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FirstFT: Singapore finance minister to become city state’s leader

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Singapore’s finance minister Lawrence Wong has been made prime ministerial heir apparent, as the ruling People’s Action Party seeks to recover public support and bolster the city-state’s status as an international financial hub.

Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister since 2004, announced on social media late on Thursday that ministers had backed Wong to be leader of the ruling People’s Action Party’s so-called “fourth generation team” with “overwhelming support”. The fourth generation team is a group of younger ministers lined up to take the reins of the governing party, putting its leader on course to be the next prime minister.

“This decision on succession is a crucial one for Singapore,” Lee said. “It will ensure the continuity and stability of leadership that are the hallmarks of our system.” Wong, 49, would be only the fourth leader of the quasi-authoritarian state in its 56-year history.

The announcement comes as the PAP, which has governed since independence and transformed Singapore into an international business centre, faces pressure to control immigration and navigate an increasingly divided geopolitical environment.

Do think Lawrence Wong is the right choice to be Singapore’s prime minister? Tell me what you think at Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia — Emily

The latest from the war in Ukraine:

  • Breaking news: Russia’s flagship naval vessel in the Black Sea, the Moskva, has sunk, the country’s defence ministry confirmed.

  • Inflation: Policymakers at central banks in Singapore and South Korea have become the latest to tighten monetary policy as the war in Ukraine stokes global inflation.

  • Sanctions: The UK is to freeze an estimated £10bn of assets held by two longstanding business associates of Roman Abramovich. Catch up with our explainer on why the US has only hit some Russian oligarchs with sanctions.

  • Wall Street: US banks this week detailed billions of dollars in potential losses from the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while warning that they saw no end in sight for the market turbulence.

  • Opinion: Western voters face a choice: peace in Ukraine or keeping on the air con as the war pushes energy prices up, writes Gillian Tett.

1. Elon Musk offers to buy Twitter at $43bn valuation The Tesla boss has made a hostile bid for Twitter with an offer that values the company at $43.4bn, although he acknowledged his gambit to take the social media platform private may fail.

2. China escalates zero-Covid propaganda China’s official Xinhua news agency published an article today warning that the country’s medical system risked “breaking down” in the event of a mass Covid outbreak. It follows comments from President Xi Jinping who yesterday called on citizens to “overcome complacency” in “response to the virus’s mutation”.

3. Pakistan army dismisses Imran Khan’s US conspiracy claim In rare public comments on Thursday, Major General Babar Iftikhar, the army’s spokesperson, denied Imran Khan’s assertions that Pakistan’s national security committee had concluded last month that there was a conspiracy to end the former cricket star’s premiership.

4. Isis ‘Beatles’ member convicted A US jury found Isis fighter
El Shafee Elsheikh, a former British citizen, guilty of all counts in the case, including hostage-taking resulting in death and conspiracy to murder US citizens outside the country. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

5. German spies rejected offer to meet Wirecard’s Marsalek in Moscow Germany’s foreign intelligence service last year shunned an offer to meet former Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek in Moscow, fearing that the invitation to talk to the fugitive was a trap set up by Russia’s FSB spy agency, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times.

The days ahead

Songkran The Thai new year, marked in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and other parts of south and south-eastern Asia, will be celebrated through the weekend. Some markets in the region will be closed today.

North Korea’s Day of the Sun The reclusive state will celebrate the birthday of its first leader Kim Il Sung.

Easter and Passover Markets across the world from Singapore to the UK and US will be closed in honour of Good Friday. Passover also begins at sundown the same day. In Vatican City on Sunday, Pope Francis will lead Easter Mass in St Peter’s Square.

The Invictus Games The competition for wounded, sick and injured service personnel begins in The Hague on Saturday.

Join us for the FT’s Crypto and Digital Assets summit on April 26-27. Register today to be part of a critical conversation with the world’s global financial and corporate elite, as they carve out the path ahead for bridging traditional finance and the crypto leaders of tomorrow. 

What else we’re reading

The succession crisis threatening Japan’s economy The world’s third-largest economy was built on craftsmanship and family enterprise, but Japan’s rapidly shrinking and ageing population means a shortage of heirs now jeopardises that legacy.

FT interview: Panasonic boss The Japanese electronics conglomerate expects the rollout of its next-generation electric vehicle battery to help the company diversify its business from Tesla, as it refocuses after a period of aggressive restructuring, Yuki Kusumi, told the FT’s Eri Sugiura and Antoni Slodkowski.

The corner of France that explains the country’s political divide To understand the forces reshaping French politics, one only needs to visit the booming city of Bordeaux in south-west France — and the rural areas and small towns in the “crescent of poverty” around it.

The tortuous route of Toshiba’s path to auction A charitable take on things would be that Toshiba has reached the auction process via the scenic route. Another view, given that the sights along the way have included accounting fraud, a brush with bankruptcy, multiple chief executive resignations and war with investors, is that this company is lost, writes Leo Lewis.

The new online learning entrepreneurs The pandemic sparked growth in online MBAs and normalised digital corporate training and remote school learning. Now, solo entrepreneurs are seeking niches where they can earn money from students who want to gain à la carte career skills that are not covered in traditional classrooms.


The great renaissance in pandemic times of page-turning pleasure highlights the remarkable resilience of the classic reading format. Three new works about books shed light on why the technology of bound pages remains so remarkably resilient.

The spectacular interior of the Zhongshuge bookstore in Dujiangyan, China © Zhang Lang/China News Service/Getty Images

Working It — Discover what’s shaking up the world of work with work & careers editor Isabel Berwick. Sign up here

Disrupted Times — Your essential FT newsletter about the changes in business and the economy between Covid and conflict. Sign up here

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