SINGAPORE — Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has promoted his finance minister to deputy as part of a succession plan, but the timing of the handover is unclear.
His office announced on Tuesday that Lawrence Wong, 49, would become deputy prime minister on June 13 in a cabinet reshuffle. Wong, who will retain his finance portfolio, will serve as interim prime minister in Lee’s absence, he said.
“Next generation leadership is taking shape. I ask everyone to give their full support to this important transition, to safely exit Singapore from the pandemic and into a brighter future,” Lee posted on Facebook.
Lee, 70, said Wong would take the reins before or after the general election scheduled for 2025. Lee’s People’s Action Party, one of the oldest parties in the world, had its worst election performance in 2020 Although it retained its super majority, it lost a few seats and the bracket slipped.
The PAP has dominated politics since 1959 when Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, became Singapore’s first prime minister and made the resource-poor city-state one of the world’s wealthiest nations for 31 years. in power. But it has also been criticized for its strict government control, media censorship, and use of oppressive laws and civil suits against dissidents.
The 2020 poll result prompted Heng Swee Keat, then finance minister who was to succeed Lee, to withdraw his nomination. Wong took over as finance minister in May 2021 and was picked by the PAP in April as Lee’s likely new successor.
Wong, who rose to prominence helping coordinate Singapore’s fight against COVID-19, will be the city-state’s fourth leader since independence in 1965.
He was a civil servant who worked in several ministries and served as Lee’s principal private secretary from 2005 to 2008 and the CEO of the Energy Market Authority from 2008 to 2011. He did not enter politics until in the 2011 general election.
Wong said being Singapore’s next leader would be “the greatest responsibility of my life”.
“I will do my best and give every ounce of my strength to serve Singapore and Singaporeans,” he wrote on Facebook.