Photo of Lee Hsien Loong from Straits Times

Losing over S$50 billion, getting boycott by China, Singapore having the most expensive cost of living and endangering the country’s principles of meritocracy and democracy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong committed too many costly mistakes for a rich country like Singapore to bear.

Unfortunately, the son of Lee Kuan Yew has little to prove his worth or justify his S$1.87 million salary too. Since his premiership in 2004, all aspects of the society and economy have taken a beating. Wages stagnating, income gap peaking, job losses piling, poverty reaching worst ever since Independence, return of Tuberculosis/Hepatitis outbreak and the increasing frequency of anarchic train breakdowns – Singaporeans’ complains are fully backed with statistics and actual events with real victims of his disastrous policies in immigration, healthcare, public transport, retirement, education and basically all faucets of government. The Lee Hsien Loong administration is also the costliest in the world at S$53 million a year – excluding MP salaries and bonuses.

Domestic issues aside, Lee Hsien Loong destroyed the diplomatic relations of long-standing allies due to his irresponsible choice of words. Lee Hsien Loong mocked China at a US official dinner in 2013, saying that in China’s most influential city, Shanghai, one just need to turn on the tap to have pork soup or open the window to smoke. Lee Hsien Loong were laughing hard with the white men in US then, mocking his ethnic Chinese roots for having poor record of quality – such amateurish mistake making public closed-door jokes – but Beijing was not laughing for sure.

Lee Hsien Loong’s colonial mentality of white supremacy may sound like an unfair criticism, but the fact remains that Singapore under his leadership has been acting against China. When US want China to back off from the territorial disputes in South China Sea, Lee Hsien Loong volunteered himself and, again, cracked jokes about China saying they are no longer “the middle kingdom”. The Prime Minister of the 719km² island state also told China to give up their claims on the South China Sea and obey his “code of conduct”. Worse, Lee Hsien Loong hijacked the ASEAN agenda to push for fellow ASEAN leaders to act against China.

China later in response in 2016 detained the SAF vehicles at their Hong Kong port, and stated that Singapore should respect the One-China policy as ratified and stop military operations in Taiwan. Again another diplomatic disaster, the Singapore Prime Minister defiantly told China to buzz off.

China has now officially boycotted the most expensive Prime Minister, and the United States could not be bothered with Singapore more than a strategic naval outpost in South East Asia. Despite repetitively acting for US’s interests, the US administration – then under Obama – strategically stayed silent and made zero comments when the China-Singapore dispute drama unfolded. The new US administration under Donald Trump is worse, with the first executive by Trump is to obliterate the Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP). However, Trump is also unlikely to further relations with Singapore and expectedly so, because Lee Hsien Loong has always been dissing Donald Trump since before the US Presidential Election. With the death of TPP and being ostracized from China’s Belt and Road economic plan, Singapore is suddenly no longer in a strategic position linking the East and West – no thanks to Lee Hsien Loong. How did one screw up so badly and single-handedly destroyed a thriving trading port and a former crown colony?

Nobody is asking for Singapore to kowtow to China or be their vessel state – not even China themselves. China understand the position of Singapore very well, and are ready to provide concessions, as they have done so over the past two decades. Telling a joke is fine but when not one that denigrate others. Lee Hsien Loong lacks the sophistication of a statesman, and the tact and craftiness of a diplomat. The real problem lies with himself not realising so – no thanks to the lack of fair criticisms and the greenhouse he created at home with the abuse of defamation lawsuits and the sedition act.

Unlike his father, Lee Hsien Loong is retiring from premiership in shame. While Singaporeans have mixed responses to Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, most would acknowledge the quality of living had significantly improved. The same cannot be said for Lee Hsien Loong, who weld a similar iron fist but with no favourable report card to prove.

Lee Hsien Loong has since signaled his intention to retire with repeated talks over “leadership renewal”. Unfortunately, the dictator is still undecided over who to take over as the next Prime Minister because every candidate seems like a bad choice. Former army generals Chan Chun Sing, Ng Chee Meng and Tan Chuan Jin are complete leadership wreckage – the three knows nothing about managing finances and are incapable of anything else other than taking orders with the two shuffling ministerial profiles and holding a ministry less than two years each due to mismatch of skills. The only “younger” intellectual left in his Cabinet is probably Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, but karma hit him hard with a sudden stroke. With less than 3 years to retirement, Lee Hsien Loong remains undecided who the “least-worst” candidate among the few can be Prime Minister.

States Times Review Editor
Alex Tan