers in the cabinet – Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, 63, remains the Foreign Minister; K Shanmugam, 65, as Minister of Law and Home Affairs, and Indranee Rajah, 61, as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Welcoming Wong as the new Prime Minister, the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) said it is confident that Singapore-India ties will continue to flourish.

“This is all the more so since Wong co-chaired the India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable, which has set the stage and the tone for long-term ties between our two countries,” SICCI chairman Neil Parekh said.

Published On:

May 15, 2024

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