Singapore PM Lee flags delay to retirement due to COVID-19

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Secretary-General of the People's Action Party, speaks at a virtual press conference following the general elections in Singapore, in this still frame obtained from social media video

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong named a largely unchanged cabinet on Saturday following an election win this month, and flagged a possible delay to his retirement plans due to the noel coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Lee’s expected successor, was kept in post helming the finance ministry, as were senior ministers Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Teo Chee Hean.

“We are in a crisis of a generation … therefore I have kept on many of my older colleagues who are all participating in this fight against COVID-19,” Lee, 68, said.

Lee also said he may have to delay his plans to step down as leader by the time he is 70 because of the pandemic.

“A lot will depend on how events unfold and all I can say is I will see this through,” said Lee, son of Singapore’s modern day founder Lee Kuan Yew.

In some minor changes, national development minister Lawrence Wong – the co-head of a COVID-19 taskforce – was moved to education, while education minister Ong Ye Kung was moved to transport.

New face Alvin Tan, head of public policy for business social network LinkedIn and a former senior Facebook executive, was given a post as minister of state in the trade ministry.

In a July 10 general election, the ruling People’s Action Party extended its unbroken rule since the city-state’s independence in 1965, but its vote share slipped near a record low as opposition parties made historic inroads.

Heng, selected by his peers as a future leader of the party in 2018, scraped through in his constituency in the first real test of his public popularity.

Asked at a media conference whether the ballot had changed the party’s succession plans, trade minister Chan Chun Sing said there had been no such discussion.

The vast majority of Singapore’s 49,375 cases of the coronavirus are from cramped dormitories that house more than 300,000 mostly South Asian workers.

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