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Real question not about timing of next GE or political succession, Lawrence Wong tells PAP activists

SINGAPORE — While he has often been asked when the next General Election or leadership succession will take place, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Sunday (Nov 6) that the real question is how the People’s Action Party (PAP) prepares for the fight with Singapore “on the cusp of a new era in history”.

DPM Lawrence Wong giving his speech at the PAP conference on Nov 6, 2022.

DPM Lawrence Wong giving his speech at the PAP conference on Nov 6, 2022.

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SINGAPORE — While he has often been asked when the next General Election or leadership succession will take place, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Sunday (Nov 6) that the real question is how the People’s Action Party (PAP) prepares for the fight — with Singapore “on the cusp of a new era in history”.

In his speech at the party’s biennial conference, held at Resorts World Sentosa Convention Centre and attended by over 3,000 party members, Mr Wong pointed out the macro challenges Singapore is facing, the first being high inflation.

He said that over the last three decades, Singapore has become accustomed to a world of low inflation and low interest rates, but it is entering a "sustained period of higher prices".

The country has also become accustomed to a globalised world with free flow of trade and investments, he added. 

“Now, all that is set to shift, if not reverse,” he said, pointing to the emergence of a new cold war between the United States and China that “will be more dangerous” than the first cold war. 

“Because the two great powers are more economically integrated, and there’s no easy or painless way to decouple their economies. 

“When one country seeks to enhance its security, it makes its rival more insecure. This will create a downward spiral of distrust that causes relations to deteriorate further."

All this will only be worsened by the existential challenge of climate change, said Mr Wong. 

“Already, we are seeing more extreme weather events all over the world. Countries are also scrambling for the resources they need to meet their climate targets.”

Additionally, Singapore is facing domestic challenges too, said Mr Wong. 

“Our economy is maturing, our population is ageing and our needs are continuing to grow,” he said. 

“All these challenges will ultimately affect social cohesion — we can see for ourselves what has happened in many other places, including so-called first world parliaments. 

Mr Wong said when there are diminishing opportunities for progress, tensions between people of different races, religions, or places of birth are bound to flare up, adding that political parties that seek short-term advantage will not hesitate to tap these frustrations. 

"They offer simplistic proposals to score political points and get more support.

"These proposals are often cleverly packaged to sound as attractive as possible. But the remedies are really snake oil that do not solve any problem. Instead, they just make things worse, and in the end, it's the people who suffer."

Mr Wong added that no country is immune to such forces tearing apart its social fabric, much less a young and tiny one like Singapore.

In order to succeed in this new era, Singapore must confront these challenges head-on, rather than simply wishing them away, said Mr Wong. 

The country must build consensus and maintain the solidarity that has been seen throughout recent crisis, which is why his first priority after becoming DPM was to launch the Forward Singapore exercise, he added. 

Among the objectives he wants to achieve from this exercise is to help all Singaporeans of all backgrounds to realise their full potential and share in the country’s success as well as to increase the sense of solidarity and responsibility in the society, Mr Wong said. 

“So it’s not just about the Government doing more. It’s also about all of us coming together — everyone playing their part to achieve our shared goals.”

Speaking to reporters after Mr Wong's speech, Mr Xie Yao Quan, member of parliament for Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said that Mr Wong has provided a strong reminder that there is "a lot of work left to do" to win a "strong mandate" in the next General Election. 

He added that the party will need to continue engaging with Singaporeans, do the groundwork and listen intently to their concerns.

Agreeing, Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin of Ang Mo Kio GRC said that it is "important to continue consulting every Singaporean and journeying together for a better Singapore". 

"DPM Lawrence's speech today was really a call to action, (for) every member of parliament, every activist in the room to double and triple our efforts and continue the engagements with Singaporeans," she said. 

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHARLENE GOH

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People's Action Party Lawrence Wong

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