DPM Tharman as the Next Prime Minister?

by Patrick Liew on August 20, 2019

DPM Tharman as the Next Prime Minister?

Many have proposed that DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam should be the next Prime Minister (PM) or stand in as a stop-gap measure to groom the 5th Prime Minister.

DPM Tharman is more than qualified to lead the country.

However, appointing him as the next PM may not necessarily resolve outstanding key issues and there may be both intended and unintended consequences that will affect the future of our country.

DPM Tharman has commented more than once that he was not interested to be the PM, and he didn’t think that he was the right man for the job.


It may not be wise to have a PM that does not have complete belief in and probably commitment to fulfilling an important role for our country.

As DPM and Coordinating Minister, Tharman has taken on a mentoring role, and this can be a vitally-important contribution in terms of grooming more and better leaders.

Appointing DPM Tharman may also affect an effective and smooth succession of leadership.

Bear in mind that Tharman is 61 years of age.

The next election has to be held by 15 January 2021, and the maximum term of office is 5 years.

Assuming Tharman serves as a PM for more than three full terms, he would be more than 77 years of age by the time he steps down as the PM.

The average lifespan is projected to go up from 83.3 years in 2016 to 85.4 years by 2040.

Tharman’s mortality and productive period of service and contribution may pose other challenges, including challenges to a relatively effective system of leadership succession planning.

DPM Tharman may also face challenges in developing long term plans and ensuring that these plans come to fruition, including ensuring that the resulting benefits are shared effectively and equitably with the people.

By the time, Tharman hands over the leadership to his successor, the next PM will have a shorter runway to fulfill his roles and responsibilities, and lead Singapore to the next level of growth.

Even if DPM Tharman is not the PM, Singapore will not be at a loss.

In line with past precedence, I’m sure DPM Tharman will still be mentoring, coaching and guiding successive generations of leaders.

He can also continue to serve in the Cabinet or be assigned to a leadership position in either the public or social service sector.

Should he take up a position in an international organization, it’ll help strengthen Singapore’s soft capital, and gives us the opportunity to influence and shape international affairs.

One of the key strengths of Singapore is that we have multiple generations of leaders such as DPM Tharman that can be counted upon to serve Singapore and help lead the country during an emergency.

As a small country with limited natural resources, Singapore has to have a longer planning horizon, and ensure that it has multiple layers of leadership to implement the necessary long term plans.

The 4G leadership team has been working together for awhile and has led and driven many major plans and intitiatives.

They have also chosen their first among equal.

In many ways, they are more in touch with the people and the evolving culture of their generation, and also with advanced technology and other disruptive forces that will impact our future.

To address a fast-changing landscape, the 4G team has to adopt a different tack in the way they want to govern Singapore, and they may have to also take Singapore on a different trajectory to create a brighter future for all of us.



I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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