‘Lee to stay on as senior minister’

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will stay on in the government as senior minister after he steps down next month, his successor said.

Lee, 72, announced Monday that he will end his 20-year rule and hand over to his deputy Lawrence Wong on May 15.

Lee is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister who built the resource-poor city-state into one of the world’s richest nations during 31 years in office.

Wong will be Singapore’s fourth leader since independence in 1965. The transition has been carefully crafted in the wealthy city-state known for its tight government control, media censorship and use of oppressive laws against dissidents.

Wong, who is also finance minister, credited Lee for Singapore’s strong economic growth and said he was glad that he agreed to stay on as senior minister.

Former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong had also served as senior ministers after stepping down.

Wong said the Cabinet will remain largely unchanged, at least until the next general election due late next year.

“For this moment, though, there should not be any major changes because our system works on the basis of continuity and progressive change,” he told a news conference. “The bigger changes to the Cabinet lineup will likely happen only after the next general election.”

Wong said he will focus on tackling immediate concerns around jobs, rising cost of living and taking care of vulnerable groups. Another priority is to recruit new candidates for elections as part of progressive change, he said.

“We have many challenges to tackle, but also many opportunities to chart a new way forward for ourselves and our nation. So work with me and my team. Let us write a new chapter for the Singapore story,” Wong said.

Wong came to prominence while helping to coordinate Singapore’s fight against Covid-19. — AP

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