Singapore’s current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has been in power since 2004. He grew up as the eldest son of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and was always interested in politics. He would frequently accompany his father to the rally grounds as a child. He learned the Jawi script at the age of five, demonstrating his intellectual brilliance. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study mathematics and later became a Senior Wrangler. He served in the Singapore Armed Forces for a short time after completing his postgraduate studies at Harvard University, rising to the rank of Brigadier General in three years. He soon resigned from the service and was elected to the Teck Ghee electorate as a Member of Parliament. He was assigned major duties in the administration from the start, and he quickly rose to become a key figure in the country’s political transformation. However, his rapid rise in the army and in politics has prompted accusations of nepotism, which he and his family vehemently deny.
Childhood and Adolescence
Lee Kuan Yew and Kwa Geok Choo gave birth to Lee Hsien Loong on February 10, 1952, in Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew, better known as LKY, was the founding father of independent Singapore and the country’s first Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990.
Kwa Geok Choo, Lee Hsien Loong’s mother, was a pioneer champion for women’s rights in Singapore and a partner in the law firm Lee & Lee. Kwa authored a portion of the separation agreement when the city-state was separated from the Malaysian Federation.
Lee Hsien Loong has two more siblings: a younger brother named Lee Hsien Yang and a sister named Lee Wei Ling. Yang is the current Chairman of Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Lee Hsien Loong attended Nanyang Primary School before transferring to Catholic High School for his secondary school. He enrolled at National Junior College for post-secondary studies after graduating there in 1969 and graduating in 1970.
Lee joined the Singapore Armed Forces in 1971. Simultaneously, he was offered a scholarship to study mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, which he eagerly accepted.
Lee was chosen as the Senior Wrangler at Cambridge University in 1973, a distinction that corresponds to the outstanding mathematics undergraduate. He received first-class honors in the subject and a diploma in computer science after graduating in 1974.
Lee attended Fort Leavenworth, the United States Army Command, and General Staff College, in 1978. He received his master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1980.
He rejoined the Singapore Armed Forces after graduating from Harvard and quickly advanced through the ranks. He was promoted to Brigadier General of the force in 1983 but left in 1984 to pursue a career in politics.
Early Years in Politics
Lee Kuan Yew’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, led the dominant People’s Action Party (PAP), a center-right political party, in 1984. It has dominated Singapore’s political landscape since the general election of 1959.
He was elected to Parliament from the Teck Ghee Single Member Constituency in December 1984 and afterward appointed as Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defense. He was only 32 years old at the time.
In 1985, Lee was appointed Chairman of the Economic Committee, which was formed to help Singapore’s economy recover. Under Lee’s chairmanship, the committee suggested a change in state policies. For example, the committee advised that corporate and personal taxes be reduced and that a consumption tax be introduced in its place.
Lee was elected to the PAP Executive Committee and the Chairman of the PAP Youth Committee in 1986. He also became Acting Minister of Trade and Industry this year. He became a full Cabinet Minister in charge of Trade and Commerce and Second Minister for Defense the following year, in 1987.
As Vice-Prime Minister
Lee Kuan Yew, Lee’s father, stood down from his long-held role as Prime Minister in 1990 and gave the reins to Goh Chok Tong. In the new government, Lee Hsien Loong has been named as one of the Deputy Prime Ministers. In addition, he kept the Trade and Commercial portfolio.
Loong had to give up his Trade and Commerce portfolio in 1992 after being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing extensive treatment. He did, however, keep his position as Deputy Prime Minister.
Lee resumed his job when his cancer had gone into remission. He was appointed Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 1998 and remained in that position until 2004.
He received the Ministry of Finance award in 2001. He advocated many tax reforms in that position. He chose to raise the GST from 3% to 5% in order to address the budget’s rising deficit. He also focused on building relations with foreign countries while serving as deputy Prime Minister.
In his capacity as Prime Minister
On August 12, 2004, Goh Chok Tong stepped down as Prime Minister of Singapore, and Lee Hsien Loong was selected as his replacement. Lee promised greater freedom to Singaporeans when he was sworn in. Until now, the country’s freedom of political expression had been severely curtailed.
Aside from that, Lee instituted a five-day workweek and two-month paid maternity leave for new mothers. Lee legalized gaming in 2005, attracting substantial foreign investment. Simultaneously, he took the necessary precautions to mitigate the detrimental effects of gambling.
Lee’s government announced the Progress Package, a $2.6 billion bonus, at the beginning of 2006. Lee used this scheme to direct the years’ worth of fiscal surpluses into healthcare, housing, and education. Furthermore, every adult Singaporean citizen received a $1,000 incentive.
The opposition viewed it as a ‘vote-buying exercise’ because the general election was to be conducted within three months after the announcement. Despite this, the PAP, led by Lee Hsien Loong, won 82 of the 84 seats in the election conducted on May 6, 2006.
However, there was a 6.46 percent swing against PAP in the 2011 general election, which was conducted on May 7. Despite winning 81 of 87 seats, two of its heavyweight ministers were defeated in the election. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong resigned after accepting responsibility.
On May 11, 2011, Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as Singapore’s Prime Minister. Loong had more latitude to appoint his ministers when Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong resigned. This time, he made a lot of steps to re-establish citizens’ trust in him.
One such measure was the establishment of a Compulsory Health Insurance Plan. He also proposed that all ministers, including himself, get a one-third pay cut.
His tenure saw a significant improvement in relations with China. The bilateral relationship with the United States, with whom Singapore has traditionally had a good relationship, has developed even more.
Achievements & Awards
On November 22, 2008, Lee was awarded the ‘Orden El Sol del Per en el Grado de Gran Cruz with Brillantes.’ It is Peru’s highest honor bestowed upon prominent individuals in both civilian and military service.
On August 13, 2010, Lee was also awarded the ‘Olympic Order’ (Gold) for his contributions to the Olympic Movement.
Lee’s Personal Experiences
Lee Hsien Loong married Wong Ming Yang, a Malaysian doctor, in 1978. He and his wife have two children, a daughter named Xiuqi and a son named Yipeng. Wong Ming died three weeks after Yipeng’s birth on October 28, 1982.
Lee married Ho Ching in 1985. She was a civil servant at the Ministry of Defense at the time of their marriage. Ho Ching joined Temasek Holdings in January 2002 and became its Executive Director by May. Hongyi and Haoyi are the couple’s two sons.
Estimated Net worth
Lee is one of the wealthiest politicians and one of the most well-known. Lee Hsien-net Loong’s worth is estimated to be $51 million.
Lee Hsien Loong is said to be the highest-paid leader on the planet. He currently receives a $1.7 million annual pay. Lee used to earn $2.8 million per year until taking a self-imposed pay cut in 2012.