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Singapore’s Long-Serving Prime Minister Steps Down After 20 Years in Power

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After two decades at the helm, Singapore’s long-serving Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has officially handed over leadership to Deputy PM and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong. This transition marks the end of a political era for the island nation as it moves away from the influence of the Lee family.

Since gaining independence in 1965, Singapore has been led by only four prime ministers, all from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). The first prime minister was Mr. Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, widely recognized as the architect of modern Singapore, who governed for 25 years.

The leadership change is seen as a significant shift in Singapore’s political landscape, signifying a move beyond the dominance of the Lee family, although Mr. Lee will continue to serve in the cabinet as a senior minister.

In his final interview as prime minister, Mr Lee expressed gratitude to Singaporeans for their support, emphasizing his collaborative approach to governance. He acknowledged that he sought to lead in a distinct manner from his father and predecessor, Goh Chok Tong.

During his tenure, Mr Lee has been credited with diversifying and expanding Singapore’s economy, propelling the nation into a major global financial centre and a top tourist destination. His government effectively navigated the challenges of recessions, the global financial crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the international stage, Mr. Lee adeptly managed Singapore’s relationships with the US and China amid their geopolitical rivalry. His administration also repealed a controversial anti-gay law, though freedom of speech remains tightly regulated in the country.

Despite his popularity, Mr. Lee’s tenure has not been without criticism. The influx of immigrants during the late 2000s to address labour shortages sparked discontent among Singaporeans, contributing to heightened social inequality. His government also faced scrutiny over unresolved issues related to public housing and allegations of a political dynasty.

Now, the leadership baton has been passed to Lawrence Wong, a former economist and civil servant. With Wong as the new prime minister, Singapore enters uncharted territory, breaking from the tradition of a Lee family member at the helm. Wong has pledged to build a more inclusive Singapore and ensure continuity and stability in governance, promising a leadership style that differs from previous generations.

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