Question to ask is not who'll be next PM, but if 4G team is ready

The topic of leadership succession was raised for the first time in this year's Budget debate, with Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) saying that the question is not who will be the next prime minister, but whether the fourth-generation (4G) team is ready to take over.

And Ms Cheng expressed confidence in the team, saying: "I believe we have a strong team to take us forward. It is a team that is prepared to take difficult decisions, and to take a long-term view."

In her speech yesterday, she said the question of who would succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been the subject of much talk, from boardrooms to coffee shops.

PM Lee, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and members of the 4G team have all weighed in on the issue. However, this has not cleared the air but led people to "read the tea leaves and speculate even further", she said.

"I think they are all asking the wrong question... We should ask ourselves, is the team ready to take over?" she added.

Her comments came a day after PM Lee said he will reshuffle the Cabinet after Parliament prorogues to give younger ministers more exposure and responsibility.

The issue of succession had come to the fore last December, when ESM Goh said he hoped younger ministers will choose their leader in the first six to nine months of this year. But PM Lee said "it probably will take a little bit longer", while a team of 4G office-holders said in a statement that they would pick a leader "in good time".

Noting that leader succession is not just about one man or woman, Ms Cheng said PM Lee and his colleagues have been steadily building up a strong team to take Singaporeans into the future.

She said while the Budget did not touch on leadership succession, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Straits Times interview last week that it was a team effort involving the whole of the Government.

"He has consulted the 4G ministers, who have backed the Budget, including the GST (goods and services tax) increase," she added.

This team will have to implement the difficult decision and follow through with other tough steps, she said, but added that she is confident that "we are in good hands".

Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan also touched on the next generation of leaders, saying Singaporeans will want to be led by people they can trust to understand financial opportunities, brace for headwinds and have citizens' welfare at heart.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'Question to ask is not who'll be next PM, but if 4G team is ready'. Print Edition | Subscribe