Dear reader,

We have a new prime minister, Lawrence Wong! Cause for celebration for some, misery for others. In Singapore This Week, we discuss some internal dynamics of the ruling People’s Action Party, including two politicians who were overlooked for deputy prime minister: Chan Chun Sing, education minister, and K Shanmugam, home affairs and law minister. We also note that Singapore’s first-ever Christian prime minister has assembled a cabinet with many Christians—what influence, if any, might that have on policy?

Elsewhere in “Singapore This Week”, we discuss employers’ insistence on medical certificates (MCs) as proof of employee ailments, a change that’ll make divorce easier, the “Greater Southern Waterfront” and its historical antecedents, the pros and (more) cons of dynamic pricing with concert tickets, HDB’s new resale property portal, and much more.

Most of our team-wide efforts this week have gone towards our essay, Lee Hsien Loong’s mixed legacy. There’s been a lot of fanfare in the local and global press this week about Wong, but we feel there’ll be many more opportunities in the coming months to talk about him. Instead, it’s important to take a moment now to review his predecessor’s 20-year reign, especially given all the fawning commentaries in recent weeks from around the world, not just in Singapore. 

The thrust of our argument is that while Lee has helped create a fabulously rich global city, he also “leaves behind a Singapore that is probably more unequal and divided than when he entered office; where the raison d’être and dynamics of the much-vaunted public housing system are under growing scrutiny; and where the space for academic freedom and societal dissent appears to be shrinking, hampering the generation of new ideas and modes of thinking.”

We get into each of these points in a lot more detail in the essay. For this “coronation” week, we’re also putting it outside the paywall. Now is the chance to forward this e-mail to friends who’ve been keen to see what Jom can offer. Because many Singaporeans will be voting on the aforementioned issues, this essay is in some ways the first in a hopefully long election series. If you’ve been forwarded this, please consider a subscription today so that we can keep doing this work.

There’s a suggestion sometimes that those of us with more leftist, egalitarian, and progressive leanings can be overly critical of the more right-leaning and conservative in society. I don’t necessarily agree with all that, but in any case, in the week that Lee Hsien Loong ended his service to Singapore as its leader, perhaps it’s fitting to end this newsletter with the ending of our essay.

“Perhaps the kind view of Lee’s legacy is that the maths prodigy delivered fantastically on a narrowly defined set of easily quantifiable metrics. High GDP growth? Check. Foreign direct investment? Check. Life expectancy? Check. Social integration and freedoms? Huh? 

We should acknowledge Lee’s sacrifice in forsaking the option to pursue a PhD at Cambridge in the 1970s to return home to serve Singapore. As the oldest child of the fearsome LKY, he had some of the biggest shoes in the world to fill, an unenviable task.

That he succeeded in some ways and failed in others, well, just speaks to his humanity.”

Read “Lee Hsien Loong’s mixed legacy” now.

Jom berjaya,
Sudhir Vadaketh
Editor-in-chief, Jom

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