Factbox: Singapore’s new leader Lawrence Wong

May 20, 2024 - 10:36 AM
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Singapore's Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong attends the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia July 16, 2022. (Sonny Tumbelaka/Pool via Reuters/File Photo)

 Lawrence Wong, 51, took over as prime minister of Singapore last Wednesday, becoming the fourth leader of the Asian financial hub since its independence in 1965.

Wong succeeds Lee Hsien Loong, the son of the founding father of modern Singapore Lee Kuan Yew, after two decades at the helm.

READ: Singapore to inaugurate new PM as Lee makes way after 20 years in charge

Background

Wong was born on 18 December 1972 to a family he described as ordinary. His father worked in a sales job and his mother taught in a primary school that Wong and his elder brother attended.

Wong and his family lived in a public housing estate in Eastern Singapore called Marine Parade.

Education

While many politicians in Singapore have tended to come from top-ranked British universities such as Oxford or Cambridge, Wong did not attend elite schools. He went to local schools regarded as ordinary and in an interview said it was very natural for him to study near home where his friends were.

He studied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has said he picked the United States because it was home to his favorite musicians.

Wong has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Career

Wong is a government scholar and started his career as an economist at the trade ministry.

He has occupied some of the biggest jobs in Singapore’s bureaucracy, including chief executive of the Energy Market Authority and the prestigious post of Principal Private Secretary to the prime minister.

He entered politics in 2011 and was appointed to the board of directors of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the central bank. He later held the culture, national development, and education portfolios.

In 2020, he catapulted into the spotlight as co-chair of the COVID-19 taskforce and won favor for his unflappable demeanor when explaining tough pandemic restrictions to Singaporeans.

Wong was named finance minister in 2021. The following year he was appointed deputy prime minister and successor to Lee, after winning over his peers to receive their backing to become “first among equals” – a term Singapore’s top politicians use to describe their chosen leader. He served as chairman of the central bank board since 2023.

Personal life

Wong’s social media is replete with videos of him strumming a guitar – including one of Taylor Swift’s Love Story posted during the height of Swift-craze when the star performed in Singapore.

He is a music lover who was gifted a guitar from his father at age 8. Wong put his skills to good use and busked while studying in the United States. He also describes himself as a bookworm and a dog-lover.

Wong married in his 20s and was divorced due to what he said were incompatibility issues. The former wife’s identity is not widely known.

Wong has since remarried. His wife, Loo Tze Lui, works in wealth management and the couple has no children. Wong is a Methodist Christian.

— Reporting by Xinghui Kok; Editing by Martin Petty