Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lee Hsien Loong's 10 years as PM

‘Grateful’ to serve Singapore and its citizens: PM Lee
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's inaugural address to the nation as PM at the Istana in 2004. TODAY file photo

As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Aug 12) marked his 10th year as the country’s leader, he took the opportunity to thank the people who helped “make it much easier for me and the government to do things for Singaporeans”.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to serve my country and fellow citizens,” wrote Mr Lee in a Facebook post.

He said he has learnt much from the people he met, those who write to him and those who follow him on social media. “Your views and insights have shown me what we are doing well, and where we need to do better. Your support and engagement means a lot to me,” he said.

Lee Hsien Loong reflects on his decade as PM, is thankful for support and chance to serve
Mr Lee Hsien Loong at his swearing in ceremony on Aug 12, 2004. (Former president S.R. Nathan is on his left). -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reflected on his decade as Singapore's top political leader on Tuesday, saying he was grateful for the chance to serve the country and for the support he received.

He was sworn in as Prime Minister 10 years ago on Aug 12, 2004, after 20 years in politics.
  • "I learn much from the people I meet, those who write to me, and those following me on social media. Your views and insights have shown me what we are doing well, and where we need to do better. Your support and engagement means a lot to me," wrote Mr Lee, 62, on Facebook.
  • He also thanked volunteers, grassroots leaders and supporters for giving their time and energy generously: "You make it much easier for me and the government to do things for Singaporeans."


Posting a status update today on Facebook, PM Lee noted that today is the 10th anniversary of his term as PM.

He announced that he was grateful for the opportunities that he has had over the past 10 years and he thanked the people for everything he has learned and the support he has received.

Here is his status update in full:

PM Lee Hsien Loong – 10 years in office today

Today, 12 August 2014, marks the 10th year that Lee Hsien Loong has been Prime Minister of Singapore. This year is also his 30th year in politics, having been introduced as a candidate for the People’s Action Party in 1984′s general election.

We look back on the swearing-in speech Mr Lee delivered at the Istana 10 years ago today.

Do you think Mr Lee has accomplished what he set out in his speech? And what do you think are the most significant achievements or failures during his 10-year tenure as PM of Singapore?

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PM Lee thanks the people as he marks 10 years in office
Grateful for chance to serve: Mr Lee took over as PM from Mr Goh, whom he thanked for handing him 'a ship in good shape'. - PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Lee Hsien Loong yesterday marked his decade as Singapore's Prime Minister with a note of thanks to Singaporeans - and to his predecessor, Goh Chok Tong.

"Thanks also to ESM Goh, who handed over to me a ship in good shape, and has continued to help me guide it safely, through fair winds and stormy seas," he said in his Facebook post.

Earlier, Mr Goh had taken to social media to wish Mr Lee well and to congratulate him for "steering Singapore through choppy waters".

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PM’s Identity Crisis

It has been 10 years since Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister of Singapore, yet his style and achievements are hard to put a finger on, as Singapore grapples with a maturing economy, a population mix that throws up questions about national identity and inequality and a citizenry that has suddenly been let loose by a vibrant and raucous online world.

There was no mistake about what founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his successor, Goh Chok Tong, stood for very early in their leadership years. Pushed to the wall by racial and ethnic riots, separation from the Federation of Malaya, and the withdrawal of British troops, the best and worst of LKY came out. He was bent on building an economic miracle, even if it meant he had to put his opponents behind bars.

After 31 years of LKY’s reign, which saw Singapore punching above its weight as a regional economic powerhouse but receiving international ridicule for its human rights record, Goh identified a sweet spot to position his prime ministership as one that would make the country a caring one. Although there were instances that made him take a hard line, generally his reign was a gentler and kinder one.

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A roller coaster decade for Singapore PM Lee

Singapore has done well on the economic front. There is a palpable buzz about the country.

On the social front, the incremental approach, where every small change adds up, has ushered in a Big Bang shift in social policy.

But whether the "feel the way forward approach" is enough at a time when Singapore is undergoing rapid change remains to be seen. There is every risk that just as the last decade saw a gap widen in income equality, the next decade will see a rift widen in expectations in the political arena.

A roller coaster decade

Mr Lee Hsien Loong's first decade as prime minister can be summed up in one word: Challenging.

It has been a roller coaster of a ride for Mr Lee, who became independent Singapore's third prime minister on Aug 12, 2004.

For one thing, there has been greater political contestation. Singapore saw two general elections in 2006 and 2011, and two by-elections, in Hougang (May 2012) and Punggol East (January last year).

related: Growth in a decade of shocks

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Singapore Dream seems less achievable, says Tan Ern Ser
Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser, National University of Singapore, Department of Sociology. PHOTO: ST FILE

Q: Of all the things that have happened in the past decade, what do you consider PM's three greatest achievements?
  • Keeping the economy afloat.
  • Making major policy shifts in healthcare and education.
  • Reducing the burden of the sandwiched generation with the Pioneer Generation Package.
Q: What about his three greatest disappointments?
  • The cost of living remains high.
  • The Singapore Dream seems less achievable. The Singapore Dream in the sense of upward mobility, material security, comfort, and success for themselves and their children.
  • The past track record of the PAP (People’s Action Party) government has become less of a selling point.
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Many conflicting demands, says Dr Gillian Koh
Dr Gillian Koh, Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

Q: How would you characterise Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 10 years at the helm, in a word or a phrase?
  • A deeply challenging decade that’s given the occasion for us to see some adaptive, innovative and responsive leadership, although some feel it has not been responsive enough.
Q: Of all the things that have happened in the past decade, what do you consider PM's three greatest achievements?
  • Policy innovations based on good diagnosis of the problems they had to solve, and with lessons from past experience.
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It has been a challenging decade, says Siew Kum Hong
Mr Siew Kum Hong, corporate counsel and former Nominated Member of Parliament, says PM lee's 10 years at the helm have been 'challenging'. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Q: Of all the things that have happened in the past decade, what do you consider PM's three greatest achievements?
  • The rebound from the Global Financial Crisis. The transformation of Singapore into a global cosmopolitan city. Today, there really is a global buzz about Singapore, and we do have mind share with the world's elite.
  • When I speak to people overseas, they are definitely familiar with Singapore and they generally speak positively about us as an attractive place to do business or one of the must-visit places in Asia. Notably, this increased familiarity seems to span all levels, from more senior business people to regular people. No doubt there is some variation depending on the worldview of the person in question -- business people tend to be more upbeat than activist types. But I had quite a pleasant surprise in San Francisco a couple of weeks back, when somebody remarked that he listed Singapore as one of the 4 great Asian cities he wanted to visit.
  • The post-General Election 2011 moves to strengthen the social safety net.
Q: What about the three greatest disappointments?
  • The stratification of society with diminished social mobility, accompanied by (or leading to) the widening income gap.
  • The failure to anticipate the problems from accelerated immigration.
  • The inability to truly transform the PAP after GE2011, despite the shifts in social policy post GE2011.
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Many decisions still top-down, says Associate Professor Reuben Wong 
Associate Professor Reuben Wong, National University of Singapore Department of Political Science. -- PHOTO: ST FILE SPH

Q: Of all the things that have happened in the past decade, what do you consider PM's three greatest achievements?
  • PM Lee succeeded spectacularly in making Singapore’s economy even more sophisticated than it was, and making Singapore an even more global city than 10 years ago. Around the world, Singapore is viewed as one of the most internationally welcoming, most attractive places to live in. It is not just in Asia, but also on the world level. That’s why you have a lot more millionaires and billionaires who come and live here.
  • This is a spectacular achievement, that a country that was a British colony right up to the 1960s is now considered like a Switzerland of Asia.
  • Most people think of Singapore as a very stable and serious state, so they continue investing here and people want to live here.
Q: What about his three greatest disappointments?
  • Some of the promises that were made, whether implicit or explicit, in 2004 - that we become more consultative, that every Singaporean counts and will have a say in the running of Singapore - are not so evident 10 years on.
  • For example, a lot of decisions are still very top-down. Some of the biggest indicators of this are the decisions about the casinos and growing of Singapore’s population to 6.9 million. When you make a decision top down this way, and you try to sell it afterwards, it is very hard. If you had instead started the process earlier and gotten the citizens involved, gotten their buy-in, policy making and implementation would be easier.
  • I think PM Lee is very sincere, but there are just a lot of standard operating procedures and government reflexes that are hard to change.

How would you characterise PM’s 10 years at the helm?

Today (12 Aug 2014) is the 10th year Mr Lee Hsien Loong helming Singapore as the PM.

In her article today (‘A roller coaster decade’, 12 Aug), ST Opinion Editor Chua Mui Hoong asked, “Mr Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister 10 years ago today. How has his time in office shaped the lives of Singaporeans?”

In Ms Chua’s view, she said that Mr Lee’s first decade as prime minister can be summed up in one word: “Challenging”.

Ten years, over 100 trips and millions of miles
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat in Putrajaya in April. Mr Lee and Datuk Seri Najib enjoy a warm relationship and their resolution of a long-standing dispute over Malaysian railway land has unlocked the door to new areas of cooperation, such as a rail link between Singapore and Johor Baru and the construction of a high-speed railway between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur

SINGAPORE has had three prime ministers.

As the leaders of a small state in a big world, they had to be equally good at governing Singapore internally and managing Singapore's relations externally.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong has been the Prime Minister of Singapore for 10 years. He has been a good steward of Singapore's national interests.

How To Spend 10 Years

The Straits Times article kicked off by saying that Lee Hsien Loong's first decade as prime minister can be summed up in one word: Challenging. If someone else had written that piece, one could infer it was another way of saying the prime minister is politically challenged. There was quite a laundry list of what went wrong since Singapore's third round of musical chairs began on 12 August 2004 to support the thesis.

For starters, the bruising battles of the by-elections in Hougang (May 2012) and Punggol East (January 2013). Latter was triggered by a taste for mangoes, a very senior foreign affairs official would later be felled by pineapple tarts.

The sharpest recession since independence in 2008 when economic growth bottomed to 1.8 percent, and further shrunk another 0.6 percent in 2009. And that's not even accounting for the millions lost by Town Council mayors in flaky investment schemes.

LHL: A decade as PM
Why do we even need to reflect on his ten years as PM when the job is not finished? What's the usefulness of doing this except to try to move a 49% to 51% for some to give him a pass mark or at 74% to 75% for supporters to give him an A? I don't recall GCT going through this exercise.

To me he was good for the country especially the financial side of things but for the average person he/she was worse off. The wealth and income divide grew into an unsconscionable gap. He cared for the rich but tolerated the poor until he realized he can't take the latter for granted because it will cost him his job.

I didn't bother to read anything on this subject yesterday except the very well written economic review by my ex colleague Prof Tan Kong Yam. Always appreciated his down to earth insight.

Lee Hsein Loong – Singapore Third Prime Minister
With his distinct smile and bespoke suits, Lee Hsein Loong is an outstanding figure – as it should be. He is Singapore’s Third Prime Minister, and has been in office for close to a decade now. His term has not been without challenges, but he has endured. He is a colorful leader, something that has been exemplified by the reforms he has instituted and the foreign relations that he has improved

Lee Hsein Loong hails from a political family. His father, Lee Kuan Yew was the first prime minister of Singapore. From an early age, he expressed interest in Singaporean affairs as he often accompanied his father to public gatherings. He was schooled in Singapore and the United States where he proceeded to earn a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University in 1980.

He joined the military in 1971. A proactive hard worker, Lee ascended the ranks to become the youngest ever brigadier-general. He was first elected as an MP in 1982. Following this, he served in different ministries. He remained active in politics, chairing what was to become the Young PAP. He was appointed as a Deputy Prime Minister following his father’s resignation as Prime Minister. At this time he was still serving as the Minister for Trade. He relinquished this responsibility during his short battle with lymphoma.

He became the Minister for Finance in 2001 where he oversaw the increment of GST to offset rising budget deficits. He continued to initiate reforms in different spheres until his appointment as Prime Minister in August 2004. Since he assumed office, he has been at the forefront of reforms in Singapore. His role in improving foreign relations, particularly with China and the United States is hailed as one of his successes.

When PM Lee didn’t seek a correction in Straits Times

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today completes 10 years in office, reports the Straits Times. So what was being reported in the press when he became prime minister on August 12, 2004? I couldn’t penetrate the walls guarding the archives of the Straits Times — but came across a story which said he not seek a correction when the newspaper published a report suggesting his father was a better marksman than him.

I found the story in the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) of all places – the magazine that had its share of troubles with Singapore’s leaders before finally closing down in 2009 after 63 years of publication.

The magazine reported the Straits Times offered to print a correction after its reporter was “bawled out” by an “officer” for reporting that Lee Hsien Loong missed the target every time on a visit to a firing range unlike his father, who was bang on target.

Congratulations pour in for PM Lee’s 10th year anniversary as Singapore’s leader

The Malay Mail Online - In their communications with Malaysia, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (pic) and Singapore National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan had requested relevant information on all reclamation and construction work. — Reuters pic

Praise and congratulations poured in for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday for his 10th anniversary in the office after he put a post on his Facebook page expressing thanks for the support he has received throughout the years.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to serve my country and fellow citizens. I learn much from the people I meet, those who write to me, and those following me on social media. Your views and insights have shown me what we are doing well, and where we need to do better. Your support and engagement means a lot to me,” he wrote.

“Thank you too, to the volunteers, grassroots leaders, and supporters who give so generously of your time and energy,” he said, adding his thanks as well to Emeritus Senior Minister and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for his guidance.

The Succession – After Lee, who?
There must be a potential PM around here

On this day, 12 august 2014, marks 10 years for Lee Hsien Loong’s tenure as Prime Minister. Naturally as in politics, the talk goes into who is going to succeed him. It is a very tricky issue, as it ties the fact that it is unclear when the Prime Minister himself is going to step down and how.

But for those who hope that he will do so before the next general election in 2016, tough luck. Why? It is likely that PM Lee would want to be at the helm come the 50th anniversary of Singapore (SG50), So he won’t likely exit the stage before or during the anniversary (Plus this also means the general election won’t be held in 2015, since nothing “unites” the nation better on an important date than a general election).

So he will lead us into 2016, into a general election, likely for the last time, so then what? there are several options:

Blast from the past: reinventing the heir

Seven years later, is he (Lee, known popularly as “BG Lee”) kinder and gentler? Perhaps. He says the government can’t legislate away social change: Young people are more Westernized, have greater access to information, and won’t accept the social restrictions they once did. “We are not a museum,” Lee says. “We are plugged in and switched on.

So as the world changes, we also have to evolve.” He says today’s Singapore is “a Singapore which the new generation identifies with in a way they wouldn’t if it were the same as it was in 1990,” and tosses off the name of the Backstreet Boys, a mild pop band that his sons listen to.

But watch out if you’re politically involved, because Lee, like most of his colleagues, sees no quarter for compromise. He defends the lawsuits which government leaders, including himself, have lodged against opposition politicians. “I think it generates the right type of debate that we want to encourage,” is his explanation of the lawsuits. “We want politics to have a certain tone, a certain dignity, a certain integrity and uprightness.”

A PM in search of a legacy
Anticipations were high for this year’s National Day Rally speech. One could not help but wonder how Lee Hsien Loong would mark the event, days after his 10th year anniversary as prime minister

As it turned out, the momentous occasion was matched by a momentous concession by Lee. Retired citizens would finally be able to withdraw a lump sum of their CPF savings, though not more than 20 per cent.

The CPF scheme has been a lingering bone of contention for many retirees who feel that they should be entitled to withdraw, as they see fit, the money they have worked hard to save over the years. While they may not be able to withdraw theirentire savings, the modification to the CPF scheme allows a level of autonomy long denied to them.

This concession ties in well with the Pioneer Package, espoused by Lee during the speech. By using the “red card” issued in the package, older Singaporeans will now also be able to enjoy significant rebates in medical costs.

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10 years under LHL, Singapore has become the most expensive city to live in

Posters : The Best of Lee Hsien Loong

Search for successor remains biggest challenge
AUG 12, 2004: Newly sworn-in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shaking hands with Singapore’s first PM, his father Lee Kuan Yew, who received his appointment as Minister Mentor from then President S R Nathan at the Istana

It has been a priority for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong right from the start - the search for Singapore's next prime minister.

Ten years into his premiership, it remains his biggest challenge, say political observers. "That seems to be a particularly pressing issue for the Cabinet and for PM Lee," says National University of Singapore (NUS) political scientist Reuben Wong. "Right now, we don't have a clear candidate."

With the other two prime ministers before Mr Lee, potential successors emerged earlier in their tenure, he adds. When Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew passed the baton to Mr Goh Chok Tong, the third leader, PM Lee, was already in the wings.

10 years under LHL: Youths uncertain about their financial future


The 10 years under the premiership of Lee Hsien Loong can be characterised as a lost decade for Singapore and a step backwards from First World to Third World. A decade of stagnant wages and exacerbated rises in prices have placed some of the measures of economic prosperity in Singapore on par with other Third World countries.

Indeed, under Mr Lee, real wages have remained stagnant for the majority of Singaporeans whereas for low income Singaporeans, this is even worse - they saw their real incomes decline.

Wages in Singapore have remained so depressed that Singaporeans today earn one of the lowest wages among the developed countries. Coupled with how Singaporeans also now work the longest hours in the world, this also means that when one looks at the wage earn per hour, Singaporeans could possibly earn the lowest wages among the developed countries.


This story is entirely based on my personal analysis. After the year 1984, LKY was helpless without his ‘work horses’ (‘LKY letters show he is clueless without others‘). Being proud and stubborn, he thought with the new cabinet ministers including his son would do a good job just like his old ‘work horses’.

Most of the problems seemed to be containable – mostly bread and butter issues.  Little did he know that these issues became blotted to near unmanageable sizes (cost of living, healthcare cost, housing cost, widening wage gap, low fertility and increasing global pressure on competition).

Many bad policies were introduced, but these were temporary measures to ease the problems.  He was too focused on fixing his ‘enemies’ that he neglected these problems. His young ministers were not experience enough to fix these problems.  They were only ‘papers’ qualified and more of ‘city slickers’ with not much of ground experiences.


The PM’s performance was the focus of the media interview at the end of SingFirst’s walkabout in his Ang Mo Kio GRC yesterday. It is common knowledge and widely felt among Singaporeans that the economy has become less robust and society is more divided, stressed and unhappy.

He has failed to repeat his father’s achievements as PM.

Lee Hsien Loong’s dismal record is unimaginable given that he has been “trained” as minister for 20 years before taking on the job as PM in 2004. Neither have the genes from his father been of much help. He might have inherited intelligent genes from his father but certainly not his performance. Unhappiness with their MP’s performance as PM was evident from our conversations with several groups of AMK residents in our walkabout. We met many residents who were severely affected by PAP’s policies that did not create a trickle down effect for the lower to middle class families, even in the PM’s GRC.

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PM Lee in Focus