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PM Lee to step down on May 15; DPM Lawrence Wong to become new PM

Felicia Tan
Felicia Tan • 5 min read
PM Lee to step down on May 15; DPM Lawrence Wong to become new PM
PM Lee is Singapore's third prime minister. Photo: Bloomberg
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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be stepping down from his role on May 15, some 20 years after his swearing-in on Aug 12, 2004.

"The Prime Minister will formally advise President [Tharman Shanmugaratnam] to appoint Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong to succeed him. DPM Wong has the unanimous support of the PAP (People's Action Party) MPs (members of parliament)," reads the statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office on April 15.

"For any country, a leadership transition is a significant moment. Lawrence and the 4G (fourth-generation) team have worked hard to gain the people’s trust, notably during the pandemic. Through the Forward Singapore exercise, they have worked with many Singaporeans to refresh our social compact and develop the national agenda for a new generation," says Lee.

"The 4G team are committed to keeping Singapore working well and moving ahead. These will always be top priorities for the government. I ask all Singaporeans to give Lawrence and his team your full support, and work with them to create a brighter future for Singapore," he adds.

Wong will be sworn in as Prime Minister at 8.00 pm on May 15 at the Istana.

Lee is Singapore’s third prime minister after Goh Chok Tong and Lee’s father, the late Lee Kuan Yew. Goh was the republic’s prime minister from 1990 to 2004 while the elder Lee held office from 1959 to 1990.

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The announcement comes after Lee announced his plans to step down before Singapore’s next general election in November 2023. He had previously stated that he planned to hand over the reins before he turned 70 years old. Those plans were derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as DPM Heng Swee Keat’s decision to step down as leader of the ruling PAP’s 4G team.

Lee turned 72 on Feb 10 this year.

He first entered politics when he was elected as MP in 1984 for Teck Ghee single member constituency (SMC). When Teck Ghee became a part of Ang Mo Kio group representation constituency (GRC) in 1991, Lee served — and is still serving — as the MP for the Teck Ghee division from then till now.

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Throughout his 40-year career in politics, Lee served in various ministries including the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Ministry of Finance (MOF). He was also chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore’s central bank.

Photo: Bloomberg

Lawrence Wong to become new PM

Lawrence Wong will take over the reins and become Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister after Lee.

Prior to his appointment, Wong was most recently the DPM and Minister for Finance. His many other roles include being the chairman of MAS, the chairman of the international advisory council of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), deputy chairman of the GIC board and the chairman of GIC’s investment strategies committee.

Wong’s career began as an economist in the MTI in August 1997. He was posted to MOF in January 2002 and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in July 2004 as a civil servant.

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From May 2005 to August 2008, Wong was Lee’s principal private secretary.

Wong was not the original designated successor to Lee. DPM Heng Swee Keat, having played that role for more than two years, announced in April 2021 that he would step aside.

The shocking announcement — an uncharacteristic hiccup to the well-oiled political succession thus far seen in Singapore — was attributed to Heng’s age. Heng turns 63 on April 15.

Wong, one of the key ministers leading the response to the pandemic, was named the heir-in-waiting in April 2022 and formalised when he was promoted to DPM two months later. Wong is 51. 

Wong’s political career began when he contested in West Coast GRC during the 2011 general election on May 7. When the team won, he was elected as MP for the GRC’s Boon Lay division. Wong moved to become the MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC (Limbang) from September 2015 and has been there since.

Throughout his political career, Wong has also held several positions in various ministries. These include MINDEF, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), the Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Ministry of Education (MOE).

As Minister for National Development, a role Wong held between October 2015 to July 2020, he, along with then-health minister Gan Kim Yong, were appointed as co-chairs of a multi-ministerial committee to manage the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore. 

The task force was established on Jan 22, 2020, a day before Singapore’s first confirmed Covid-19 case. The task force was shut down on Feb 13, 2023, as Singapore lowered its disease outbreak response system condition (Dorscon) to green from yellow.

After his role in MND, Wong became the Minister for Education on July 27, 2020. He subsequently became the Minister for Finance on May 15, 2021 after Heng relinquished the portfolio. He was reappointed to the board of directors at the MAS as deputy chair on May 28, 2021. 

Wong was selected as the leader of the PAP’s fourth-generation team on April 14, 2022. He was promoted to DPM on June 6, 2022 and appointed as the PAP’s deputy secretary general, a newly-created role in November 2022.

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