The decision on who will be finance minister Lawrence Wong’s deputy will be made later by him in due course, said Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on April 16.
He was speaking at a press conference at the Istana two days after Wong, 49, was named the leader of the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) fourth-generation (4G) team, following a consultation exercise led by former party chairman Khaw Boon Wan.
PM Lee said the exercise was to choose the leader of the 4G team.
“It was not to choose his deputy. It was not to choose a 5G leader. Therefore, there was no decision made on the deputy.
“And in due course, Lawrence will decide who will be his deputy and who will be in his core team. And I hope he and his colleagues will work hard to identify and induct more promising leaders into the team to build up the 5G team for Singapore,” PM Lee said.
Wong will be Singapore’s next prime minister if the PAP is voted into power at the next general election, said PM Lee.
When current Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat was selected to be the 4G team’s leader in 2018, he had asked then Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing to be his deputy. Heng stepped aside from this role last year to pave the way for a younger person with a longer runway to lead the country when PM Lee retires.
On the question of choosing a prime minister’s deputy, PM Lee said the party had gone about this in different ways.
When it came to selecting Singapore’s second prime minister, Goh Chok Tong was clearly identified as Lee Kuan Yew’s successor when Goh was made first deputy prime minister. Ong Teng Cheong was second deputy prime minister.
“In my case, the ministers settled on me and, later on, I appointed deputy prime ministers, a series of them,” PM Lee said.
“In the case of Heng Swee Keat and Chan Chun Sing, on that occasion, the ministers who caucus, who were involved, thought that they wanted to have a pairing and that would be the best choice.”
During the press conference, Wong was asked about how the 4G team was working together, especially over the past year, and what were its strengths and weaknesses.
Wong said everyone on the team brought with them unique capabilities and strengths. Some come from the public sector with exposure to policy work, and others are from the private sector with different perspectives and ideas.
“I value this diversity in our team greatly. And you see this not just in the 4G team, but also in our team of elected MPs. They have their own constituencies, but they champion a range of important causes and issues,” he said.
“So collectively, we have a strong team and I will continue to work on strengthening the team. And amidst this diversity, in the end, it is about all of us working together.”
He added that as the leader of the team, he will do his best to ensure that contributions from the entire team will be greater than the sum of the individual parts.
“So this is what Singaporeans can expect from me and my team – that collectively, we will always do our best for our people and our nation.”
THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK