NDR 2022: Singapore has ‘zero margin’ for error when it comes to leadership, says PM Lee
The leadership succession is now back on track after Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong was chosen as the leader of the PAP's 4G team, says PM Lee Hsien Loong.
SINGAPORE: When it comes to leadership, Singapore has “zero margin” for error as its survival and success depends on having the right leaders, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 21).
Pointing to countries with unstable governments and are caught in political gridlock, Mr Lee stressed that good leadership is non-negotiable.
“Whenever things don't work, leaders are forced out or they resign en-masse. But even after changing teams, things fail to improve,” he said, adding that in such cases, policies and laws either never make it through political gridlock or they are reversed by the next government.
“Often, it is not just the leaders who disappoint, but the whole system that has failed. The result is a devastating loss of faith: Not just in individual politicians or parties, but in the whole political system and political class. And there's no way forward from there
“A small country like Singapore has zero margin for error. Not just Singapore’s continued success, but our very survival, depends on us having the right leaders,” he said.
He added that the country’s leaders must have integrity, dedication, competence and the conviction to make tough calls and do the right thing even if it cost them some votes.
“Thankfully, for 57 years, over three generations, we have had leaders who have earned and maintained Singaporeans’ trust and confidence, who have worked closely with the people to deliver on sound policies, who have improved all our lives,” said the Prime Minister.
“Never take this trust, nor this competence, for granted.”
In addition to having the right leaders, Mr Lee said having a united people and high trust between the people and their leaders are also essential to the country’s ability to respond creatively and resiliently, year after year, to domestic and external challenges.
“We may have the best laid schemes, but without these three fundamentals, they will come to nothing,” said Mr Lee.
Mr Lee said that leadership succession is now back on track after Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong was chosen as the leader of the 4G team, and therefore the next Prime Minister.
“I am very happy that the matter is settled and my succession plans are moving forward again,” he said. “I am also glad that from everything I see, that Singaporeans are supportive of Lawrence and his leadership of the team. So I ask you to give Lawrence and his 4G team – your team – your fullest support.”
“TROUBLED” EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT
Mr Lee also spoke extensively about the geopolitical challenges facing Singapore.
US-China relations are worsening and the two countries are divided over many issues, and this sets the tone for global affairs, he said.
They have rival ideologies and systems of government, as well as disputes on trade, cyber espionage and territorial issues. And recently, tensions over Taiwan have escalated sharply after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other US politicians visited Taiwan.
“Yet the US and China need to work together on many pressing global issues, including climate change, pandemics and nuclear proliferation,” said Mr Lee. “Their tense relationship is making this almost impossible. This is bad news for the world.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also has profound implications for the world and for Singapore, he said.
Said Mr Lee: “We cannot legitimise Russia’s wrongful actions. Russia claims that what it calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine is justified by ‘historical errors and crazy decisions’.
“If we accept this logic, what happens if one day others use this same argument against us?”
Warning that the war has affected security in the Asia-Pacific, Mr Lee said that Singaporeans should be “psychologically prepared” that things can go wrong in the region.
To counter external dangers, the nation should “stand firm” on fundamental principles of international law, take the country’s defence seriously, and stay united as one people, he said.
“Stay alert against foreign actors who are looking out to exploit our vulnerabilities and to influence our people for their own interests,” he said.
“If we are taken in and we're divided, we will stand no chance. But united, we can deal with any problems that come our way.”
Concluding his speech, Mr Lee said that the next few decades will be “bracing but exhilarating” for Singapore, and that with the trust of Singaporeans, Singapore can overcome the future difficulties he had outlined.
“With your support, we can turn hopes and dreams into reality, and united as one people, we can secure a brighter future in this uncertain world,” he said. “Not just for now, not just for ourselves, but for every Singaporean child, for many generations to come.”