On 15 May 2024, the Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, 51 will take over as Singapore’s Prime Minister from Lee Hsien Loong, the leader since 2004. He will become only the fourth prime minister in nearly 60 years since independence.

Lee Hsien Loong, the elder son of Singapore’s architect, founding father and the first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, as a boy, had a ringside view of Singapore’s most turbulent period in history. He entered politics at 32 and became the prime minister at 52. Over the next 20 years, he kept Singapore special and steered it through an increasingly complex world (www.straitimes.com).

In the six decades since independence, Singapore has achieved much. A developed country, its per capita GDP is among the highest in the world. Its airport, port and mass rapid transport are among the most efficient globally, home ownership is widespread, and infrastructure is in good shape. The island nation plays an important role in international affairs, hosts the APAC headquarters of many global corporations, and is home to an enviable talent pool. Singapore’s government leaders are among the world’s highest paid and widely admired as best performing.

Wong, a competent leader, who won much acclaim for the island nation’s excellent handling of the pandemic, is expected to provide continuity to the government. A Member of Parliament since 2011, he has held positions in the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Communications and Information, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Ministry of National Development, and the Ministry of Education. Before entering politics, Wong held roles as chief executive of the Energy Market Authority, and principal private secretary to Lee Hsien Loong.

Wong inherits a strong economy and a stable government. However, inflation and cost-of-living remain a challenge. Wong’s leadership mantle will be tested as he prepares to lead the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in the next general election due before November 2025.

The external environment is choppy. Walking a tightrope between the US and China, with both of whom Singapore shares good relations, would be a key foreign affairs challenge. Closer home, maintaining good relations with Indonesia and Malaysia (despite minor irritants) would be high on his list of priorities.

The article has reference to open sources including The Strait Times and Al Jazeera.

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