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Singapore’s new PM in 20 years holds inaugural cabinet meeting

17-05-2024

SINGAPORE CITY: Singapore’s first prime minister in 20 years held an initial cabinet meeting on Thursday after taking office with a pledge to sustain what he called the miracle of the wealthy city state amid an uncertain global environment.

After being sworn in on Wednesday night, attending a party and receiving congratulations from world leaders, Lawrence Wong posted on Instagram that the government of the Asian trade and financial centre had “a full agenda ahead”.

Continuity was his focus, he said. Wong, 51, took over as Singapore’s fourth prime minister from Lee Hsien Loong, 72, now a senior minister in Wong’s cabinet, in a protracted and carefully managed transition.

In an editorial on Thursday the government-funded broadsheet The Straits Times said: “The focus now needs to be on uniting the country in the face of global uncertainties with the aim of leaving no one behind in the pursuit of progress.”

“PM Wong must inspire Singaporeans to believe that we’ve done it before, and we can do it again, together.”

Wong said during his inauguration that the world was in flux and geopolitical tensions, protectionism and nationalism could stretch for decades. Wong said Singapore sought to be “friends with all, while upholding our rights and interests”.

“My mission is clear: to continue defying the odds and to sustain this miracle called Singapore,” he added.

Singapore’s international standing was high, he said, with a brand that was admired globally, and would strengthen partnerships and continue engaging with the United States and China “even as issues inevitably arise between them”.

Congratulations from overseas flowed in. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US looked forward to working with Wong “to further strengthen the US-Singapore strategic partnership”.

China said it believed China-Singapore relations will continue to advance during Wong’s term, “bringing more support to our people and making contributions to regional peace, stability and development”.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said ties between Taiwan and Singapore are close and friendly, adding it hoped “the two sides will continue to expand their cooperative relations”. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the relationship between the UK and Singapore “will continue to thrive in the years to come”.

Malaysia, which sits north of Singapore and in the past had a turbulent relationship with the city state, also congratulated Wong.

Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said: “We look forward to further deepening our partnership in areas of mutual interest, including economic development, education and trade.”

Wong also posted on Instagram on Wednesday that he had spoken to Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Indonesian President-Elect Prabowo Subianto and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida over the phone.

“I look forward to working with them to boost bilateral and regional cooperation. There’s much we can do with like-minded countries to achieve win-win outcomes, and steer developments towards continued peace, stability and prosperity for Asia and the world,” wrote Wong.

Singapore’s Lawrence Wong, who becomes on Wednesday the wealthy city-state’s first new prime minister in 20 years, took to Tiktok in the years before to engage with citizens, singing, playing guitar and posting on issues such as mental health.

Behind that affable online personality is a man colleagues say is an able technocrat who embodies a generational shift in leadership yet exemplifies continuity in a nation ruled by his People’s Action Party (PAP) since before independence in 1965. (Int’l News Desk)

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