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Singapore's Lee announces new cabinet
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-11 08:52

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Prime Minister-designate Lee Hsien Loong Tuesday announced the list of his new cabinet, mostly old faces.

His 80-year-old father, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, stays in the cabinet with the new title "minister mentor", while outgoing prime minister Goh Chok Tong will take his place as senior minister - the number two position of power - while also heading the central bank.

The reshuffle mostly swaps existing ministers around without drawing on much new blood, surprising many political analysts and economists who had expected the 52-year-old Lee to usher in a new generation of younger leaders.

Lee, who will be sworn in as leader tomorrow, remains finance minister.

"There are no key changes in the ministries at all. There is a lot of continuity in the change of power. So there will be continuity in policy," said Nizam Idris, an economist at consultancy IDEAGlobal.com.

The elder Lee, who spearheaded Singapore's separation from Malaysia in 1965 and steered the nation from post-colonial backwater to regional dynamo in a generation, has insisted that his son's political rise was based on merit, not nepotism.

The son was formally invited by President S.R. Nathan to head the next government at a meeting yesterday after Goh submitted his cabinet's resignation.

"The president has accepted the resignations, which will take effect immediately before the new prime minister is appointed tomorrow," a statement from the prime minister's office said.

The reshuffle marks one of the final steps in an elaborately scripted succession that has been expected since Goh became prime minister and Lee his deputy in 1990.

Lee, a former brigadier general, has held all the senior economic posts. He was formally endorsed to replace Goh this year by the long-ruling People's Action Party, which controls all but two seats in parliament.

Surprising some political observers, Lee re-appointed 64-year-old Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence Tony Tan to one of two deputy premier posts. The other went to long-serving cabinet member S. Jayakumar, who gave up his foreign ministry portfolio but remains the law minister.

George Yeo, a trade minister who led the farm trade talks at the World Trade Organization's 1999 meeting in Seattle and the agriculture negotiations at the 2001 meeting in Doha, becomes foreign minister.

The new leadership faces a tough initiation with jobs disappearing to the fast-growing economies in Asia, while birth rates stagnate at home and the population gets older.

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