Remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong during Press Conference on Leadership Transition (8 April 2021)

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 8 April 2021

Transcript of remarks by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Press Conference on leadership transition, at the Istana on 8 April 2021.


PM: Good afternoon everybody and thank you for coming to this press conference. I called this conference today to brief you on our leadership succession plans. You have seen the exchange of letters between me and DPM Heng, as well as a statement of the younger ministers.

Let me explain briefly the background before I ask DPM to speak. After the recent Budget and Committee of Supply debates, DPM Heng spoke to me about the succession issue. I told him that I understood and respected his views. However, as he was chosen as the leader of the 4G team by the younger ministers, it was best for him to speak to the ministers himself.

I therefore called a meeting of all the Ministers, SMSes, MOSes, Speaker and Secretary-General of NTUC yesterday. DPM explained his decision to them.

I then proposed that the younger ministers caucus to decide how they would respond to DPM’s decision, and what they wanted to do about the succession. I asked Gan Kim Yong to chair this session as party chairman. Then, DPM, the two SMs and I left them to carry on.

Earlier this afternoon, we met the PAP MPs to inform them of the outcome of these discussions. This press conference is to make the news public.

I will now invite DPM Heng to speak and then Kim Yong and Lawrence will brief you on the outcome of the 4G team’s caucus and their response to DPM’s announcement.

[DPM’s remarks]

Thanks Swee Keat. Swee Keat has been an important member of my team for the last 10 years. I would like to thank him for his many contributions in MOE and MOF, especially in this past year.

In MOE, he led many groundbreaking initiatives. For example, promoting excellence in every school, and also in character and citizenship education. In MOF, with the Committee for the Future Economy, with a Future Economy Council following up on that, and then the COVID-19 Budgets last year.

In view of Swee Keat’s decision to stand aside as leader of the 4G team, I discussed with him his future role in Cabinet. I asked him to continue as DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies. I am glad that he has agreed to stay on. He will have the full agenda, building on what he has started. There is urgent work to do to take our economy beyond COVID-19.

This will also dovetail with his role as Chairman of the National Research Foundation, where we are making steady progress in promoting research, innovation and enterprise. I also look forward to Swee Keat continuing to make broader contributions to government policy and party work.

However, DPM will relinquish the finance portfolio at the next Cabinet reshuffle. I discussed this move with DPM last year, when we worked out Cabinet appointments following the General Election. We agreed that Budget 2021 would be an important Budget, not an emergency Budget like the five in 2020, but a Budget to take Singapore beyond COVID-19.

I told him it would be good for him to see through Budget 2021. Then he could give up the MOF portfolio to concentrate on the broader coordinating responsibilities.

There will be consequential moves in other ministries, and I intend to announce the reshuffle in about two weeks’ time.

In the Party, Swee Keat remains as First Assistant Secretary-General, there will be no change.

Swee Keat has made a selfless decision to stand aside. His actions are made with the best interests of Singapore in mind. They are fully in keeping with the spirit of public service and sense of duty that motivated him to step forward and stand for election when I asked him to do so in 2011.

Nevertheless, as the 4G statement acknowledges, this is a significant setback to our succession plans. The 4G team want to give themselves more time to work out new succession arrangements. I have therefore agreed to stay on until such time as the new 4G leader is chosen and is ready to take over.

Our immediate focus is on the health and economic crisis. But both they and I are very conscious that succession remains an urgent task and cannot be put off indefinitely. I think they will take longer than a few months, but I hope that they will reach a consensus and identify a new leader before the next General Election. I have no intention of staying on longer than necessary.

Meanwhile, we must not lose focus on the country's pressing health and economic challenges. My Cabinet will continue to work as one united team to overcome these challenges and lead the country forward. That is what Singaporeans expect of us and rightly so.

It is also the only way to maintain confidence in Singapore and keep our country succeeding year after year.

Now let me say a few words in Mandarin.


他将继续当任副总理兼经济政策统筹部长,以及继续领导NRF国立研究基金会,还有主持 JCBC 新中双边合作联合委员会等等。