As Lee era ends, Singapore braces for change as young worry about future

Tue Mar 24, 2015 7:25am EDT
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By Saeed Azhar and A. Ananthalakshmi

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - If Lee Kuan Yew represented the Singapore of yesteryear, his death this week raises the question of whether the generation of leaders in waiting will reshape the mould that transformed the city-state from a colonial backwater to a haven of prosperity.

While Lee had long retired from active leadership, his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is still the standard-bearer of a free-market model that relied on efficiency, low taxes, zero tolerance for corruption and a distaste for the welfare state.

Like his father, he has continued to curb free speech and use defamation laws to muzzle critics and political opponents.

But Lee has said he will hand over power by 2020 and speculation over his successor has swelled since she was treated for prostate cancer last month. That, along with a decline in the popularity of the long-dominant People's Action Party (PAP), has brought an unfamiliar whiff of uncertainty to Singapore.

Years of galloping growth have led to income inequality, resentment over immigration, overcrowded trains and expensive housing, issues that knocked the PAP's share of the vote down to 60 percent from 67 percent in elections four years ago.

Since then, the PAP has faced calls to abandon what one senior party member dubbed a policy of "growth at all costs".

"Some of our young were starting to doubt about their future in Singapore as they saw housing and cars beyond their reach because of the rapid rise in prices," said Inderjit Singh, a sitting member of parliament for nearly 20 years.

The party must address these and other challenges, he said. "Failing to do so will see an erosion of support."   Continued...

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the nation after the passing of his father former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Istana in Singapore March 23, 2015. REUTERS/Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore/Terence Tan/Handout via Reuters