At a press conference yesterday (8 Apr) when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that he will step aside as leader of People’s Action Party (PAP)’s 4G team and as such will not consider to take up the Singapore’s Prime Minister position anymore, a journalist asked how foreign countries and investors will navigate this period of uncertainty, given that the 4G team is saying they need time to select a new leader.
PM Lee Hsien Loong replied that foreign countries will still be dealing with the same team.
“The same ministers are still there. I’m still the PM, Swee Keat is still the DPM, and they will be dealing with the same people. And that’s what matters to them if you take the two-, three-, four-year point of view, which in diplomacy is quite a long time,” he said.
Echoing the Prime Minister’s point, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said that notwithstanding the latest development, the team, system, plans, processes and policies are all still in place to provide continuity and stability for foreign investors.
“And we will continue to work hard to distinguish ourselves as a safe harbour for investors to mobilise the capital, aggregate their talent, protect their intellectual property, amidst the global uncertainties,” Chan added.
PM Lee also said that politics in Singapore works very differently than politics in nearly every foreign country. “I think they will assess us based on the quality of leadership which our political system and political process produces,” he said.
In the longer term, what other countries will notice is the quality of Singapore’s prime minister, deputy prime ministers and ministers, he added. “If out of this process we’re able to sustain high-quality ministers and leaders for the country, then I think that it would have been the right path forward for Singapore.”
“So I think that’s how they will see it – not so much whether there’s what we would call a ‘relief-in-place’, in progress – one person standing aside, another person getting prepared to come in – but what are the outcomes in terms of persons in charge, quality and the direction for the country. And that is what we must make sure we can maintain and keep stable while working through the succession process.”
Chan added that clear succession planning, policy coherence and consistency have been the hallmarks of Singapore’s system, and have also put the country in good stead to attract long-term investments.