PM: Search for next leader progressing

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a dialogue that the search for Singapore's next prime minister is progressing, but reiterated that the next generation of ministers will choose their own leader.
Mr Lee speaking at yesterday's dialogue at The Arts House, moderated by The Straits Times editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang.
Mr Lee speaking at yesterday's dialogue at The Arts House, moderated by The Straits Times editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Team of next-generation leaders is in place and they will choose a peer from among them to lead S'pore, he says

Singapore's younger ministers will not be publicly given report cards by the Prime Minister on how they are doing in their jobs.

And while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has his views on who his successor should be, he reiterated yesterday that the next generation of ministers will choose their own leader.

Responding to a question about his involvement in selecting Singapore's next prime minister during a dialogue at The Arts House, Mr Lee said the search is progressing.

"I am not sure that I want to do what (founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew) used to do in the old days. He used to give report cards publicly for the ministers and I have not generally been doing that," he said, to laughter from the audience.

Those identified as potential candidates include Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

At the dialogue yesterday organised by the Economic Development Board Society and The Straits Times, Mr Lee said the team of next-generation leaders is in place - it was reinforced in 2011, and again last year.

 
 
 

The younger leaders have been given portfolios and responsibilities where they can demonstrate mastery and gain confidence, he added.

He noted that previous prime ministers were chosen by their peers.

Singapore's second prime minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong, was chosen by his peers at a meeting after the 1984 General Election, while the process was the same for himself, decided over lunch, Mr Lee said.

He added with a laugh: "I imagine the next time round, somebody will host lunch."

On the subject of race, Mr Lee said that Singapore could learn a lesson from the divisive election in the US last year: Race still matters.

Though different races have been brought together in Singapore, this is not a natural state of affairs, he said.

"You will always need that framework, that scaffolding, to hold it together," he said, adding that these included the right laws and correct social norms.

"As Mr Lee Kuan Yew used to say, you have cream and milk, you stir it up, it is homogenised, but it is not combined together indissolubly.

"You leave it out a while, it separates out. We have to make sure that our races don't separate out," said Mr Lee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'PM: Search for next leader progressing'. Print Edition | Subscribe