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Lee Hsien Loong

Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son, was sworn in as Singapore’s third Prime Minister on 12 August 2004. Mr Lee was first elected Member of Parliament (MP) in 1984 as a candidate of the People's Action Party (PAP) and has been re-elected six times, most recently in 2011 as an MP for the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency. He was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the PAP in 1986, and became its Secretary-General in 2004.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong long seemed preordained to take over the reins of government from his father, Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), who later had the peculiar title of "Minister Mentor." Following a brilliant academic career at Cambridge and his meteoric rise in the Singapore Armed Forces (he made Brigadier General at age 32), Lee Hsien Loong left the military and entered politics in 1984. Despite his acknowledged intellectual and analytical skills, Lee had long been dogged by perceptions that his rise to power had as much to do with his family connections. The Lee family bristles at the word "nepotism" and threatens or sues for defamation anyone who mentions it. Lee also acquired a reputation as brash and arrogant in his younger days.

Mr Lee was born on 10 February 1952 and completed his schooling in Singapore. He studied at the University of Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science. He subsequently earned a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

First married to Wong Ming Yang in 1978, Mr Lee was widowed in 1982. He remarried Ho Ching in 1985. He has one daughter and three sons. Mr Lee enjoys reading, walking, listening to classical music and tinkering with computers.

Lee was a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). He attended the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and held various staff and command posts, including the Director of the Joint Operations and Plans Directorate, and Chief of Staff of the General Staff.

Lee was appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry of Defence in 1984. He was confirmed as full Minister for Trade and Industry in 1987, and was concurrently Second Minister for Defence. In 1985, Mr Lee chaired the Economic Committee, which recommended changes to long established government policies to reduce business costs and revive the economy during a severe recession, as well as policies to foster longer term growth, including drastic reduction of corporate and personal taxes and the introduction of a consumption tax.

In 1990, Lee was appointed Deputy Prime Minister with responsibilities for economic and civil service matters. He also concurrently served as Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) from 1998 until 2004, and Minister for Finance from 2001 until 2007. Lee was appointed Chairman of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) in June 2011.

At the MAS, Lee initiated reforms to liberalise the financial sector and to shift the emphasis from one-size-fits-all regulation towards a lighter supervisory touch, relying more on disclosure and caveat emptor.

As Minister for Finance, he chaired the Economic Review Committee which in 2003 proposed strategies to further restructure and upgrade the economy. These included tax changes to make Singapore more competitive and a major restructuring of the Central Provident Fund system.

As Prime Minister, Lee has launched policies to build a competitive economy and an inclusive society. He introduced new programmes to upgrade the education system, invest in R&D and infrastructure, and transform the city and living environment. Lee chairs the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council (RIEC), an international panel to oversee Singapore’s major effort in promoting R&D.

Lee’s Government also strengthened Singapore’s social safety nets. Significant measures include the Workfare Incentive Scheme, which is a negative income tax to encourage and reward older, low-income workers, and Community Care (ComCare), an endowment fund to support a wide range of welfare and social programs targeted at the poor.

By tackling long-term issues such as the ageing population and the pressures of globalisation, Mr Lee seeks to gear up Singapore to seize the abundant opportunities in a vibrant Asia.

The Prime Minister shared his father's pro-American stance and continued to welcome a substantial and enduring U.S. presence in the region. Singapore, while extremely tuned in to the opportunities presented by the rise of China and India, did not want any one power to dominate, or play an exclusive role in, the region. Singapore saw a strong and sustained US presence as an important hedge against that risk.

The March 2008 cabinet reshuffle followed months in which the PAP leadership raised expectations by talking up its search for a "fourth generation" of leaders capable of one day running the government. The mere tinkering that took place disappointed many and suggested the leadership was not terribly impressed with the talent.

In a minor cabinet reshuffle 26 March 2009, Defense Minister Teo took on the long-expected additional portfolio of Deputy Prime Minister (DPM). Teo replaces DPM S. Jayakumar, who became one of two Senior Ministers. People's Action Party (PAP) stalwart Lim Hwee Hua became Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, making her Singapore's first female permanent full Minister. The appointment of Lui Tuck Yew as Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) confirmed Lui as a rare fast riser in a succession process marked by caution and incrementalism. Acting Minister Gan Kim Yong was named as permanent Minister after serving a traditional probationary period since the last cabinet reshuffle in March 2008.

PM Lee continued to be overshadowed by his father, LKY. In some ways, this was inevitable. LKY was a towering and larger-than-life figure. Despite his hardball approach to politics, he was widely hailed as a world-class strategic thinker and visionary nation-builder who transformed Singapore from a dirty Third World port city into a gleaming First World metropolis in less than two generations. This would be a tough act for anyone to follow.

But LKY's need for control and street-fighter instincts had not diminished now that his son was PM. At critical moments, LKY seems unable to control an impulse to take center stage in public, leaving PM Lee to appear almost marginal. A classic example was during the 2006 parliamentary election, when LKY took over the PAP campaign and dominated the media coverage as he sought to crush a hapless opposition candidate. Lee came off almost as a by-stander in his first campaign as PM, and the opposition seized on several of his gaffes to score political points.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will probably lead the city state for 10 to 15 years, but by 2009 work had already begun to groom successors to his administration. Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong said 31 October 2009 that when Mr. Lee and his ministers step down, there must be a group of younger ministers ready to take their place. The next election has to be called by January 2017 but many expected it to be called at the end of 2015 or early 2016.

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