Next GE may take place when Singaporeans least expect it

It depends on what the state of preparations is, what is happening in the world, says PM Lee

WHILE there is much speculation these days about when the next general election (GE) in Singapore will be held, it could well take place at a time when people least expect it.

"When we call the elections, we always find the best moment," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, when quizzed by reporters on Friday about the factors he would consider in deciding when to send the country to the polls.

Much will depend on what is happening in Singapore and around the world and whether there are any important issues that must be dealt with first, said Mr Lee, who is secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

"It depends on what the state of our preparations is, (and) on what is happening in the world. If a major crisis is coming up, then we have to clear that. It also depends on (any) other agendas that we are busy with," he added.

Singapore is also gearing up for a yearlong series of activities to celebrate its golden jubilee in 2015, and Mr Lee said: "We will have to take all this into account and make soundings and choose the right moment. Not necessarily when everybody is expecting it."

While there is still a little over two years left until the election must be called - January 2017 at the latest - he said the PAP is already "working hard (and) preparing" for the big day.

Mr Lee also addressed the ongoing speculation about who the next National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general would be, with the identity of the country's next labour chief to be disclosed soon. "You will know within a few months, but we have some plans and we will do that in good time," he said when asked who was in line to succeed secretary-general Lim Swee Say, who will turn 62 in July 2016 and will have to step down from the labour movement's central committee under the constitution.

NTUC is scheduled to hold its next National Delegates' Conference next year, where it will elect its next central committee.

Mr Lee noted how the younger ministers in his Cabinet have been getting involved in the labour movement. They are getting an understanding of what the union movement is about and how important it is. "(Social and Family Development Minister) Chan Chun Sing has been there, Tan Chuan-Jin is in MOM (Ministry of Manpower), and that's a very important link with the NTUC," said Mr Lee.

"(Education Minister) Heng Swee Keat has also been keeping his ties, and so has (Culture, Community and Youth Minister) Lawrence Wong. So I think we have some ideas for developing and strengthening the NTUC."

Earlier in the day at the Asean-South Korea commemorative summit, one of the topics that Mr Lee spoke on was climate change and how the rise in sea levels was posing an "immediate threat" to coastal populations in South-east Asia.

Asked by reporters to elaborate on Singapore's plans to mitigate this, he revealed that the planned expansion of Changi Airport will be built on a higher level of reclaimed land, to have a larger buffer for the airport and runway against higher sea levels in future.

"One of the things we are doing is that we have raised the standards for reclamation and for building new buildings. You must build up your land surface to a higher height so that over the next century as the sea levels rise - they projected 18 inches but it may well be more - we will be buffered, and you have 100 years to get there," he said.

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