Singapore International, 19 Nov 04
Mr Lee Hsien Loong's first 100 days
as Singapore's Prime Minister
Mr Lee Hsien Loong completes his first 100 days as Singapore's Prime
Minister today. At his swearing-in on August 12th, he promised to
be a leader for all Singaporeans.
Several policy changes have been announced since he assumed the leadership
role. These include a five day work week for civil servants, and extended
maternity leave for working mothers. For more on this, Melanie Yip
spoke to Assistant Professor Suzaina Kadir from the Political Science
Department at the National University of Singapore.
Dr Kadir first touched on the Prime Minister's leadership style.
SK: I think for most of us, there hasn't been a mark shift in terms
of his style. I think he has continued with the kind of image that
he was before he became Prime Minister. If we look at it in terms
of a continuum, he appears as someone who is quite open, quite direct
and I think so far, fairly responsive. It is a bit of a difference
if we compare it with Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. But that's because
I think his own style is to be fairly fair, but fairly open at the
Since being sworn in as Prime Minister on August 12, Mr Lee has undertaken
several overseas trips to neighboring nations like Malaysia, Indonesia
and Thailand. How would you see Singapore's foreign relations with
our neighbors taking shape, given the change of leadership in some
of these countries like Malaysia, and Indonesia?
SK: On this issue, I think it is where we've seen Prime Minister Lee
make a lot of effort, and I think that he should be commended for
putting in the the time for making these visits to the immediate ASEAN
neighbors. I think this is a good first step because I think it is
a whole series of issues that need resolution and the region as a
whole, although is stabilizing, especially when we compare it to the
period immediately after the Asian Financial Crisis, it is still not
what it was on par before. So I think that he has made this first
step, and does give off some positive signals. The point to note now
is what is going to be the reaction from the neighboring countries,
where they can presumably sit down and work out the number of issues
that need resolution.
On the home front, we have also seen the Singapore government led
by Prime Minister Lee spearhead several initiatives, including the
5-day work week, extended maternity leave for working mothers, and
even increased childcare subsidies. How will these measures promote
a more conducive work environment for civil servants, and Singaporeans
SK: Again, this is another aspect of Prime Minister Lee's initiatives
which I feel very positively about. I have certainly seen a lot of
support for the five-day work week, and I think that this, in fact,
is a very important break, in terms of attitude, in terms of the priorities
that the Singapore society will be facing in the next few years. So,
perhaps this gives us the space for a much more relaxed environment,
and maybe produce the kind of changes which the government sees necessary,
as in making the environment conducive for children and families etc.
And the issue that is being hotly debated at the moment is whether
Singapore should have a casino. With all the research reports on the
feasibility of opening a casino in Singapore, does it reflect a change
in the government's perspective on gambling and entertainment outlets?
SK: I do not necessarily see it as a sharp departure from the government's
position on issues pertaining to gambling. I think the government
still feels very concerned about the negative effects gambling may
have on families, and even on the Singapore society on the whole.
I think it is a reflection of the kind of needs and priorities the
government faces, in terms of the Singapore economy. And I think they
are trying to find this balance between these two perspectives. So
it is not like, for example, in choosing one particular position,
it represents the government coming to a stand that they are no longer
concerned about the negative impact.
In line with the need for political renewal within the next 10-15
years, we see younger Ministers taking on more important commitments.
One of whom is Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. Another trend we see is the
choice of younger nominated Members of Parliament, like former beauty
queen, Eunice Olsen. What are your views on this?
SK: It is heartening to see the younger Ministers, or politicians
come up and say, and get a lot of air time. So they are being tested
out. But at the same time, instead of focusing and concentrating so
much on what appears to be young and hip may not necessarily be good
in the long run. Again, it is about finding the balance because you
do not want to marginalize the rest. You know, experience does speak
for itself, and although you want to test the young, the experience
of the older generation, and certain members of parliament have to
come in to balance the whole. Again, it is finding the balance and
moving from one end of the pendulum to the other isn't ultimately
Assistant Professor Suzaina Kadir (SK), from the National University
of Singapore. She was speaking with Melanie Yip.