PM Lee's successor 'very likely' to be in current Cabinet
His successor 'very likely' to be in current Cabinet, but team members must reach consensus on who to lead them
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he is "ready" to step down, and his successor is "very likely" to already be in the Cabinet.
"But which one? That will take a while to work out," Mr Lee, 65, told US news channel CNBC in an interview on Thursday.
He said he has put together a strong team of younger ministers, who, in time, will have to reach a consensus on who should lead the team into the next stage.
"They have to establish themselves, among themselves; they have to work out their relationships and assess one another.
"They have to gain the confidence of the public and show the public what they are able to do," Mr Lee added.
Once he has ensured a successor is ready to take over, possibly after the next general election, due by 2021, he will be ready to step down, he said.
Asked how he would ensure a smooth power transition, Mr Lee said: "By building up the team so that when I leave, the rest of the team will be able to work and carry things forward.
"They are doing that by being hands-on, by having responsibility for major policies, by taking charge of important, spiky ministries."
Among the front runners to be Singapore's next leader are Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, labour chief Chan Chun Sing, and Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, political observers told The New Paper. (See report )
Asked if the next election could be called in the next two years, Mr Lee said: "Yes, of course. Any time."
As for remaining behind the scenes after stepping down, he said: "That is up to the next prime minister."
In the interview released yesterday ahead of his visit to the US, Mr Lee touched on several issues at home and globally.
Asked if the Government still needs to act as a "nanny" now that Singapore is a developed economy, he said: "If you ask a Singaporean - on one hand, they will say let us do our own thing. On the other hand, whenever an issue comes up, they will ask, 'What is the Government doing about it?'... So we have to keep that balance."
On the dispute with his siblings over their late father's Oxley Road house, he said: "The matter is in abeyance. I am not sure if that is solved."
Expressing his sadness, Mr Lee added: "Perhaps one day when emotions have subsided, some movement will be possible. These things take time."
Yesterday evening,his brother Lee Hsien Yang said no attempt had been made to reach out to him to resolve the dispute.
On Singapore's relations with the US, the Prime Minister hopes to develop bilateral ties further when he visits Washington next week.
"It is a very sound relationship that is based on a basic strategic congruence of views about the world and the region, and deep cooperation over many years," Mr Lee said.
He noted that President Donald Trump is "confident of himself" and declared that Singapore "will work with him".
"I mean, he has been elected, he has a mandate from the American voters, and he represents the USA," Mr Lee added.
On China, he said both countries hope to do more together, and while they do not always see eye to eye, there are no basic conflicts in perspectives.
On North Korea, Mr Lee said "brinkmanship" has been long been part of the country's nuclear threat.
"It is part of the game: You make a threat, you posture, you make a risky move, you hope that the other side will then do something to placate you, or to give you some advantage in exchange for good behaviour," he said.
"Then after some time, it starts again. So it is not the first time."
Asked what advice his late father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, would give him today, the Prime Minister said he would have been told to "press forward".
"I think he would have said... 'Do not be looking at the rear view mirror. Remember what has happened, understand how you got here, but look forward and press forward.'"
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