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Budget 2020 will help households, workers and businesses cope with uncertainties: PM Lee

SINGAPORE — Entering a new year with ongoing tensions and uncertainties around the globe, the Government is keeping a close watch on more immediate risks and pressures, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Dec 31).

Budget 2020 will help households, workers and businesses cope with uncertainties: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the recording of his New Year message at The Bicentennial Experience exhibition in Fort Canning.

SINGAPORE — Entering a new year with ongoing tensions and uncertainties around the globe, the Government is keeping a close watch on more immediate risks and pressures, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Dec 31). 

In his New Year message, recorded at Fort Canning Centre, Mr Lee noted that the global economic slowdown has already affected Singapore. 

While it avoided a recession this year, its economy is growing “less vigorously than we would like”, he said. 

And so, in the upcoming Budget, the Government will support businesses to raise their productivity and build new capabilities, he added. 

It will also help workers, especially mid-career professionals, managers, engineers and technicians (PMETs), to retrain, acquire new skills, find new jobs and stay employable, he said.

“We will help households with their cost of living. We will improve social safety nets that protect the poor, the elderly, and the vulnerable.”

But one lesson from history is that while Singapore must stay on top of bread-and-butter issues, in the long run, the “intangible ethos” of a society is even more vital, Mr Lee added. 

“Here, in this island-nation, we aim to build a fair and just society, where growth and prosperity benefits everyone, and the human spirit can flourish,” he said.

“Here, pathways of progress are open to all, and every Singaporean can chase his or her dreams. Here, we are building a society where everyone is equal, regardless of race, language or religion. Here, we will uplift the most vulnerable among us, and leave nobody behind whatever the vicissitudes of life,” he added.

“Here, each generation never stops thinking of tomorrow, so that our children can look forward to exciting opportunities and in their turn, build a better Singapore.”

In a troubled world, few societies can devote themselves to such intangible ideals, much less act upon them, Mr Lee said.

“But here in Singapore, thanks to the heroic efforts of several generations, we can all realistically aspire to live by these values, and turn our vision into reality.”

Mr Lee also noted that the commemoration of Singapore’s bicentennial in the past year has enhanced the citizens’ collective consciousness of the past, strengthened their sense of togetherness in the present, and boosted their confidence in a shared future. 

“Unlike the ancient civilisations of our forefathers, Singapore lacks a long, continuous history. But the Bicentennial has strengthened our conviction that Singapore will have a bright future.”

The commemoration of the bicentennial also put into perspective what is now happening around the world and in Singapore, he noted.

Serious frictions have developed between the United States and China, and while their recent trade deal has partially relieved tensions, it will not resolve their fundamental differences, he said.

At the same time, many societies, including Hong Kong, Chile and France, are under stress, he added. 

“Despite economic growth, their peoples feel anxious, discouraged and upset. They worry about basic needs like housing and jobs. They are angry that the fruits of growth have not been shared equitably, and income gaps are widening.” 

Consequently, large parts of their populations have lost faith in their economic and political systems, and are pessimistic about the future. This is fuelling nativism and chauvinism, and sectarian strife, Mr Lee said. 

“Singaporeans, too, are worried about the state of the world, and we also have our own domestic concerns. But we must resist the temptation to turn inwards,” he added.

Instead, the country must stay open and connected to the world.

“A Singapore turned inwards cannot survive. We are in a better position than most countries, because for decades, we have toiled to improve our people’s lives.”

The country has continued to make steady progress, year after year, he said, outlining how Singapore has made reforms to the education system, enhanced housing subsidies and refreshed the heartlands, expanded healthcare funding and facilities, and improved rail services while building new rail lines.

“There can be no guarantee of success. But there never was, at any time during our history,” he said.

“As before, every step forward will take daring and determination. But if we stand together and keep making the effort, I am confident Singapore can continue to shine brightly in the world.”

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Lee Hsien Loong New Year message bicentennial Budget 2020

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