NEW DELHI: A Cabinet reshuffle – which is set to take place sometime after the Budget in February – will be a “significant step in exposing and building the new team of leaders”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, speaking to reporters at the end of this trip to New Delhi for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit on Friday (Jan 26).
However, Mr Lee is “not expecting to have new deputy prime ministers after the Budget".
Mr Lee’s comments follow a Facebook post by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong which said that having the People’s Action Party’s fourth generation leadership in place and settled is an “urgent challenge” in 2018. Mr Goh added that he hoped the current cohort of younger officeholders would identify a leader from amongst themselves in six to nine months.
Mr Lee said that he would not be able to say for certain if they would be able to choose a leader in that time frame, but is confident that “it would be done in good time".
Mr Lee also said that Mr Goh was "speaking with the privilege of watching things", rather than being responsible for making them happen.
He pointed out that the younger officeholders are aware that he would like to handover his duties to his successor soon after the next General Election.
But while the team is taking shape, Mr Lee noted that the younger ministers will also “need a bit of time for Singaporeans to get a feel of them not just be known as public figures, but to be responsible for significant policies” in addition to “showing that they deserve to lead”.
When asked about whether he is prepared to announce a potential successor by the end of this year, Mr Lee said that “if it's settled, everybody will know, but my assessment is that it will probably take a bit longer".
Mr Lee was also asked if he would be making his views known on the relative strengths and weaknesses of each candidate before the younger office holders make a decision, Mr Lee said: "I think if they ask me my views, I may; I will try my best to be helpful.
"I know that Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) from time to time used to give his public views of what he thought possible younger members of his team were and what their strengths were. The then younger members of his team, I think, found it always a little bit awkward to be put under the spotlight, and I don't think I need to do that to my younger ministers."
Mr Lee said he is confident of his team and pointed out that “each member of the team brings something to the table".
“Maybe it's the way that the media and public politics is played in many countries nowadays, it's personalised as one person. And the face becomes familiar. And you think that everything is done by that person. Actually it's not. Actually, there's a team.
“The team works together and they have one, as Mr Lee Kuan Yew said, striker. Now you have to strike from time to time, but you're really also sometimes spokesman on behalf of the team, bringing together a collective wisdom and giving voice to that. And I think in the next team, that aspect of it will have to be even more important," he said.