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With full support of Cabinet and party caucus, Lawrence Wong says building 4G team to steer S'pore a priority

SINGAPORE — While he was not a unanimous choice among his colleagues to be their leader, albeit an overwhelming one, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Saturday (April 16) he does not feel the pressure given that the Cabinet and the ruling party caucus have given him their full endorsement and support.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong speaking during the press conference at the Istana on April 16.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong speaking during the press conference at the Istana on April 16.

  • Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said he does not feel pressure from the fact that he was not a unanimous choice among his colleagues to be their leader
  • After all, the Cabinet and the ruling party caucus have given him their full endorsement and support, he said
  • The top priority now is to build a core fourth generation (4G) team to steer Singapore through the pandemic and economic uncertainties, he said
  • Discussions with other 4G ministers in preparing for Budget 2022 have given him ideas on some steps they might take, he added

SINGAPORE — While he was not a unanimous choice among his colleagues to be their leader, albeit an overwhelming one, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Saturday (April 16) he does not feel the pressure given that the Cabinet and the ruling party caucus have given him their full endorsement and support.

And the top priority now is to build a core fourth generation (4G) team to steer Singapore through the pandemic and economic uncertainties, he added.

During a press conference on Saturday with Mr Wong and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, former Cabinet Minister and party chairman Khaw Boon Wan said he had been tasked by Mr Lee to meet the current ministers, the Speaker of Parliament and the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress individually, to help form a new consensus on a 4G leader. 

Of these, he said that 15 out of the 19 had ranked Mr Wong as their top choice. 

He then reported these findings to the Ministers and the People's Action Party Members of Parliament, and they all collectively endorsed the choice of Mr Wong as the leader of the 4G team, he said.

When Mr Wong was asked if he felt any pressure given that he was not the top pick of four of his colleagues, he noted that he had been chosen by the overwhelming majority of them, and that both the Cabinet and party caucus unanimously agreed and endorsed him as the choice for new 4G leader.

“So in that regard, I don't feel the pressure. And as I had said, I am humbled and grateful for the support that everyone has given to me.”

He said that one of the top priorities of the fourth generation of Singapore's political leaders, or 4G, will be to build a core team to tackle pressing challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic uncertainty arising from the war in Ukraine.

This team will also work toward better positioning Singapore for a post-pandemic future, he said, adding that he had been in discussions with other 4G ministers on how to renew and strengthen Singapore's social compact when preparing for Budget 2022, and has some ideas on some steps they might take.

"In the Budget, I said that the measures we are taking this year Budget are a first step in the multi-year plan to renew and strengthen our social compact for this new future," he said.

"We do intend to engage the public later on and comprehensively review our policies to see what needs to be
adjusted and improved. This will be a major agenda for the 4G team."

Acknowledging the growing diversity of experiences and perspectives among Singaporeans, Mr Wong added: “But beyond that, we will as a team continue to work hard to win the trust and support of every Singaporean to create bonds and connect with them and to develop new ideas that will resonate with Singaporeans and especially with a new generation of Singaporeans.”

In his opening remarks at the press conference, Mr Wong said that throughout his lifetime, he had never hankered for a post, position or power. Yet, his responsibilities in public service have kept growing in the last 25 years.

Now I will be taking on what would possibly be the biggest responsibility of my life. I am under no illusions about the demands of the job.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, 49, who is poised to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

“I have never gone out looking for work, additional work, but somehow the work finds me,” he said with a laugh.

He recalled how Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had called him out of the blue two years ago to ask if he knew about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The next thing he knew, he said, he was co-chairing the ministerial task force handling the Republic’s response to Covid-19 alongside Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong.

“Now I will be taking on what would possibly be the biggest responsibility of my life," said Mr Wong, who is 49.

"I am under no illusions about the demands of the job. It will get more challenging with greater political contestation and the growing desire for diversity in Parliament. And as PM said in Parliament recently, we do not assume that the PAP will win the next general election."

Mr Wong added that every GE from now on will be about which party will form the Government – not just how many seats the opposition wins, or what percentage of the votes the ruling party gets.

"Knowing full well that we will have to earn the right to leadership, I will continue with the same principles that have guided me all these years, which is to give of my best, to engage and listen, and to learn and improve continually."

Related topics

PAP 4G leadership Lee Hsien Loong General Election Lawrence Wong

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