S'pore must stay open to world , learn from history : PM Lee02 Jan 2020
By Royston Sim
Constant effort to improve lives, share fruits of progress points the way forward, he says
Singapore must stay open and connected to the world even as many societies lose faith in globalisation, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Having benefited enormously from globalisation, it must resist the temptation to turn inwards, he cautioned in his annual New Year message yesterday. "A Singapore turned inwards cannot survive."
He noted that the current state of the world worries Singaporeans, as the global slowdown has affected the economy. In November, the Trade and Industry Ministry said the economy is expected to have grown by 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent last year.
But PM Lee assured Singaporeans that the upcoming Budget will have measures to help businesses, workers and families, as well as the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable.
While companies will get help to raise their productivity and build new capabilities, workers, especially mid-career PMETs - professionals, managers, executives and technicians - will be given a hand to retrain, find new jobs and stay employable, he added.
Social safety nets will be improved, and "we will help households with their cost of living", PM Lee said in his message recorded at the Bicentennial Experience exhibition in Fort Canning.
The showcase of important moments in Singapore's history was a key event to commemorate the country's bicentennial year, which he said provided a vivid reminder of how much the island has changed over the centuries, and how far the Republic has come.
"Recounting this history has enhanced our collective consciousness of the past, strengthened our sense of togetherness in the present, and boosted our confidence in a shared future," he said.
One lesson to be drawn from history, he noted, is that while the Government has to stay on top of bread-and-butter issues, the intangible ethos of a society is even more vital in the long run.
In Singapore, the aim is to build a fair and just society, where growth and prosperity benefit everyone, and the human spirit can flourish, he said, citing the values and qualities that impelled the country's forefathers to stay rather than return to their land of birth.
"Here, pathways of progress are open to all, and every Singaporean can chase his or her dreams.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
"Here, we are building a society where everyone is equal, regardless of race, language or religion.
"Here, we will uplift the most vulnerable amongst us, and leave nobody behind whatever the vicissitudes of life.
"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."
PM Lee said the bicentennial also helped put into perspective what is happening now in the world and in Singapore, which had many ups and downs in the past 200 years.
Today, serious frictions exist between the United States and China, he noted.
Despite economic growth, societies such as Hong Kong, Chile and France are under stress and beset with protests. Their people worry about such basic needs as housing and jobs. They are also angry that the fruits of economic growth have not been shared equitably, with income gaps widening, said PM Lee.
Large parts of their populations have lost faith in their systems, and are pessimistic about the future. "This is fuelling nativism and chauvinism, and sectarian strife."
Singaporeans, too, are anxious, but "we are in a better position than most countries because for decades, we have toiled to improve our people's lives", PM Lee said. "And we continue to make steady progress, year after year."
He pointed to Singapore reforming its education system by changing the PSLE scoring system, and opening more post-secondary education pathways. The quality of pre-schools is being raised, and fees are being made more affordable.
In housing, first-time buyers are getting more subsidies, while healthcare is improved for more seniors with the new Merdeka Generation Package. In transport, the MRT system is now one of the most reliable in the world, with fewer than one breakdown every one million km travelled on average, he noted.
PM Lee said that ideals such as uplifting the vulnerable and building a fair and just society will enable Singaporeans to remain "one united people" and prevail despite the odds.
There was never any guarantee of success at any time in Singapore's history, he noted.
"But if we stand together and keep making the effort, I am confident Singapore can continue to shine brightly in the world."
In a separate New Year message yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Government is looking at measures to tackle the economic slowdown.
Singapore Press Holdings Limited