Lawrence Wong, “4G team” leader, takes oath as Prime Minister of Singapore

Lawrence Wong taking oath of allegiance as Singapore PM
Lawrence Wong taking oath of allegiance as the fourth Prime Minister of Singapore. Screenshot courtesy: Facebook/Lawrence Wong

Economist and “4G team” leader Lawrence Wong has been sworn in as Singapore’s fourth prime minister in a planned political transition for the island state.

Wong, 51, succeeds veteran statesman Lee Hsien Loong, 72, who has relinquished his position after two decades; both belong to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), which has been driving Singapore’s economic progress for more than five decades now.

Today marks a significant milestone, a passing of the baton not just between leadership teams, but also across generations. I am the first Prime Minister of Singapore to be born after independence. Almost all my colleagues in the 4G team were also born after 1965. My generation’s story is the story of independent Singapore. Our lives are testimony to the values that forged our nation.

Lawrence Wong, the 4th Prime Minister of Singapore

Moving to the top job after being the Deputy Prime Minister for just under two years, Wong will be leading the fourth generation PAP politicians’ government as the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, a portfolio that he already had.

Ex-PM Lee has now moved into the role of Senior Minister, and he also took the oath of allegiance today.

Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 67, administered the oath to Wong, who gave a speech in multiple languages afterwards.

Also read: Lawrence Wong gets rapturous welcome at his first public event as Singapore PM

Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the swearing-in ceremony
Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the swearing-in ceremony. Screenshot courtesy: Facebook/Lawrence Wong

Speaking of “geopolitical tensions” and “protectionism” and how they would impact Singapore going forward, Wong said in his speech that the nation must brace itself for “these new realities”.

As reasons for not making major changes at the ministerial (Cabinet) level, Wong had earlier cited continuity, stability and the need to avoid disruptions.

“With all other ministers holding on to their portfolios across the leadership transition from Lee Hsien Loong’s government to Wong’s, it also testifies to the consistency in Wong’s decision-making,” said a Channel News Asia report.

In April 2022, Wong was named the leader of the PAP’s fourth-generation, or “4G”, team. In June that year, he was promoted as the Deputy Prime Minister.

Singapore’s new head of state was a civil servant for 14 years before joining the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1997. He is married to Loo Tze Lui.

The Wong-led government is expected to continue pro-business policies, given Singapore’s status as a financial hub generating investments for Asia, including India, and a trading centre with a global network.

Lawrence Wong, President Tharman, and Chief Justice of Singapore Sundaresh Menon
Lawrence Wong taking the oath of allegiance, accompanied by President Tharman and Chief Justice of Singapore Sundaresh Menon. Screenshot courtesy: Facebook/Lawrence Wong

Lee staying on in the Cabinet as Senior Minister is in keeping with the first two transitions under Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew and the country’s second prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

Wong is retaining Heng Swee Keat, 63, and promoting Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, 65, as his two Deputy Prime Ministers.

President Tharman said that he had full confidence in Wong’s ability to lead, as Singapore ventured into uncharted waters internationally, noting Wong’s key role in shaping the country’s economic and social policies.

“[PM Lawrence Wong] will be his own person, with his own approach to building consensus and finding the best way forward for the country. And he will no doubt do so to his own rhythm and beat,” Tharman said at the ceremony.

All eyes are now set on the next general elections in Singapore, later this year or next year; only after that, significant changes in the Cabinet are to be expected.

At a press conference earlier this week, Wong said, “Continuity and stability are key considerations (for the cabinet), especially as we are approaching the end of this term of government… There is no higher priority for me and that is to form the best possible team to serve Singapore and Singaporeans.”

Among Indian PAP parliamentarians, Murali Pillai, 56, has been promoted as minister of state in the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Transport. Pillai, a lawyer, will be sworn in on July 1, 2024.

The other Indian-origin ministers in the Cabinet are: Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, 63, who remains Foreign Minister; K Shanmugam, 65, who remains Minister of Law and Home Affairs, and Indranee Rajah, 61, who remains Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Welcoming Wong as the new Prime Minister, the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) said it was confident that Singapore-India ties would continue to flourish.

“This is all the more so since Wong co-chaired the India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable, which has set the stage and the tone for long-term ties between our two countries,” said SICCI chairman Neil Parekh.