'Being exceptional is essential': PM Lee

'Being exceptional is essential': PM Lee

In the third part of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's televised chat, 'Ask The Prime Minister', he talks about Singapore's future, political succession, and his aspirations for Singapore.

How are you going to ensure diversity of experience and views within the Cabinet?

Well, we have a significant number of people come into government from the public sector. But at the same time we've tried very hard to bring in people from the private sector, and I have some key members of the Cabinet - Ng Eng Hen, who was a doctor; Shanmugam, who was a lawyer, Iswaran… Indranee, another lawyer. I think that we need a balance of people from government, who have had experience in the administration, and also from the private sector, experienced in how the economy works, and put them together.

It's very hard to bring people in from the private sector, because once you've headed into the private sector, you've prepared yourself psychologically for that route… And to change from being a successful lawyer to a successful Minister - not everybody can make that switch. And so we need to work very hard to identify suitable people, bring them in, and they have to have guts to take the chance to come in, and maybe may not succeed. But we have to try to get that mix.

Has it become harder after the last GE?

I think it has gotten harder. It's not so certain, so people have to calculate the risks. But even more than that, there's more hurly burly, there's more barracking, more flak on the internet.

And it's not just the candidates, it's the families too. Why do you want to do that? You are making a good living, you are taking care of us, you are living quietly, placidly, nobody disturbs us when we go to the hawker centres. Suddenly you go into the public life and have to read all this stuff in the websites... and when I go out I've lost my privacy. It is a very serious consideration. It has made it much harder. It is a serious problem.

On succession

I do not have a specific date, but I have said that I shouldn't be Prime Minister until the age of 70. I think we must have a successor team in place and ideally a successor in place well before that…

It's a very demanding job - it's not just emotionally, or mentally - you have to be alert. But physically - the travelling, the going about… you have to project, and you have to be on top of it. If you are not on top of it, it shows straightaway. And to do that, you cannot be a very old man.

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