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PM Lee stresses urgency of leadership renewal

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PM Lee Hsien Loong (front row, third from left) and the Cabinet at the Istana, Oct 1, 2015.

The clock is ticking when it comes to Singapore's leadership renewal and his overriding goal will be to have a new team ready to take over soon after the next elections, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday at the new Cabinet's swearing-in ceremony.

Stressing the urgency of the matter, he said he has "entrusted major responsibilities to younger ministers", while the older ministers will "provide my team with depth and breadth to think more deeply about issues and to plan more systematically for the future".

He also highlighted the importance of "review" for the economy, saying Singapore must create opportunities even as global growth flags and speed up its move towards higher skills, innovation and productivity. "These are urgent tasks, because both global economic conditions and domestic demographic trends will pose us severe challenges."

Saying that Singapore was "entering a new phase of nationhood" and now faces more complex challenges and new issues that cut across multiple domains, PM Lee identified three major areas Singapore must tackle and explained why he had appointed Coordinating Ministers for all three. These areas are national security, economic and social policies and infrastructure.

National security remains a "vital precondition" of the country's success, he said, cautioning that the Islamic State (ISIS) and jihadi terrorists posed a serious problem for South-east Asia and Singapore.

"Political problems or racial tensions in neighbouring countries can complicate bilateral relations, or spill over to affect our own society," he added.

PM Lee also said economic growth would be "harder to come by" as the population ages and the global environment remains uncertain. "Yet our economy must grow to create opportunities for Singaporeans and improve our lives ... Every citizen should benefit from Singapore's success, and those needing an extra helping hand should be looked after."

As for infrastructure, he said Singapore has done well compared with most other countries but the government knows where it needs to do more work to "improve standards and remedy shortcomings".

He added that the outcome of the recent general elections were a win for all Singaporeans and boosted investor confidence.