Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he will still lead the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the next General Election, although the fourth-generation (4G) leaders will “very much be in the thick of things”.
“I think taking the lead in the sense of setting the agenda, working out the policies, preparing the manifesto, making the pitch to the public, and actively campaigning during the election and organising the election,” said Mr Lee.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his five-day visit to Argentina on Saturday (Dec 1), where he attended the G20 Leaders’ Summit from Nov 30 to Dec 1, Mr Lee added that the country’s ruling party has a depth of experience going into the polls.
Mr Lee said that it is not just the experienced leaders who can lead, as the younger crop also possesses both the capability and willingness to take Singapore into the future.
“The fact that we are going into an election with a team which has depth – it’s not just the present leaders, who are in their late 50s, early 60s – but also the next generation of leaders, 40s, 50s, ready to take over,” he said.
“I think that’s a very strong message, which goes beyond any specific policies and manifesto items or promises, but the commitment is we are here to serve and not just for now, but to serve into the future and you can rely on us.”
In November, the PAP appointed a new slate of office bearers in its Central Executive Committee, with the so-called 4G leaders making up the bulk of the new team. Singapore’s general election must be held by April 2021.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat became the party’s first assistant secretary-general, paving the way for him to be the future leader of the party. Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing was appointed the second assistant secretary-general.
When asked about the plans for Mr Heng, Mr Lee said the priority is to win the election first.
“After that, if all goes according to plan, well, the succession happens within the PAP,” he said.
“There are no surprises. I very much hope we will work out that way. It’s a mechanism which has worked well for Singapore. It has provided stability, continuity as well as renewal and updating of persons – individuals, leadership as well as content for our policies. But it depends on the party staying together and the party winning elections.”
Asked when the next Cabinet reshuffle will take place, Mr Lee only said that he will do so “in due course”, adding that a reasonable time would be after next year’s Budget. The Budget speech is typically delivered by the finance minister in February or March.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was also in Buenos Aires with Mr Lee, told reporters that the younger ministers will meet in January to discuss long-term issues that Singapore needs to address.
Following the discussions, the team will then consult Singaporeans on the topics that will shape the country’s future.
“We want to build on the Our Singapore Conversation. But at the same time, we want to have some time to look at what are some fundamental, long-term issues that as a country, we need to address, as a society, we need to address,” said Mr Heng.