Singapore gets a new PM after 20 years: Lawrence Wong

NEW DELHI: Lawrence Wong was sworn in on Wednesday as Singapore’s new prime minister, marking the first leadership change in 20 years and becoming only the fourth leader since the nation’s Independence. Wong, 51, is part of the “4G” leaders, a new generation of politicians selected by the long-dominant People’s Action Party (PAP) to maintain stability and continuity in the city-state.
The oath to Wong was administered by President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 67, in what was described by local media as a low-key leadership transition.
He will retain his position as finance minister while taking over from Lee Hsien Loong, the 72-year-old son of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Hsien Loong led Singapore for two decades and will stay in Wong’s cabinet as senior minister, continuing a tradition of former prime ministers maintaining roles in subsequent administrations.
Wong, a government scholar, began his career as an economist at Singapore’s trade ministry. He has held significant roles in the bureaucracy, including CEO of the Energy Market Authority and Principal Private Secretary to the prime minister. Entering politics in 2011, Wong joined the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s board and later led the culture, national development, and education ministries. He gained prominence in 2020 as co-chair of the Covid-19 taskforce, earning praise for his calm communication of pandemic restrictions. Appointed finance minister in 2021, Wong became deputy prime minister and Lee’s designated successor in 2022, earning the “first among equals” title. He has chaired the central bank board since 2023. Wong is the first Singaporean leader born after the country’s independence in 1965.
Wong’s succession follows a carefully managed process that saw some delays, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the unexpected withdrawal of Lee’s initially chosen successor in 2021. Wong, who emerged as a prominent figure during the pandemic as co-chair of the taskforce, was named Lee’s successor in April 2022 after extensive consultations within the PAP leadership and his peers. He was then promoted to deputy prime minister and spearheaded a major public consultation on social issues such as sustainability, inequality, and employment.
In his new role, Wong emphasized his commitment to serving Singapore with “with humility and a deep sense of duty”, vowing to devote all his energy to the nation and its 5.9 million people. On Monday, he made a minor cabinet reshuffle, elevating the trade minister to deputy prime minister, and promised a more significant reshuffle after the next general election, which is due by 2025. Addressing the crowd he said, “I feel a sense of satisfaction and completeness.”
Outgoing prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his final major speech on May 1, urged Singaporeans to support Wong, highlighting that the country’s stable political environment has enabled effective long-term planning. Lee expressed a sense of fulfillment as he prepared to step down.
Opposition leader Pritam Singh acknowledged the challenging circumstances under which Wong is assuming leadership, pointing to an unpredictable global environment and significant domestic generational changes. “Under Prime Minister Wong’s leadership, the Workers’ Party will continue to play our legislative role to advance the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans,” said Singh exuding confidence in Wong’s rule.
(With inputs from agencies)


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