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Succession hiccup shouldn't affect Singapore’s international reputation, what matters is quality of leadership: PM Lee

SINGAPORE — While Singapore’s political succession has not gone to plan, foreign leaders will still be dealing with the same leadership team in the short term. And over a longer horizon, what matters to them is the quality of leadership in Singapore.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday to announce Mr Heng Swee Keat’s decision, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while the fourth-generation team takes time to choose a new leader, foreign leaders will be dealing with the same Singapore leaders at least in the near term.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday to announce Mr Heng Swee Keat’s decision, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while the fourth-generation team takes time to choose a new leader, foreign leaders will be dealing with the same Singapore leaders at least in the near term.

SINGAPORE — While Singapore’s political succession has not gone to plan, foreign leaders will still be dealing with the same leadership team in the short term. And over a longer horizon, what matters to them is the quality of leadership in Singapore. 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made these points on Thursday (April 8) at a press conference when asked how Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s decision to step down as the frontrunner to succeed him would affect Singapore’s reputation on the international stage. 

Mr Lee noted that while the fourth-generation (4G) team takes time to choose a new leader, foreign leaders will be dealing with the same Singapore leaders at least in the near term.

“Top-line, the team has not changed. The same ministers are still there. I’m still the PM, Swee Keat is still the DPM. And they will be dealing with the same people and that’s what matters to them if you take the two-, three-, four-year point of view, which in diplomacy is quite a long time,” he said.  

The 4G team has asked Mr Lee to stay on in his role because they need more time to select another leader from among themselves. 

Mr Lee said that what foreign counterparts will notice in the longer term is the quality of Singapore’s leaders.

“If out of this process, we are able to sustain high quality ministers and leaders for the country... it will have been the right path forward for Singapore.

"If at the end of this, the standards go down and they look at us and they say, ‘Ah, it’s no different from so many other places’... then we are no longer of value to them and that Singapore will be the worse off for it.”

Singapore, he said, must ensure its quality of leadership and remain stable while working through the succession process.

On whether the latest developments could affect foreign investors’ confidence in Singapore, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing echoed Mr Lee’s point that the country’s leaders will continue their work during this period of succession planning.

“The team, the system, the plans, the processes, the policies, are all still in place to provide that continuity and stability for the investors,” he said.

“And we will continue to work hard to distinguish ourselves as a safe harbour for investors to mobilise their capital, aggregate their talent, protect their intellectual property amid the global uncertainties.”

Mr Chan, who is also the second assistant secretary-general of the ruling People’s Action Party, said that clear succession, policy coherence and policy consistency have been the hallmarks of Singapore and put it in good stead to attract long-term investments.

“This is also the reason why we have chosen to be upfront with our people, with our investors and our foreign counterparts on our circumstances, so that we can minimise any unwarranted speculation," he added.

"Because we have developed those plans collectively, I think the investors can continue to expect coherence and continuity in our approach.”

Related topics

Singapore politics 4G leadership Heng Swee Keat Lee Hsien Loong economy

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