'Faster legs, stronger hearts, wiser minds': Ong Ye Kung

Published: 4:17 PM, January 25, 2016
Updated: 3:43 PM, March 21, 2016
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Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), delivered a speech titled "Faster legs, stronger hearts, wiser minds" at the Debate of President's Address in Parliament today (Jan 25). Here is his speech in full:

Madam Speaker

We have done remarkably well as a society and country from SG 01-50. SG51-100 will however be different, in terms of our external circumstances, our domestic situation and also the outlook of Singaporeans. Today the eyes of our people are upon us, the Government. We are jointly committed to the next phase of nation building. Some principles – integrity, meritocracy, openness to the world – should be held steadfastly, while other things must evolve to suit new circumstances. Today I would like to talk about three aspects of governance which may have to evolve.

I say “may”, because the process will never be straightforward, certainly not sudden, and always a gradual and progressive evolution, fraught with tensions. But this process of evolution is absolutely necessary because no city stays successful by standing still. Animals develop sharper claws, longer beaks and harder shells to adapt to their environment. The three aspects of evolution for Singapore I will talk about today are: faster legs, stronger hearts, and wiser minds.

Faster Legs: The Economy

First, faster legs, which means how we make a living. At our birth, Singapore wanted, not foreign aid, but Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). The global economic system was then emerging from the old world of colonialism, where country-to-country relationships were hierarchical and benefits unbalanced, to a new global order based on market forces. Our economic strategy of attracting FDI was conceived in this era of receding colonialism.

But the next 50 years will be different. US, Europe and Japan will continue to be major players with important investments in Singapore. But we are also in the midst of the making of an Asian century.

China is a major part of the equation. We need to look at China’s trajectory beyond today’s stock market sell down and pessimistic talk of soft or hard landing. China’s economic transformation has moved on to address the quality of growth. Low value added activities are no longer the China Dream.

Growth will be slower, but 6-7% growth is huge in absolute terms, especially for a small economy like Singapore.

The major change is that the Chinese economy will be more discerning in allocating capital to more productive uses, it will move up the value added ladder. With greater discipline in allocating capital to production capacity, consumption accounts for a larger proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth than investments in 2015. And consumption is not just of goods, but also of services. That is why services are generating more jobs than manufacturing in China today.

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