SINGAPORE: Less than two weeks before he is sworn in as Prime Minister of Singapore, all eyes are, and will continue to be, on Lawrence Wong, writes journalist Mr Pranjal Pandey in the independent journal Eurasia Review.

On May 15, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will hand over the reins to Mr Wong, currently Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

His leadership “will be closely watched as he takes the helm,” wrote Mr Pandey on May 3, outlining the economic and political challenges he will face, including “significant concerns regarding the escalating cost of living” and the corruption scandal that has beset the PAP with charges filed against former Transport Minister S Iswaran.

“In February 2024, Singapore’s core inflation, which excludes private transport and accommodation costs to better reflect household expenses, surged to 3.6 percent year-on-year. This marked a significant uptick from January’s rate of 3.1 percent and surpassed market expectations of a 3.4 percent increase. It represented the highest reading for core inflation since July 2023,” noted Mr Pandey.

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The Eurasia piece adds that the new Prime Minister will need to tread carefully in its relations with the United States and China due to increased tensions between the world’s biggest economies and China’s growing “assertiveness” in Southeast Asia.

‘Wong’s ascent to power is not devoid of complexities; he steps into a role overshadowed by economic uncertainties and recent damage to the PAP’s once-pristine image due to a corruption scandal. He faces the delicate task of navigating these turbulent waters,” the journalist added.

Nevertheless, as Mr Mark Townsend in the Global Finance site noted, the new Prime Minister will not be alone in dealing with troubled times, since he has asked Mr Lee to stay on in as Senior Minister.

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In The Lowy Institute’s policy website The Interpreter, academic Rahman Yaacob wrote, “At the height of the Cold War in 1967, Lee Kuan Yew stated, ‘Change is the very essence of life. The moment we cease to change, to be able to adapt, to adjust, to respond effectively to new situations, then we have begun to die’. Perhaps these words offer a philosophy for the 4th generation leadership led by Wong to consider while charting Singapore’s strategy through the treacherous waters of great power rivalry.” /TISG

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