SINGAPORE - Finance Minister Lawrence Wong has been selected to be the leader of the ruling People's Action Party's (PAP) fourth-generation (4G) team, paving the way for him to be Singapore's next prime minister.
Cabinet ministers affirmed their choice of Mr Wong, 49, as the leader of the 4G team on Thursday (April 14), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement.
This decision was then endorsed by all government MPs in a party caucus, added PM Lee, who is secretary-general of the PAP.
The statement comes a year after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, 61, announced he had decided to step aside as leader of the 4G team, to pave the way for a younger person with a longer runway to lead the country when PM Lee retires.
At the time, the 4G ministers had asked for more time to reach a consensus on their next leader, as the country was still battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
But with the pandemic situation having stabilised recently, they were able to relook the issue of succession.
Giving details of how the decision was reached, PM Lee said that after consulting the ministers, he asked former minister Khaw Boon Wan, a former PAP chairman, to start a process involving the ministers, as well as Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, both former 4G ministers.
"Mr Khaw met each one of them individually, to sound out their personal views in confidence and to facilitate a new consensus on a 4G leader. The views of the Prime Minister and the two Senior Ministers were not sought," the statement said.
"Mr Khaw found that the overwhelming majority of those consulted supported Minister Wong as the leader."
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Khaw briefed Cabinet ministers, as well as Mr Tan and Mr Ng, on his findings, and all endorsed the decision for Mr Wong to lead the team.
This decision was subsequently presented to and endorsed by PAP MPs in the evening.
The statement also said PM Lee will make adjustments to Cabinet appointments and these will be announced in due course.
"This decision on succession is a crucial one for Singapore. It will ensure the continuity and stability of leadership that are the hallmarks of our system," PM Lee said in a Facebook post.
"The right to lead is not inherited. It has to be earned afresh by each generation of leaders. Singapore will always need a strong team in charge, with a leader who can bring others together, and draw out the best of each team member," he added.
"I have every confidence that Lawrence and his team will continue to give their best for Singapore and Singaporeans."
Mr Wong is a co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on Covid-19 and was appointed to the key finance portfolio in the last Cabinet reshuffle in May 2021.
He was a senior civil servant before he entered politics in the 2011 General Election, and became Minister of State for Defence and Education. He was appointed Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth in November 2012 and promoted to full minister in May 2014.
He became Minister for National Development in 2015, took on an additional appointment as Second Minister for Finance in 2016, and was made Education Minister after the 2020 General Election. He became Finance Minister in May 2021.
Mr Wong said in a Facebook post that he was humbled and grateful for the trust and confidence of his colleagues, who have chosen him to lead them, and for the support of his fellow MPs.
"From the very beginning in 1959, our model of political leadership has never been about one person, but the team. Each of us contributes, complements each other, and gives our best to Singapore," he said.
"My colleagues in the 4G leadership have stood shoulder to shoulder with each other in the fight against Covid-19. The experience of the past two years has cemented our cohesiveness and strengthened our resolve to steward Singapore safely through this crisis and beyond."
He added: "It is my privilege to be called upon to lead this team. I will do my utmost to uphold this responsibility. But as we have been reminded many times, the right to lead cannot be inherited. Together with the rest of the 4G team, I will continue to serve Singaporeans wholeheartedly, and strive to earn the trust and support of each and every one of our fellow citizens."
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said he looked forward to continue working closely with Mr Wong and the team, adding that many geopolitical and economic uncertainties and social challenges remain.
“The 4G team will continue to work closely together with Singaporeans to improve their lives while seizing opportunities to leave behind a better Singapore for future generations,” he said.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said he had witnessed Mr Wong’s dedication and commitment to Singapore and Singaporeans, adding that he puts his heart and soul into what he does, and is never a seeker of credit or fanfare.
“The 4G team, now led by Minister Lawrence Wong, will continue to put Singapore and Singaporeans at the heart of every decision we make. I will do my utmost to support him, and look forward to be part of his team,” he added.
Observers said Mr Wong’s communication skills, seen in his delivery of his maiden Budget speech in February, gave him an edge.
DPM Heng said: “It was not an easy Budget to deliver, but he did so with verve, steadiness and a sense of fairness.”
He added: “I have found him to be a leader who considers things carefully, is able to bring people together, and has conviction to do what’s right for Singapore.”
This is the full statement from PM Lee, who is secretary-general of the People’s Action Party:
After a process of consultation, Cabinet ministers affirmed today their choice of Minister Lawrence Wong as the leader of the 4G team. This decision was endorsed by all Government MPs in a party caucus this evening.
When Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat stepped aside as the leader of the 4G in April last year, the 4G requested time to arrive at a consensus as to who should lead them. They had to focus then on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 4G team has worked closely together through the past two years of the pandemic, and had the opportunity to better understand each other’s strengths. With the pandemic situation stabilised, we are now able to relook the issue of succession.
After consulting the Ministers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked former Cabinet Minister and People’s Action Party Chairman Mr Khaw Boon Wan to start a process involving the Ministers, as well as Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng. Mr Khaw met each one of them individually, to sound out their personal views in confidence and to facilitate a new consensus on a 4G leader. The views of the Prime Minister and the two Senior Ministers were not sought.
Mr Khaw found that the overwhelming majority of those consulted, supported Minister Wong as the leader. Earlier today, Mr Khaw briefed Cabinet Ministers, as well as the Speaker and NTUC Secretary-General, on his findings, and all endorsed the decision for Minister Wong to lead the team. This decision was subsequently presented to and endorsed by People’s Action Party MPs this evening.
With this decision, the Prime Minister will make adjustments to Cabinet appointments. These will be announced in due course.
This decision on succession is a crucial one for Singapore. It will ensure the continuity and stability of leadership that are the hallmarks of our system.
The Ministers recognise that the right to lead cannot be inherited. Mr Lawrence Wong and his younger team will continue to give their best to Singaporeans, and justify their trust and support.