Honest and capable Government working with Singaporeans

18 Aug 2019 3 min read

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on Singaporeans to commit themselves to improve on what they have and to pass on a better Singapore to their children. However, to achieve a better Singapore for the future, its people need to remain as one united people “and having an honest and capable government working together with you,” said PM Lee in his annual National Day Rally speech.

Promising busy years ahead, PM Lee stressed the need for a smooth handover to a new generation of leaders.

He also gave the assurance that he and his team will “work together with you to build this jewel of a nation, so that Singapore will always be a vibrant, thriving city where opportunities are open to all, and our children and their children will have a bright future.”

Quality and affordable education for all Singaporeans

PM Lee emphasised, “We want every Singaporean son and daughter to have the opportunity to receive a good education, and start well in life, regardless of family circumstances… This is fundamental to maintaining Singapore as an open meritocracy.”

Announcing a quantum of preschool subsidies across the board, he stated that preschool subsidies will be enhanced by raising the income ceiling to $12,000/month whereby 30,000 more households will qualify from 2020.

Although just over half of preschool places are government-supported, Mr Lee said the Government intends to bring this up to 80%. He said that the quantum of $1 billion a year spent on early childhood education will double over the next few years.

In the next phase of investing in people, PM Lee reiterated that the Government’s commitment to do the best for every child is “deeply embedded” in the education system. Following a review of the tertiary fees and bursaries, Mr Lee said that MOE will reduce the annual fees for the full-time general degrees programmes in the Singapore Institute of Technology and the Singapore University of Social Sciences – as they do more industry attachments and internships – from the present fee of $8,000 to $7,500.

Enabling older workers to contribute meaningfully

Acknowledging the contribution of older workers, PM Lee announced that the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers’ recommendations on raising the retirement age from 62 to 65; raising the re-employment age from 67 to 70 and increasing the CPF contributions for older workers have been accepted in full by the Government and will done gradually “by about 2030.”

To help businesses cope with, the Government will announce a support package in next year’s Budget. To reinforce the Government’s commitment to the changes and to encourage the private sector to follow suit, he said the Public Service will raise its Retirement and Re-employment ages in 2021 – one year earlier. But these impending changes will have no bearing on the present CPF withdrawal policies or withdrawal ages. They remain unchanged, stressed Mr Lee.

Building Singapore for the future

Preparing for climate change and its impact on Singapore was another topic that PM Lee emphasised. He called on Singaporeans to not only understand, mitigate and adapt to climate change but to also contribute solutions. Citing engineering solutions employed by the Government to mitigate climate change issues, he said the long-term costs to protect Singapore against rising sea-levels could be $100 billion or more over 50 to 100 years.

Stressing that climate change defences should be treated like the Singapore Armed Forces – “with utmost seriousness,” Mr Lee said both are life and death matters and that “everything else must bend at the knee to safeguard the existence of our island nation.”

On the topic of building Singapore, in particular the Greater Southern Waterfront, he highlighted the fact that it will be six times the size of Marina Bay and double the size of Punggol. It will contain HDB, private housing with waterfront promenades, greenery and open spaces. Office spaces, night life choices will also be available at the Greater Southern Waterfront, which will be linked up with all the surrounding green areas – from the East Coast Park to West Coast Park and also to Sentosa.

PM Lee also said that he has given the green light to NTUC to establish a “Downtown South” at Pulau Brani, which will be part of the Greater Southern Waterfront.

Listing the Jewel at Changi Airport as a promise delivered, he said that the ambitious plans that the Government has for a Singapore of the future needs to be fulfilled by successive generations and each generation has to leave their mark on Singapore as their predecessors have done. Emphasising, “What we talk about, we will deliver,” he called on Singaporeans to work together to build tomorrow’s Singapore.