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Founding Father's Son Prepares to be Singapore's PM - 2004-05-31

Singapore will have a new prime minister within months. The eldest son of Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, is preparing to take up the post.

The People's Action Party, or PAP, said in a statement Monday that Lee Hsien Loong has the full support of the ruling party's leadership to assume the post of Singapore's next prime minister.

Incumbent Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who was appointed prime minister in 1990, did not say when he would hand power over to Mr. Lee, but indicated it will be sometime this year.

"P.M. Goh will make the announcement in July as to the actual transfer date of the prime minister," said PAP executive director Lau Ping Sum. "As of now, it's still not known when that might be."

Mr. Lee, a former brigadier general, educated at Cambridge in Britain and Harvard in the United States, is the oldest son of Lee Kwan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, who is considered the city-state's founding father.

The younger Mr. Lee has been Mr. Goh's deputy for 13 years, and has served as finance minister and as head of the central bank.

Bill Case, a political scientist from Australia's Griffith University, says the younger Mr. Lee's stern leadership style is a sharp contrast to Mr. Goh's, who is popular among ordinary Singaporeans. He says Mr. Lee's leadership skills will be tested.

"No doubt about [Lee's] his administrative competence, but in terms of the kind of leadership that he will bring to the country, there're some doubts on the ground in Singapore," said Mr. Case.

Mr. Case says Singapore's economic performance will also test Lee Hsien Loong's popularity.

Mr. Goh is credited with guiding the economy back to health after the downturn in 2003, triggered by the war in Iraq and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome viral outbreak.

Singapore's economy is now projected to grow between 5.5 and 7.7 percent this year, up from a meager 1.1 percent in 2003.