Lee Hsien Loong

Lee Hsien Loong
Lee Hsien Loong in 2012
3rd Prime Minister of Singapore
Assumed office
12 August 2004
President S. R. Nathan (2004-2011)
Tony Tan (2011-2017)
Halimah Yacob (2017-present)
Deputy Tony Tan (2004–2005)
S. Jayakumar (2004–2009)
Wong Kan Seng (2005–2011)
Teo Chee Hean (2009–present)
Tharman Shanmugaratnam (2011–present)
Preceded by Goh Chok Tong
3rd Secretary-General of the People's Action Party
Assumed office
3 December 2003
Deputy Wong Kan Seng
Teo Chee Hean
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Chair Lim Boon Heng
Khaw Boon Wan
Preceded by Goh Chok Tong
Minister for Finance
In office
10 November 2001  1 December 2007
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
Deputy Tony Tan
Preceded by Richard Hu
Succeeded by Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
In office
28 November 1990  12 August 2004
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
Preceded by Goh Chok Tong
Succeeded by S. Jayakumar
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Ang Mo Kio GRC
Assumed office
31 August 1991
Preceded by Constituency established
Majority 62,826 (38.7%)
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Teck Ghee SMC
In office
22 December 1984  31 August 1991
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1952-02-10) 10 February 1952
Citizenship Singaporean
Nationality Singaporean
Political party People's Action Party
Wong Ming Yang
(m. 1978; d. 1982)

Ho Ching (m. 1985)
  • Li Xiuqi (daughter)
  • Li Yipeng (son)
  • Li Hongyi (son)
  • Li Haoyi (son)
Mother Kwa Geok Choo (mother)
Father Lee Kuan Yew (father)
Relatives Lee Hsien Yang (brother)
Lee Wei Ling (sister)
Education Trinity College, Cambridge (BA, GDip)
Harvard University (MPA)
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Harvard University
United States Army Command and General Staff College
Website Lee Hsien Loong on Facebook
Military service
Allegiance  Singapore
Service/branch  Singapore Army
Years of service 1971–1984
Rank Brigadier-General
Lee Hsien Loong
Lee's name in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese 李显龙
Traditional Chinese 李顯龍

Lee Hsien Loong (Chinese: 李显龙; Tamil: லீ சியன் லூங்; born 10 February 1952) is a Singaporean politician serving as the third and current Prime Minister of Singapore since 2004. He took over the leadership of the People's Action Party (PAP) when former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong stepped down from the position to become the new Senior Minister. Lee then led his party to victory in the 2006, 2011 and 2015 general elections. He began his current term on 15 January 2016 following the opening of Singapore's 13th Parliament. Lee is the eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge University, as Senior Wrangler in 1974 (gaining a Diploma in Computer Science with distinction as well) and later earned a Master of Public Administration at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. From 1971 to 1984, he served in the Singapore Armed Forces where he rose to the rank of brigadier general. He won his first election for Member of Parliament in 1984, contesting as a member of the People's Action Party. Under Singapore's second prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, Lee served as the Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.


The eldest child of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his wife Kwa Geok Choo, Lee Hsien Loong was born in Singapore on 10 February 1952. His paternal grandmother, Chua Jim Neo, was a Hokkien Nyonya, and his mother has ancestry from Tong'an District, Xiamen, Fujian, China.[1][2] According to Lee Kuan Yew's biography, the younger Lee had learnt the Jawi script from the age of five, and has always been interested in the affairs of Singapore, often following his father to the rally grounds since 1963.


Lee studied at Nanyang Primary School and received his secondary education at Catholic High School, before going on to National Junior College (where he learned the clarinet under the tutelage of Adjunct Associate Professor Ho Hwee Long). In 1971, he was awarded a President's Scholarship and Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship by the Public Service Commission to study mathematics at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He was senior wrangler in 1973,[3][4] and graduated in 1974 with first-class honours on a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science (equivalent to an Msc in Computer Science) with distinction. In 1980, he completed a Master of Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Military career

Lee joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1971, and served as an officer from 1974 to 1984. In 1978, he attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, and held various staff and command posts, including the Director of the Joint Operations and Plans Directorate (Director, JOPD), and Chief of Staff of the General Staff (COS, GS). Lee rose quickly through the ranks in the Singapore Army, becoming the youngest brigadier-general in Singaporean history after his promotion in July 1983. Notably, he was put in command of the rescue operations following the Sentosa Cable Car Disaster. Lee served as commanding officer (CO) of 23rd Singapore Artillery (23SA) in the Singapore Army before he left the SAF in 1984 to pursue civilian politics.[5][6]

Early political career

In the 1980s, Lee was regarded as the core member of the next batch of new leaders in the People's Action Party (PAP) leadership transition that was taking place in the mid-1980s, as Lee Kuan Yew had declared that he would step down as prime minister in 1984. Following the 1984 general election, all of the old Central Executive Committee members resigned on 1 January 1985, except for Lee Kuan Yew himself.[7]

Lee was first elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the Teck Ghee Single Member Constituency in 1984, at the age of thirty-two. Following his first election, he was appointed as a Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence by his father Lee Kuan Yew who was the prime minister at that time.

In 1985, Lee chaired the government's economic committee, which recommended changes to established government policies to reduce business costs, foster longer-term growth and revive the Singapore economy, which was experiencing a recession at the time. The committee's recommendations included reductions in corporate and personal taxes and the introduction of a consumption tax.

In 1986, Lee was appointed the acting minister for Trade and Industry. In 1987, he became a full member of the Cabinet as the minister for trade and Industry and second minister for defence.

Lee was the chairman of the PAP Youth Committee, the predecessor to the Young PAP, when it was established in 1986. Lee said that the youth wing would be a channel to communicate dissent, in which otherwise they might be "tempted" to vote for the opposition political parties and bring the PAP government down.[8]

Deputy Prime Minister

On 28 November 1990, Goh Chok Tong took over from Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore's Prime Minister, and Lee Hsien Loong was made one of two Deputy Prime Ministers (along with Ong Teng Cheong). He also continued to serve as the Minister for Trade and Industry until 1992.

In 1992, Lee was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent a three-month period of chemotherapy. When his treatment began, he relinquished his position as the Minister for Trade and Industry, though he continued to be a Deputy Prime Minister. His chemotherapy was successful, and his cancer has since gone into remission.

Lee was appointed Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 1998, and in 2001 he was made the Minister for Finance.

To ease the growing budget deficit due to falling tax revenues from cuts in corporate and personal income taxes and other factors such as the Iraq War and SARS outbreak, Lee proposed on 29 August 2003 to raise the GST from three percent to five percent, a change which took place in January 2004.

Lee initiated several amendments to render requirements for Singapore citizenship less restrictive; notably for foreign-born children of Singaporean women.[9] The changes were made after repeated pleas from MPs and the Remaking Singapore Committee.

Prime Minister


On 12 August 2004, Lee succeeded Goh Chok Tong as Prime Minister and relinquished his chairmanship of the Monetary Authority of Singapore to Goh Chok Tong. Lee was sworn in by Chief Justice Yong Pung How at the Istana.

Socio-economic policies

In his maiden National Day Rally on 22 August 2004, Lee initiated the policy of the "Five-day work week", a plan that would remove a half-working day on Saturday. The plan took effect on 1 January 2005.

Lee proposed a two-month paid maternity leave for mothers of newborn children and financial incentives to mothers who give birth to a fourth child. These policies were in response to Singapore's declining birth rate.

In November 2004, Lee sparked a national debate when he proposed to build two Integrated Resorts (IRs), or hotel-casinos. In April 2005, despite some public opposition, Lee announced the decision to approve the proposal.[10] The two IRs were built in Marina Bay and Sentosa. To limit the negative social impact of casino gambling, Lee suggested safeguards such as prohibiting minors from the casinos and charging an entrance fee for Singaporeans of S$100 (or S$2000 for a yearly pass).

Three months prior to the general election held on 6 May 2006, Lee announced a S$2.6 billion Progress Package.[11][12] to distribute budget surpluses in the form of cash, top-ups to the CPF, rental and utilities rebates, and educational funds. The cash bonuses were distributed in early May 2006. Critics, especially members of the opposition, labelled the Progress Package as a "vote-buying exercise".

Effective 1 June 2011, Lee was named chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) which manages more than S$100 billion of assets. He succeeded his father, Lee Kuan Yew, who remained as senior advisor to the fund until his death.[13]

Speaking at his party convention on 19 November 2017, Lee suggested to raise taxes to fund future government expenses.[14] News report carried by state media such as the Straits Times and Today all suggested that taxes raised will be in the form of GST.[15][16]

Political reforms

In May 2010, Lee instituted electoral reforms to the current electoral system by reducing the number of group representation constituencies (GRC), increased the number of Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) to a maximum of nine (inclusive of the number of elected opposition members of Parliament), and the number of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) permanent also to nine. Also part of the reforms was the legalization of internet campaigning and mandating a "cooling-off" day where campaigning is prohibited except for party political broadcasts.

11th Cabinet

In that election, the PAP won 82 of the 84 seats, including 37 walkovers. The Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was contested for the first time in 15 years. The Workers' Party (WP) claimed that they wanted to give Ang Mo Kio residents a chance to exercise their vote. Lee and his six-member GRC team won 60.42% of the votes against WP's inexperienced team.

12th Cabinet

In the general election of 7 May 2011, the PAP saw a 6.46% swing downwards to 60.14%, its lowest since independence.[17] While the PAP swept into power winning 81 out of 87 seats, it lost Aljunied Group Representation Constituency to the Workers' Party (WP), a historic win by an opposition party. Foreign Minister George Yeo and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua of the GRC were defeated.[18]

Following the election, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong resigned as part of a rejuvenation process in the government.[19] Lee and Goh were appointed as senior advisers to the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) respectively.[20][21]

Lee was sworn-in into a second term on 21 May 2011. His new cabinet included three newly appointed ministers: S. Iswaran as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Second Minister for Home Affairs and for Trade and Industry; Heng Swee Keat as Minister for Education; and Chan Chun Sing as Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and Minister of State for the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.[22][23] Heng became the first newly elected MP to be directly appointed as a full minister since 1984.[24][25]

13th Cabinet

In the Singaporean general election, 2015, held on 11 September, the PAP won 83 out of 89 seats in Parliament. Lee has since been re-elected seven times; most recently as an MP for the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency in 2015.

When the new 13th Cabinet line-up was formed on 1 October 2015 it was announced that it would have 3 coordinating ministers who are Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean (National Security) and Tharman Shanmugaratnam (Economics and Social Policies), together with newly elected Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan (Infrastructure) and 2 ministries MOE and MTI with 2 ministers each. MOE was henceforth led by 2 newcomer ministers Mr Ong Ye Kung and Mr Ng Chee Meng who are respectively in charge of Higher Learning/Skills and Schools. The MTI was separated for ministers S Iswaran (Industry) and Lim Hng Kiang (Trade) who both co-anchor West Coast GRC.

The Community Culture and Youth Ministry portfolio was given to Grace Fu, who became the first woman in Singapore to serve in a full ministerial position. She currently is the first female Leader of the House in Parliament.

It was announced on 20th July, that his health data along with that of 1.5 million residents had been hacked in a targeted cyber attack that had attempt to obtain his information in particular [26]

Foreign relations


During his meeting with vice-premier Wu Yi in September 2005, Lee proposed the establishment of a China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone, which would achieve the goal of realizing US$50 billion in trade volume before 2010.

United States

On 12 July 2005, Lee signed the Strategic Framework Agreement with then President George W. Bush in his inaugural visit to the United States as Singapore's Prime Minister to foster a closer cooperation in defence and security, and to address common threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In 2016, Lee made his first official visit to the White House upon invitation of then President Barack Obama to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic ties with the United States.[27][28]

Lee was one of the early drafters and a strong advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and had on many occasions urged the U.S. Congress to ratify the trade deal as soon as possible. He added that not doing so would "affect U.S. standing and credibility" in the world.[29] The plan ultimately fell through after Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017 and pulled the country out of the pact.[30]

In June 2018, Lee congratulated President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in separate letters sent to them on the successful outcome of the 2018 North Korea–United States summit in Singapore and wished both countries success in implementing the agreement signed.[31]


On 10 July 2004, Lee visited Taiwan to the displeasure of China. On 28 August 2004 in his first National Day Rally speech, Lee criticized the Taiwanese leadership and populace over their pro-independence stance. He reiterated his support for the One-China policy and clarified that his visit was to gather enough intelligence before taking over as Prime Minister. In September 2004, Foreign Minister George Yeo cautioned the United Nations General Assembly that actions by Taiwan's independence groups could lead to war with China. An enraged Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Mark Chen, called Singapore a "nose-shit" country for interfering.[32][33] Chen later made a formal apology.[34]


Allegation of nepotism

As the eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Lee's career has been shadowed by allegations of nepotism.[35][36][37][38] He was widely tipped to be Lee Kuan Yew's successor as Prime Minister with several critics viewing Goh Chok Tong as a seat-warmer. Responding to the issue of nepotism Lee challenged his critics to prove it or put the matter to rest.[35][36]

Legal action had been taken in the Singapore courts for defamation against the Financial Times (2007)[38] and the New York Times Company.[39] In a 2008 report, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute cast doubts over the independence of the judiciary in cases involving PAP litigants or interests.[40]

New York Times libel suit

In 2010, Lee, together with the two former Prime Ministers who preceded him, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, threatened legal action against The New York Times Company which owns the International Herald Tribune regarding an Op-Ed piece titled ‘All in the Family’ of 15 February 2010 by Philip Bowring, a freelance columnist and former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review. The International Herald Tribune apologized in March that readers of the article may ‘infer that the younger Lee did not achieve his position through merit’. The New York Times Company and Bowring agreed to pay SG$60,000 to Lee, SG$50,000 to Lee Kuan Yew and SG$50,000 to Goh (total amounted to about US$114,000 at the time), in addition to legal costs. The case stemmed from a 1994 settlement between the three Singaporean leaders and the paper about an article also by Bowring that referred to ‘dynastic politics’ in East Asian countries, including Singapore. In that settlement, Bowring agreed not to say or imply that the younger Lee had attained his position through nepotism by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In response, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders wrote an open letter to urge Lee and other top officials of the Singapore government to stop taking ‘libel actions’ against journalists.[39][41][42][43]


From 2008 to 2012, Lee earned an annual salary of S$3,870,000 (US$2,856,930),[44] an increase of 25% from the previous S$3,091,200 (US$2,037,168).[45][46] In January 2012, in response to public unhappiness at the high salary,[47] Lee took a 28% paycut reducing his salary to S$2.2 million (US$1.7 million).[48][49][50] He remains the highest-paid head of government in the world.[51]


On 15 May 2014, Singaporean activist and blogger Roy Ngerng, who had organised public protests over CPF policy issues wrote an article in his blog, featuring a chart which drew parallels between the scandal involving the round-tripping of City Harvest Church funds[52] and the movement of CPF funds.[53] In his defamation lawsuit, Lee Hsien Loong says the comparison implies that he, as the Prime Minister and Chairman of GIC, was guilty of "criminal misappropriation of monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF".[54][55] Ngerng was subsequently found liable by the High Court for defaming the Prime Minister. On December 17, he was ordered to pay S$150,000 in damages,[56] S$112,000 of which was paid through crowd-funding efforts by Ngerng.[57]

Protest over water price hike

On 20 February 2017, it was announced that the PAP government will be raising the price of water by 30%. The increments would be carried out on first of July in 2017 and 2018.[58] Lee Hsien Loong said that raising the price of water is "absolutely necessary", as it is a "scarce" resource and "not cheap to produce".[59] According to a survey conducted by government feedback unit Reach, many Singaporeans disagree with water price hike.[60] Today reported that several hot drinks stalls in Redhill and Jalan Berseh have raised prices since 1 July 2017 when the first phase of the water tariff hike kicked in.[61] On 11 March 2017, more than 100 people gathered in the Speakers’ Corner to protest against the hike in water prices calling the move "unjustified" as living costs are already too high in Singapore, which has been rated the world’s most expensive city for three consecutive years, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.[62]

Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road house

In June 2017, Lee became embroiled in a dispute with his brother Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling, over the fate of their father's house at 38 Oxley Road.[63][64][65][66] Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, was averse to a cult of personality.[67] As a result, he had inserted in his final Will a demolition clause. The first part of the clause stated that he wanted his house to be torn down when his daughter decides to move out. The second part of the clause stated that should demolition be impossible, his house should not be open to the public.[68]

Lee Hsien Loong's siblings alleged that he was abusing his powers, using "organs of the state" as prime minister to preserve the house against their father's wishes. Lee and the cabinet denied all their allegations as the row played out, largely on Facebook. Owing to the gravity of the allegations, a special sitting of Parliament was also called to debate the matter thoroughly.[69] In his closing speech, Lee stated: "After two days of debate, nobody has stood behind these (his siblings) allegations or offered any evidence, not even opposition MPs … It shows that the Government and I have acted properly and with due process." He left open options to convene a select committee or Commission of Inquiry should substantive evidence be presented.[70][71][72][73] The siblings later agreed to discuss the dispute in private the following day.[74]

Succession planning

The issue of leadership succession re-surfaced in public debate[75] when Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong suggested, in December 2017, that the "fourth-generation" ministers should choose a leader from amongst them within the first six to nine months of 2018, and that this candidate should be formally designated as Deputy Prime Minister before the end of 2018.[76] There was a brief discussion on social media by the two leaders in response to the appropriate timeline for the next leader to be chosen.[77] Following on earlier statements that he would like to hand over to a successor after the next election, Lee has acknowledged that leadership succession is "a very serious matter".

On February 27, 2018, Lee stated that after Parliament reconvenes in May 2018 after a mid-term break, the Cabinet would be reshuffled to give the "fourth-generation" ministers more responsibilities and exposure,[78] for example, through different portfolios.[79] This was aimed towards equipping his successor with a more experienced team with the "collective wisdom" to lead Singapore into the future. This was also to allow Singaporeans to have a better "feel" of the newer leaders - not just as public figures, but of their ability to implement robust public policies.[80]

At present, there is no designated succsesor to his position as Singapore's Prime Minister.[81]

Personal life

Lee married his first wife, a Malaysian-born doctor named Wong Ming Yang in 20 May 1978. Their daughter, Li Xiuqi, was born in 1980. Three weeks after giving birth to their first son, Li Yipeng, Wong died at the age of 31 on 28 October 1982 of a heart attack.[82] In 1985, when Lee was 33, he married Ho Ching, a fast-rising civil servant who subsequently became the executive director and chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings.

Lee has a daughter – Xiuqi[83] – and three sons – Yipeng,[84] Hongyi and Haoyi[85] (including the daughter and eldest son from Lee's first marriage). Ho Ching's eldest son, Li Hongyi, was an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF),[86] and is currently the deputy director in the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, under the Prime Minister's Office.[87]

Lee was initially diagnosed with lymphoma for which he underwent chemotherapy[88] in the early 1990s[89] then subsequently also underwent a successful robot-assisted keyhole prostatectomy on 15 February 2015 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.[90][91][92]

Lee is interested in computer programming and has written a Sudoku solver in C++ in his spare time.[93]


See also


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Parliament of Singapore
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Teck Ghee SMC

Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Ang Mo Kio GRC

Political offices
Preceded by
Tony Tan
Minister for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
Suppiah Dhanabalan
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
Served alongside: Goh Chok Tong, Shanmugam Jayakumar
Succeeded by
Tony Tan
Preceded by
Richard Hu
Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Prime Minister of Singapore
Party political offices
Preceded by
Goh Chok Tong
Secretary General of the People's Action Party
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Chair of the ASEAN
Succeeded by
Abhisit Vejjajiva
Preceded by
Alan García
Chair of the APEC
Succeeded by
Naoto Kan
Preceded by
Rodrigo Duterte
Chair of the ASEAN
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