DPM Lawrence Wong's Interview with The Economist (May 2024)

PM Lawrence Wong | 6 May 2024

Transcript of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong’s interview with The Economist on 6 May 2024.


The Economist: Lawrence Wong, thank you so much for joining us and agreeing to talk to The Economist. In a few days’ time, you are going to become the Prime Minister of Singapore. It is a place that has been a huge success by being open, and a beneficiary of globalisation.

DPM Lawrence Wong: Very much so.

The Economist: You have called it the improbable nation and a miracle.

DPM Wong: We still are.

The Economist: Why don’t you start by telling us how you see the geopolitical scene globally, and how that is going to affect Singapore?

DPM Wong: We are concerned because it is in a state of flux. The global order is shifting. The unipolar moment for America has ended, yet it remains a pre-eminent power in a world that is transiting to a multi-polar world. This transition will be messy because we are seeing familiar signposts fading; the established norms eroding. People are searching for new bearings, but the new order is not yet established. I think it would be messy for quite a few years, maybe a decade or longer, and we will have to find our way – all of us in the world – to navigate through this very unpredictable environment and hopefully steer the course of global development towards a path of stability and peace, rather than conflict and war.

The Economist: When you look at US-China relations in the last 18 months or so, there has been some effort to stabilise things. Can you give us a sense of whether you expect that stability to last or could there be moments of crisis or even more deterioration over the next few years?

DPM Wong: The fact that the two leaders met, and provided some guardrails to the relationship, and some stabilisation to the overall relationship, has been very helpful. But the mutual suspicion and distrust between both sides remain – they are very deep. The underlying contradictions and tensions between the two national positions remain, and I do not see them being bridged anytime soon. It is not a stable equilibrium. I think there are a lot of possibilities for things to go wrong, for tensions to flare up, and it will require very careful management of the relationship. Because if things were to deteriorate sharply, I think it would be costly for both and for the rest of the world.

The Economist: What is your assessment of where China is going under Xi Jinping? Do you think it is going in the right direction?

DPM Wong: Let us talk about its economy. Its economy is going through several big structural adjustments. One, it can no longer rely on cheap labour inputs to get growth. It has reached a stage where it really needsinnovation and productivity, and it is really pushing hard on that front and investing more in advanced manufacturing. That is one aspect of it. It is shifting also away from real estate and property, which has been a big part of its economy. And now shifting more of those investments into advanced manufacturing and driving it through more and more productivity and technology. That is one big shift that is happening. They are worried that they will get old before they get rich. They are concerned about the middle-income trap, and they want to push their economy forward.

The second major structural adjustment that they are going through is about sharing the benefits of growth. Because when China opened up, the economy took off. Tremendous uplifting for everyone, but they also saw some downsides of capitalism. Deng Xiaoping said, “open the window, you get flies.” They got more than flies – they have been dealing with corruption, rent-seeking, inequalities over the last 10 years. So, they are keen to pursue to a different model of growth, more balanced – they call it “common prosperity”. At the end of the day, all countries have to grapple with this issue because in the end, growth has to be allocated between labour and capital. And I think, China’s basic orientation was to have more of that growth allocated towards labour, rather than capital. But they have to get that balance right. Because if they overdo it, then it would certainly dampen the ‘animal’spirits of private entrepreneurs, and it would make it difficult for them to reach the next stage of growth. I am quite sure they are aware and trying to work out the appropriate balance.

The Economist: You have described the economic scene in China, but the political scene – if you were in Washington DC, they would describe China as an increasingly totalitarian system, focused on security, focused on confrontation even with American contestation for supremacy. Do you accept that characterisation?

DPM Wong: China certainly looks at the US as trying to contain, encircle, and suppress them, and trying to deny them their rightful place in the world. It is not just the leadership who thinks like that. I think if you talk to a lot of the Chinese officials, they feel the same way, they feel that there is this containment to put China down. There is that sense and for every action, there will be an opposite reaction. And so China you will see, trying to find ways to get out of that containment; to make sure they become technologically self-reliant. At the same time, China has been through phases of their development where they talk about standing up, getting rich and now being strong. They see themselves as a strong country, their time has come and they want to be more assertive in their national interest, including their national interest overseas. But there too, China will have to learn – as all big countries do – that if they overdo it, if they push their way around, coerce, squeeze or pressurise other countries, it will engender a backlash – including in the region. That is why they cannot go too far, and they will have to learn that lesson – it is a lesson that all big countries go through. America goes through that lesson too. I mean, in Mexico they say America is my best friend whether I like it or not. Because when a big country deals with a small country, the big country often does not realise how imposing they are. And it is very hard to find a happy balance between the two – the big and the small country at the same time.

The Economist: You have described recently Singapore’s status as being neither pro- China nor pro-America.

DPM Wong: We are pro-Singapore.

The Economist: Pro-Singapore, that is right. How that position of standing between two powers could be tested and come under strain. One possibility, perhaps a probability, is that technology sanctions and controls that America is using will be tightened even further. And they could even ask for a complete split of the two technology systems. How would Singapore deal with that? Half your manufacturing exports are tech that are closely connected to the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem. If there is a tech split, what does Singapore do?

DPM Wong: First of all, a lot of these sensitive technologies lies in the hands of American MNCs operating out of Singapore. And to the extent that the US were to widen its export restrictions, then we will fully expect American companies to comply with the rules. Not just in Singapore incidentally, but anywhere they operate in the world. And there are many other places in the world where the rules may not be complied with so strictly. But certainly, if companies were to be in Singapore, then we expect them to comply fully with these export restrictions. We wish the export restrictions will be carefully calibrated because where there are national security concerns, those are very understandable. But if you start expanding the yard, we talked about small yard, high fences and the yard keeps getting bigger and bigger – and it really ends up in a technological bifurcation across many areas of the economy – I think that would be detrimental, not just for Singapore but for US and for the whole world.

I have said this before, we really have to have a care about how these sorts of economic tools are used for geopolitical purposes. In the military world, the security people are very mindful about collateral damage when you drop a bomb. Because you understand it causes harm on the other side, but you worry about retaliation, escalation and all sorts of consequences and you think very carefully. But when you start thinking about using economic and financial tools for geopolitical purposes, it is not so straightforward to assess the collateral damage and we do not have so much experience with it; if we are not careful, it will have profound implications to the global economy but worse still, for global stability.

The Economist: What do you think of the treatment of TikTok, where America has asked them to basically change its identity and ownership. It is a Singaporean headquartered company, its Chief Executive is a Singaporean citizen who served in the military you just described, and yet America appears to have projected it as a Chinese proxy.

DPM Wong: It is for America to decide how it wants to deal with TikTok, it is America's prerogative. But from our point of view, when it comes to social media, that does not count as national security. I mean, we have social media companies operating from all countries, and they are here in Singapore, we do notsee this as a national security risk. But that is Singapore's perspective.

The Economist: Let's look at another way that this position of standing between the superpowers might come under pressure. Singapore has enforced sanctions against Russia, related to its invasion of Ukraine. It is quite possible there is a conflict over Taiwan over the next decade. And I wondered if you could foresee a situation where Singapore enforces sanctions against China, over that conflict.

DPM Wong: It really depends on the nature of the conflict. With Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we were very clear, this was a very egregious breach of the United Nations Charter, a breach of territorial sovereignty and integrity. And if invasions like this can be justified on the basis of historical errors and crazy decisions, the world will be a much less safe place, and we will be very vulnerable. And that is why even though there wasn’t a United Nations Security Council Resolution, we decided to take steps to impose sanctions, which we did. No other ASEAN country has done this; many other countries in the global south have not done this. But we decided to take this step, because it crosses and breaches some very fundamental principles, which we believe in and uphold.

We do not think that Taiwan is in the same situation as Ukraine. First of all, people have tried to draw parallels between the two. But in fact, they are fundamentally quite different because Ukraine is a sovereign country but (regarding) Taiwan, the vast majority of countries around the world have a One China policy. We have long upheld a One China policy and opposed Taiwanese independence, even before we established diplomatic relations with the PRC. It is a long-standing position, and we are very careful when we conduct relations with both China and Taiwan that is consistent with our One China policy. And we do not allow ourselves to be made use of for any causes supporting Taiwanese independence. So, again, you asked a hypothetical question, if something were to arise in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan, we hope this does not happen. Because if all the parties understand the risk and the red lines, and recognise that this is quite different from Ukraine – I think the US Administration certainly understands – then perhaps we can have a good chance of upholding the status quo, and that if any change were to happen, it has to be done in a way that is peaceful and non-forcible. These things will take time. Meanwhile, let’s just uphold the status quo and continue to have engagements and talks. That will be our preferred approach.

The Economist: You have also said recently that Singapore is not an ally of America.

DPM Wong: Yes, we are not. We are a Major Security Cooperation Partner, the only one in the world.

The Economist: What would you say to an American voter who is worried about America being overextended globally? And who asked why should Singapore receive American weapons, advanced security equipment, receive all the benefits of that and yet it is unable to call itself our ally?

DPM Wong: Because it is a security and defence relationship that has proven mutually beneficial for both sides, spanning many, many decades. We appreciate fully how America has spilled blood and treasure to provide security for the region. We appreciate fully the security umbrella that America provides for peace and prosperity in this part of the world. And we lean forward to work very closely with the US; we provide access to our air and naval bases, we support rotational deployments, we provide logistical support, we exchange intelligence, we not only purchase technology and military equipment, but we have a very productive two-way exchange of information in many areas of security and defence, and that has proven to be mutually beneficial for both sides.

The Economist: Could you ever imagine Singapore joining AUKUS?

DPM Wong: For now, AUKUS is only a grouping comprising allies, and we are not an ally.

The Economist: How do these geopolitical tensions play out domestically here in Singapore? How people feel about the tensions with China? But particularly recently, the Middle East, where Singapore has a substantial Muslim population who is concerned about violence in Gaza, what would you say to people who are concerned about the war in Singapore, say for instance in this situation?

DPM Wong: It is something that we do pay a lot of attention to, because we are such a small country, with a very diverse population. And we are constantly, I would say, influenced by pressures from around the world.

Because here in Singapore, you have a majority ethnic Chinese population, we all have links with China. But we have to remind ourselves and also China, that we are Singaporeans, we do business on the basis of our national interests, not on the basis of our ethnic ties. But we also have a Malay population that will have links with countries in the region and with the global Ummah, the wider Islamic community. And we have an Indian population, which will have ancestral links, familial links with India. So it is a population that you can see how can be easily swayed by these influences. Because the links we have going back to these civilizations or larger countries are deep and emotional, they are cultural, and we want to maintain the links, the links make us who we are. We value these linkages. At the same time, we have to continually remind our people, engage with Singaporeans that we are Singaporeans; when we do things, it has to be on the basis of our national interest. And, and we have had to do that, through the various crises you highlighted – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that was a crisis which had a high level of economic impact for us, but relatively low level of emotional resonance.

The Economist: I would imagine Gaza is the opposite.

DPM Wong: Gaza was one where it had not so much economic impact, but a much higher level of resonance, not just with our Malay Muslim population, but even for many Singaporeans looking at the atrocities, the damage, the destruction and loss of innocent civilian lives. And again, we have had to go out, explain to our people, the positions that Singapore has taken and why we are doing certain things we have done, the resolutions that we participate in at the United Nations and how we are doing our part to participate in global relief efforts and how we continue to stand for a negotiated two state solution, and at the same time call for an end to hostilities.

Now, if something were to happen in Asia, in Taiwan, in the South China Sea, it will be an incident which will have both high economic impact and high emotional resonance with our people. And this will be difficult to manage, clearly. That is why for us, the external events that happen seemingly far away, actually, they are happening right here at our doorstep. And we pay a lot of attention to what is happening around the world, engaging our people, explaining to them what Government's position is, and what our national interest is.

The Economist: Before we go on to talk more about Singapore and the Singapore model and how it is changing, one last question on geopolitics. Singapore's position is that it upholds international law, and that is the bedrock of your foreign policy. What do you think the state of international law is? Does it still work? The United Nations Security Council was divided, the enforcement of key treaties like the Law of the Sea is not happening. Is that really still a reliable anchor for your foreign policy?

DPM Wong: It is under tremendous pressure, but we have no other alternative. We have to keep on pushing away at it, plugging at it and working with like-minded countries to strengthen this rules-based multilateral order. We do it in different ways. For example, in the economic realm – WTO is not working, I mean, we have been calling for the appellate body to function properly for the restoration of the dispute resolution settlement mechanism. We sound like a broken record, like a lone voice in the wilderness, but we will keep calling.

The Economist: The Economist agrees with you on that.

DPM Wong: But you know there are other ways in which we can be helpful. The WTO – very hard to get multilateral initiatives working. Well, we work with like-minded countries, we had the P4 where we had Chile, New Zealand and Brunei, and that became the TPP. US opted out, but then we have the CPTPP. We have similarly worked on other trade initiatives, and now we are working on new initiatives around the digital economy. Because with the digital economy, you need new rules around data storage, data flows, data security. So, we have a digital agreement with the UK, with Australia, we have one involving three countries – Chile, ourselves and New Zealand. There is a queue of countries wanting to join. I think if Singapore operates in this manner – we try to be constructive, we try to provide value, find like-minded countries to join us in small scale platforms – over time, we hope some of these can grow, and other like-minded countries can join us. That is how we can play a part in strengthening multilateralism in the world.

The Economist: Let us turn to Singapore and the domestic scene. I will start with the economy. In your Budget statement, not so long ago, you said we will no longer be able to achieve effortless growth in Singapore. Part of that is the trade environment is worse. But a big part of that is demographics where the number of working age citizens in Singapore is expected to fall by several hundred thousand people over the next decade. You talk about that in an uncertain world of migration, sometimes a controversial subject in Singapore, presumably it means you need more migration.

DPM Wong: It does. I think the period of effortless growth is over not just because of labour, but really we are at such a high level of development now. We will be expensive. I mean, you cannot expect high wages and low cost. Wages and cost are two parts of the same coin. We have high incomes, costs are high, we will have to keep on innovating, restructuring and then pushing the productivity and innovation frontier to justify the premium. That is what we have been doing all this while, which is why the economy today is very different from the economy even 20 years ago. It is really about continuing to get cutting edge investments into Singapore, pushing the frontier, doing new activities, at the same time being prepared to let non-viable businesses fade away so that resources can be freed up. It is very much the process of churn, which can be very disruptive to workers, but that is why we have also put in place a lot of efforts to help workers retrain, reskill and upskill.

Now on labour itself, on labour inputs and immigration, we are an open economy and open society. We welcome foreign professionals to work in Singapore, but it is controlled. Because if it is not controlled, I think we will be easily swamped. We cannot afford to be like the UAE, where the local residents are only less than 10% of the population. They have a different compact because they use the oil and gas revenues to provide everything for the citizens. In return, they just allow foreigners to come in freely. That is not possible in Singapore.

The Economist: So you could not imagine a situation where citizens become a minority?

DPM Wong: No, not at all. We will keep ourselves open, but the flows will be controlled. We will ensure that foreign professionals come in, we welcome them, they add value to our economy, we ask them to adjust to our social norms. It is controlled and tiered at different levels because there will be jobs that Singaporeans do not want to do, like construction and marine. On the other hand, there will be new areas where talented professionals can come in and provide new skills. There will be things in between where jobs that Singaporeans do do, like healthcare and engineering, technicians, but we need more people. Given the different categories, we have a tiered level of controls. We do that to ensure that the immigrants come, we welcome them, foreign professionals come, they complement the Singaporean core, they add to our economy, they add to our society, and it ends up being a net plus for all of us in Singapore. That is our approach.

The Economist: One facet of migration into Singapore is the goal of maintaining a rough ethnic balance. I believe it is called CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others).

DPM Wong: It has become a lot more varied now because you have mixed marriages. So CMIO is really just a shorthand.

The Economist: The question is, why is that necessary? Why can't Singapore become a society that is post-racial and does not need to have this tacit target of the population mix?

DPM Wong: We would like to evolve into a society where we become race blind. But we are also very realistic about these things. These instincts of race are very primal, they are very emotive, and it can be stirred up at any point in time. Certainly today, we are in a much better state than when we started out after independence, and when we had race riots in the past. Even so during the three years of (the) COVID-19 (pandemic), we had a spike of incidents that were race-related, just recently. They were very sharp, very antagonistic types of incidents that got people stirred up.

The Economist: Give an example of one of those incidents?

DPM Wong: We put in place some restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus during the early days of COVID. When people flout some of the rules, when somebody sees somebody walking without masking a park, and it is a person of a particular ethnic community, and then they will make racist remarks, it would spread online, for example. This happened more than one time. It happened multiple occasions, when we let in arrivals from India, when a new wave that happened in India and we let in arrivals from India, there was a sharp reaction. It is not something that happened 20 years ago. It happened very recently. It is just a very stark reminder that, yes, people are not racist in Singapore. In many ways, we aspire towards the ideals that we recite in our pledge to be regardless of race, language or religion. But these things (i.e. race- related incidents) are dormant. They just lie below the surface. It only takes an incident, a bad actor, someone trying to stir things, to cause the dormant virus to flare up again. That is why we have to be vigilant and watchful.

The Economist: One of the events that has happened in the West is the rise of stronger identity politics, for ideological reasons, perhaps social media as well. Do you think that is a threat to Singapore?

DPM Wong: We do see some of it here in Singapore. Some people do get caught up with it. We take a very different approach in how we deal with issues of identity. Number one, like I said, it is not about assimilating into one single identity; we allow people to embrace their own ethnic identities whatever they are, and we ask them to keep that because that is precious, that makes us who we are. But we come together and find ways to expand the common ground that we share together as Singaporeans. It is not about subtracting, it is about addition. A big part of being able to do that is by just bringing people together, to have more engagements with one another, face to face engagements, learning more about each other's customs, traditions. Starting to appreciate and beyond appreciation and understanding, respect one another. Then when there are differences, finding ways to accommodate and compromise because the differences will surely exist. And compromise cannot be a bad word, compromise cannot be an issue of dishonour to my tribe or to my identity. Because if that is dishonour, then it is all-out war. You will have deep divisions between the different groups in Singapore. We have gone for a very different approach since our very beginning, since independence. That approach, I think has worked well. In Singapore, people understand it is different. Not every single group may get everything that they want. But by working together by engaging, by not accentuating our differences but finding common ground, it is an approach that has worked better for all of us.

The Economist: Another social change is how the views of the young have adapted and evolved in Singapore. And recently you did a big consultation exercise called Forward Singapore in which you spoke to I think 200,000 Singaporeans in some way or another. And the report concluded, among other things that there have been discernible shifts in our youths’ mindset. This is a generation that has grown up with an enormously successful and prosperous Singapore. Perhaps you could give a sense of how their attitudes have changed compared to previous generations.

DPM Wong: In some ways, I am part of that generation, I will be the first Prime Minister to be born after Singapore's independence. All my predecessors sang two, if not three other national anthems – “God save the King”, the Japanese “Kimi Ga Yo” and briefly Malaysia’s “Negaraku”. I have only sung one national anthem, “Majulah Singapura”, our national anthem. The values, the principles that enabled today’s Singapore – meritocracy, incorruptibility, racial harmony, tripartism, the approach I spoke of earlier; finding common ground – I think those are embedded deeply within me and also many young people I speak to. At the same time, there are changes. And I think when we engage with young people, whether around my age, post-independence or younger, we do sense a change in their aspirations. And these are noble aspirations. I think many of the young people I engage would like to strive and work hard for their own aspirations. But they would like to see a Singapore where we embrace broader definitions of success, where every job is respected, where there is a fairer wage for every job, and a greater sense of assurance and security for individuals to uplift themselves, and to bounce back through life’s inevitable setbacks. These are things that we have distilled from our conversations, we have put it out together as part of what we call a “Forward Singapore roadmap”. And we are taking steps towards realising these goals.

The Economist: You have described a Singapore that faces high amounts of churn in the economy in order to stay at the frontier globally, where there's a new generation of Singaporeans with different expectations. Let's turn to politics and talk about how politics is adapting and changing to reflect that. You are part of a generation known as 4G, replacing or coming after 3G.

DPM Wong: For lack of a better word.

The Economist: It’s not bad as an acronym.

DPM Wong: We have only had three political changeovers in Government.

The Economist: Just for clarity, for listeners, it's not a telecommunication spectrum style. Tell us how the governing style of 4G, your generation, your government is going to be different from 3G.

DPM Wong: I think politics in Singapore has evolved and will continue to evolve. The days where the PAP government or the PAP was dominant in the 60s, 70s, even 80s under Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, those days are over, and we cannot go back to that period. And if you look at politics since then, it has been evolving. Singaporeans themselves have evolved; we have an electorate that is highly educated, very sophisticated, very discerning with how they vote. And while majority today would like the PAP to be in power, to be in government, they would also like to see more opposition voices in Parliament. So, the opposition presence in parliament is here to stay. It is quite clear. And I have also said that when I go into elections, I do not assume that the PAP will automatically return to power, I do not assume that I will be the next PM (Prime Minister) after the elections. This is the new reality of our political landscape, which means that as a party, for me now, eventually as Prime Minister, eventually leading the party into elections, we will have to do our best to engage Singaporeans, we will have to do our best to involve them in decisions that they care deeply about, and in shaping our future, which is why we started doing so in our Forward Singapore exercise, engaging Singaporeans a lot more, not just in hearing them out. But we also are trying to find platforms where people can get involved in decision making and start shaping the future of our country together.

The Economist: Lee Kuan Yew said whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. And there has always been a sense that Singapore's post-independence leaders have been strong men and sometimes even hard men. Do you see yourself as that kind of leader? Do you have iron inside you?

DPM Wong: DPM: I believe when push comes to shove and the time comes to take hard decisions, I would do so, so long as the decision is in the interest of Singapore and Singaporeans.

The Economist: The elements of it, which is sometimes forcing people to do what they don't want, sometimes being more abrasive with the public, do you see yourself in that mould? Or are you more of a listener?

DPM Wong: I am who I am. I listen carefully to everyone's views. When I go into a meeting, I do not start off assuming that I know all the answers. I want to get people's insights, I want to get people's perspectives, eventually thinking about what makes for the best decisions and outcomes for Singapore. And some of these decisions may not be the most popular decisions, but we may feel and we may have the conviction that they are the right ones to take. And therefore, when those sorts of situations arise, which I have had to deal with during COVID repeatedly or more recently, having to raise the GST in the Budget. And when these decisions arise, Singaporeans can be assured that I will be able to take the decisions in the best interest of Singapore and Singaporeans and explain to them why these difficult decisions are necessary.

The Economist: One part of your story is that you did not have an elite background in terms of school you went to, you have a much more typical upbringing. How important is that for your brand with ordinary Singaporeans?

DPM Wong: My background is what it is. If it is helpful that it makes it more relatable to Singaporeans, so much the better. But I have no doubt like I said just now, Singaporeans are discerning and wise voters, I have no doubt that at the end of the day, they will expect me to deliver on the things that they care about – delivering a better life, delivering better standards of living for themselves and their children. And if me and my team are unable to meet up to those high expectations, if we are unable to deliver those standards, and a better team arises, then Singaporeans will choose accordingly. I have no doubt about that.

The Economist: I understand that it is likely that the outgoing Prime Minister Lee is going to continue to play a role of some kind, possibly in the Cabinet. Could you talk about that, in particular address the concern that it might prevent 4G, the next generation, from really finding its voice and exerting authority in Singapore.

DPM Wong: This is a Singapore tradition. You do not find this commonly in other countries, but it is a long-standing Singapore tradition, and we have found it very valuable. Each time we have a leadership transition, we do not just kick out all the older Ministers and then have a complete new team come in. We value the more experienced Ministers, and we invite them to continue contributing in different ways, in their own ways. We have done this with former Prime Ministers as well, it is not the first time, whether it is Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, Mr. Goh Chok Tong or now Mr. Lee Hsien Loong. It has never been a problem with preventing the new Prime Minister from setting the tone of leadership and making his own decisions. I do not envisage any difficulties at all with Lee Hsien Loong eventually becoming Senior Minister and continuing to serve. The networks he has internationally will be very valuable and I will use him accordingly, in the best possible way because for me, as leader, I will have to find ways to harness the collective energies of all of my team and also every Singaporean, in order to give us the best chances for this little island to keep on shining evermore brightly in a dark and troubled world.

The Economist: Who will remain head of the PAP, your party?

DPM Wong: It has also been a tradition that in time to come, after the leadership transition, after the Prime Minister takes over, there will be a transition for the new Prime Minister to take over as Secretary General of the party. So, this will happen in due course.

The Economist: Why don’t we finish with your legacy. If you were to serve as Prime Minister for a decade, at the end of that period, how would you have liked to have changed Singapore? What do you want to be different in 10 years?

DPM Wong: The starting point, as I said just now, is that Singapore may have transformed tremendously in the last 60 years. But the reality is, we are still a very tiny little island in a vast and dangerous world, which is going to get more dangerous in the coming years. So, we have always seen ourselves as the underdog, we will always be the improbable, unlikely nation, forged only through the collective will of our people. What has happened in the last 60 years has been nothing short of a miracle. And my mission is to keep this miracle going for as long as I can. And to make sure our little red dot shines brightly for as long as possible.

The Economist: Lawrence Wong, thank you so much for joining us.