Singapore

PM gives assurance of opportunities, safety nets

PM gives assurance of opportunities, safety nets
PM Lee Hsien Loong prepares to take photo with Presidential Guards from the Military Police Command during the National Day Observance Ceremony at the Istana. Photo: Don Wong
In National Day message, Mr Lee says economic growth forecast narrowed to 2.5-3.5%
Published: 4:05 AM, August 9, 2014
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SINGAPORE — It will take more than just continuing education and training to help Singaporeans achieve their potential. Social values matter too and a person should not be judged “just by his educational qualifications, but also by his skills, contributions and character”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day message yesterday.

“This is how we keep Singapore a land of hope and opportunity for all,” he said, while outlining another key priority of the Government: Enhancing social safety nets to give Singaporeans peace of mind that they will be taken care of. Such peace of mind, he added, will allow Singaporeans to hope and dare; to take full advantage of a “system that enables you to shoot for the stars”. While sketching out the wider priorities of the Government, Mr Lee, who delivered his speech from the Alexandra Park Connector near Dawson, gave a nod to tradition by updating the country on its economic performance — a closely-watched part of the National Day message.

He said the economy grew 3.5 per cent in the first half of the year and the official growth forecast had been narrowed to between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent, from 2 to 4 per cent. “We must keep up this growth over the next decade to help you improve your lives,” said Mr Lee, who cited the Dawson area as an example of how the Government is enhancing the island year by year.

Mr Lee pointed out that education is a big part of a system that allows Singaporeans to chase their dreams and fulfil their potential, regardless of family background or circumstances. He said that was why he set up the Applied Study in the Polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education Review committee to help graduates from these institutions advance in life.

“Your learning should not stop when you graduate from ITE or polytechnic. The Government is helping you further your studies, but the academic route is not the only way up.”

The Government will help graduates upgrade themselves while they work — by mastering specialised skills and earning advanced qualifications as they progress in their careers, he said. “Whichever path our students and workers take, ultimately, we need a vibrant economy to produce good jobs and fulfilling careers.”

The Government is also improving social safety nets, such as through the new MediShield Life scheme. Referring to the scheme, which will provide universal coverage to all Singaporeans for life, Mr Lee said: “Now, we must implement it well. Please work with us on this.”

The Central Provident Fund scheme is being reviewed to ensure Singaporeans save enough for retirement. Mr Lee said he would talk about this at the National Day Rally next Sunday — considered to be the most important political speech of the year.

“The scheme works well for many of you, but it can be improved,” said Mr Lee, who added that his team is also studying how to make it more convenient for retirees to get cash out of their flats “in a prudent and sustainable way”.

Citing political changes in South-east Asia, maritime disputes in the South China Sea and conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to uphold the spirit of the pioneer generation in a new era, which offers opportunities, albeit in an unpredictable global environment.

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