Our jack-of-all-trades minister boasting guitar and motorcycling skills sat down for a serious interview with Bloomberg yesterday (15 August), discussing issues across multiple domains regarding Singapore.
In the interview conducted by Mr John Micklethwait, the Bloomberg News editor-in-chief, DPM Lawrence Wong alluded to two potential takeover scenarios for his likely role as the future Prime Minister of Singapore.
He noted that it could happen before or after the next General Election (GE), which is due to be held by November 2025.
A transcript of the interview was shared with a few media outlets.
DPM Wong Sheds Light on Succession Planning By PAP
The interview started off with Mr Micklethwait asking about Singapore’s political succession, which he had discussed with PM Lee in a previous interview.
He asked Mr Wong, “I suppose that you are now the designated successor, but I have tried to work out the timing on that. When do you think you are likely to take over? Prime Minister Lee, I think, said that he would see Singapore through the COVID-19 process, but you seem to have done quite well in that, so when do you expect to take over?”
Mr Wong responded by first stating that the succession planning was halted due to the pandemic.
He then went on to confirm that the cabinet team and him were “now in the process of deliberating exactly when that transition would be for [him] to take over from Prime Minister Lee”.
When posed the question of when he expected the transition to happen—before or after the GE in 2025, Mr Wong replied that it would “not be later than 2025; it could be earlier,” according to the transcript.
Hi press secretary later clarified that he was referring to the timing of the GE and not the succession per se.
During the interview, DPM Wong also outlined the two possible scenarios for this transition.
The first is that he could take over as PM of Singapore before the next GE, in which case, he would “clearly lead” the 4G team and People’s Action Party in the election process.
The other scenarios is that PM Lee could continue to serve as the prime minister and leader for the next elections, and then pass on the position to him if PAP were to win.
Mr Wong went on to elaborate that nothing is set in stone yet, saying, “These are the options, but we have still yet to make a decision on the actual timing.”
In the meantime, Mr Wong said he is currently starting to think about “organising the team, dealing with [their] immediate priorities,” and “really take this time to settle into [his] new expanded responsibilities and portfolios.”
Mr Micklethwait also commented that it seemed like DPM Wong had won a Squid Game-like competition to lead Singapore, referencing the South Korean Netflix drama that saw contestants competing in violent, twisted games for a large sum of money.
Yes, because we all saw ministers Lawrence Wong and Heng Swee Keat fight it out over a deadly game of “Red Light Green Light” before PAP announced their decision to put Mr Wong in the running for the next PM.
In response, DPM Wong said, “It was never a matter of competition, (and) certainly not the Squid Game.”
Government To Provide More Assistance To Help Citizens Cope with Inflation if Needed
Moving on to the Singapore’s economic outlook in light of the prevailing inflation climate and its posture towards recovering from the pandemic, Mr Micklethwait noted that Singapore’s headline inflation is at 6.7%, and asked DPM Wong if there was more the government intended to do to help citizens cope.
While the rate is relatively lower than many other nations, it is still a cause of concern for the country and its citizens.
Mr Wong replied that some of the measures from the Government are “still being rolled out in the coming months,” likely referring to the S$1.5 billion package that was announced back in June to help vulnerable groups and businesses cope with rising costs of living.
Regardless, he said that the situation will continue to be closely monitored by the government, and that “if the inflation situation were to worsen, we will certainly be able to provide more assistance.”
Currently, he expects inflation to peak towards the end of this year and ease back down afterwards, though he added that it will likely not subside to levels “we were all used to over the last decade or so.”
He also explained that inflation rates of between 0%-1% enjoyed in the past were an anomaly because inflation rates never used to be so low.
“We will just have to pay that little bit more in order to be greener, in order to have more resilient supply chains, so we have to be prepared for that new equilibrium where inflation is concerned,” he said.
GST Is Still Set To Be Raised By 1%
DPM Wong was subsequently asked if he was still committed to raising the country’s goods and services tax (GST) from 7% to 8%.
In response, he said, “We have to because of the revenue shortage that we face.”
According to the finance minister, the national spending is expected to rise in the long term due to the support needed for the ageing population, as well as rising healthcare costs.
“We have to do what is right and spend more, but also in a way that is sustainable and responsible and does not leave behind a bigger hole for the next generation, and that means increasing revenues,” he added.
“But as I had explained in the Budget this year, we are doing so in a way that is fair and that is progressive.”
Okay, between this decision and the latest news on bubble tea, I think Singaporeans are still more upset by the latter.
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