Give next PM more time to understudy job

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing has assured the public that any of the fourth-generation leaders would step up to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong if called upon to do so ('Business continuity' no matter who's next PM; Oct 31).

Political leadership matters, especially in Singapore.

Our late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew took great pains to ensure a smooth leadership transition. He appointed Mr Goh Chok Tong as deputy prime minister in 1985. Mr Goh took over the helm five years later, in a carefully managed leadership transition.

Mr Goh did the same, appointing Mr Lee Hsien Loong as his deputy before giving him the reins 14 years later.

One cannot help but feel that this forthcoming transition is very different, especially for its unpredictability.

The current deputy prime ministers are apparently out of the running for the top post.

PM Lee has said that he is ready to step down soon after the next general election, which is due by early 2021 but could happen in the next two years.

Given such a situation, the appointed successor, whoever he is, will have precious little time, unlike his predecessors, to understudy the job and, more importantly, be exposed to the people and the local and international business communities.

Singapore, especially its economy, thrives on political stability.

We need to hasten the appointment of PM Lee's successor.

Failing which, PM Lee should postpone his retirement for a few years to ensure that there is enough lead time for the next prime minister to gain experience and exposure before assuming the hot seat.

Edmund Lam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2017, with the headline 'Give next PM more time to understudy job'. Print Edition | Subscribe