Friday, 3 July 2020

Phase 2 of Singapore's COVID-19 reopening will likely stay in place for months

By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2020

Restrictions such as limiting gatherings to groups of five people or fewer will likely remain for some time despite more activities resuming under phase two of Singapore's reopening, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

Mr Wong told a virtual press conference that phase two, which started two weeks ago, will run for months before the next level kicks in.

"And what do 'months' mean? It's really hard to pinpoint at this stage, because we are just two weeks into phase two. It's still early days," he added.

Although the multi-ministry task force tackling COVID-19 had earlier pointed to some rules that may be relaxed during this phase, Singapore is "not moving to any such relaxation any time soon".

"These sorts of things are unlikely to happen any time soon," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. "That was the assessment earlier. It remains the same assessment today."

Large-scale events, such as concerts and conferences, will not be allowed to take place, and venues like bars and pubs have to remain closed.

Infection numbers are expected to increase as more activities resume, said the task force, which is casting a wider net around virus cases and testing more aggressively.

It does not rule out tightening some measures if case numbers rise much faster than expected or when large clusters pop up.

Mr Gan said that current numbers have "not fully reflected the effect of the opening" in this phase and cases may continue to go up in the coming weeks.

"We will continue to look at how we can confidently and safely continue our opening process and, eventually, we will reach phase three," he added.

"So we are still in the monitoring stage, and that time will come when we may announce additional relaxation, but I think it's too early for us to discuss at this point."

Attractions like Universal Studios Singapore have started reopening, with some restrictions, after nearly three months of being closed because of the circuit breaker.

Others, including the Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Singapore Zoo, will reopen to the public next week.

The war against COVID-19 "is not yet over", said Mr Gan, urging residents to stay vigilant and not try to get around the rules.

"We want to move very carefully, very cautiously, and therefore very gradually. So please bear with us as we progressively open up bit by bit, step by step, to ensure safety for all."

GST Voucher 2020: 1.4 Million Singaporeans to receive $570 million in August 2020

Cash payouts of up to $300 from Aug 1; those 65 and above to also get Medisave top-ups of up to $450
By Cheryl Tan, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2020

About 1.4 million Singaporeans will benefit from $570 million in goods and services tax (GST) vouchers next month, in the form of cash payouts and Medisave top-ups.

Eligible Singaporeans will receive text messages by tomorrow to inform them of their benefits, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said yesterday. Some have received letters since yesterday.

Around 1.4 million Singaporeans will receive cash payouts of up to $300, credited directly into their bank accounts from Aug 1.

Those who have not provided their bank account numbers can do so at by July 22, and they will receive their payouts via bank transfer on Aug 1.

The rest will receive cheques sent to their official address by Aug 17.

MOF added that a small number of citizens who qualify for the benefits of the GST Voucher scheme have not signed up for the government payouts in the past. They will be invited to do so via SMS or letter before May 31 next year.

Singaporeans aged 21 and above whose assessable income for year of assessment 2019 did not exceed $28,000 will get $150 or $300, depending on their home's annual value as of Dec 31 last year.

Those who own more than one property are not eligible for GST vouchers.

About 545,000 Singaporeans aged 65 and above this year will also receive GST vouchers in the form of Medisave top-ups of up to $450 from Aug 1.

They will receive between $150 and $450, depending on their age and annual value of their home.

Cash payouts for GST vouchers will amount to around $410 million, while Medisave top-ups will total $160 million.

The GST Voucher scheme was introduced in 2012 to help lower-and middle-income Singaporeans offset some of their GST expenses.

The annual scheme comprises three components: cash, Medisave and U-Save.

The cash payout helps lower-income citizens with their immediate needs, and is paid every August.

Similarly, the Medisave top-ups paid every August help support Singaporeans aged 65 and above with their medical needs.

The U-Save vouchers provide lower-and middle-income Housing Board households with a rebate to offset their utility bills every January, April, July and October.

Eligible HDB households will receive double their regular U-Save vouchers this year, through a one-off special payment.

Eligible households with five or more members will get 21/2 times their regular U-Save rebate this year.

The U-Save payments - amounting to about $630 million - will benefit around 940,000 Singaporean households living in HDB flats.

In addition, around 940,000 households will also receive 11/2 months to 31/2 months of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) rebates between April this year and March next year, depending on their HDB flat type.

The S&CC rebates will be disbursed on a quarterly basis in April, July and October this year and January next year.

These rebates have been paid annually by the Government since 2013, in a bid to directly offset HDB households' S&CC payments.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

GE2020 Political Debate: PAP, PSP, WP and SDP candidates take part in 'live' General Election debate on 1 July 2020

By Jalelah Abu Baker and Lianne Chia, Channel NewsAsia, 2 Jul 2020

Candidates from four political parties that are contesting the most seats in the General Election debated a wide range of issues on Wednesday (Jul 1), including unemployment, helping businesses and social mobility.

Moderated by CNA Digital Chief Editor Jaime Ho, candidates from three opposition parties - the Workers’ Party (WP), Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) - as well as the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP), took part in the debate that was broadcast "live" on Wednesday.

The show was split into two segments. In the first segment, the candidates were given the chance to respond to three questions on several topics.

In the second segment, the candidates were given time to ask one another questions in a structured sequence.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan represented the PAP, while the WP was represented by economist Jamus Lim. The SDP's representative was its chief, Mr Chee Soon Juan, and the PSP was represented by Mr Francis Yuen, a former Republic of Singapore Air Force colonel.

Invitations to participate were sent immediately on Tuesday after the nomination process ended and the number of seats being contested by each party was confirmed.


In the first segment of the hour-long programme titled "Singapore Votes 2020 – The Political Debate", the three opposition candidates were each given one-and-a-half minutes to respond to questions from Mr Ho, while the PAP was given four-and-a-half minutes.

The candidates were asked how their parties would deal with rising unemployment, create jobs for Singaporeans young and old and improve the lives of Singaporeans despite the bleak economic outlook here and around the world.

Responding first, Mr Yuen, who is contesting in Chua Chu Kang GRC, noted that “a lot” of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) - about 400,000 - work here, while more than 100,000 of local PMETs are jobless.

”We believe that we need foreign PMETs to complement but we do believe that there is opportunity for us to slow it down,” he said.

In a clarification issued on Thursday morning, the Ministry of Manpower said Mr Yuen's figure of 100,000 local unemployed PMETs is incorrect. There were 39,000 local unemployed PMETs as of June 2019, according to the labour force report released on Jan 30, 2020, the ministry said.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

GE2020 Nomination Day: All 93 seats contested as Singapore heads for 'crisis election' on July 10

PM Lee says outcome of polls will impact Republic's response to crisis and its future
By Royston Sim, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2020

Singapore will see all seats contested for the second general election in a row, in a contest that takes place amid a global pandemic and a time of crisis.

Nomination Day saw a total of 192 candidates file papers to contest all 93 seats in 17 group representation constituencies and 14 single-member constituencies.

The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is the only party fighting for every seat, while the leading opposition Workers' Party (WP) is fielding 21 candidates this time around, fewer than the 28 in 2015.

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has the largest contingent among the opposition, with 24 candidates in its maiden outing.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday described the July 10 polls as a "crisis election" - one that can change the course of history.

"As our manifesto puts it, what's at stake is our lives, our jobs, our future. Everything depends on which government you choose and the mandate that you give it," he said.

While there can be a "flight to safety" by the electorate, he acknowledged that this "is not the happiest of times", with people hard hit by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting that every constituency is being contested this time, he said: "So this is not a by-election, it's a general election for the most important issues concerning the country at a moment of crisis, and I think everybody needs to understand that."

While the PAP has called on voters to give it a strong mandate, WP chief Pritam Singh said his party will face an uphill battle, especially in the light of restrictions on campaigning due to COVID-19.

In a clear drawing of battle lines, Mr Singh again warned of the possibility of a clean sweep by the ruling party, while PSP leaders called on voters to bring an end to the PAP's "super majority" in Parliament.

In response to suggestions that the election might see the PAP wiping out the opposition, PM Lee pointed out that the Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme guarantees there will be a "significant opposition presence" in Parliament.

The scheme - amended in 2016 - provides for at least 12 opposition MPs with full voting rights in the House, up from nine, even in the event that the PAP wins all seats. There were six elected opposition MPs and three NCMPs in the 13th session of Parliament.

The ruling party kept some cards close to its chest till yesterday, springing last-minute surprises by deploying key fourth-generation ministers in constituencies that are expected to be hotly contested.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat moved from his Tampines stronghold to anchor the PAP team in East Coast GRC. His team will go up against the WP, which won 45.2 per cent of the vote in the 2011 General Election and 39.3 per cent in 2015.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee left Jurong GRC to join the PAP team in West Coast GRC, helmed by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran. They will go head to head against the PSP's "A team" led by former PAP stalwart Tan Cheng Bock, whose former Ayer Rajah seat is now part of West Coast GRC.

On deploying two ministers in West Coast, PM Lee said the party tries to spread them out, "but sometimes we have two in one place".

Analysts also expect to see keen battles between the PAP and WP teams in Aljunied GRC and the new Sengkang GRC.

Among the SMC contests, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) sprang a surprise of its own by fielding party chairman Paul Tambyah in Bukit Panjang against three-term PAP MP Liang Eng Hwa.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC will see a three-cornered fight between the PAP, Peoples Voice and Singapore Democratic Alliance - the first multi-cornered fight in a GRC since the 1992 by-election in Marine Parade GRC. There will be a three-way battle in Pioneer SMC as well.

There are 2.65 million voters registered to vote in the election.

Parties began campaigning in earnest yesterday, doing walkabouts and holding online sessions. The SDP held its first e-rally last night on Facebook.

With no physical rallies allowed in this election, parties will hold webinars and e-rallies during the campaign to try to win the hearts and minds of voters.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Mobile Access for Seniors: Low-income seniors to get mobile data plans that cost as little as $5 a month from July 2020

One-year plans to be offered by four telcos from July under national scheme; no charges for excess data used
By Lester Wong, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2020

From next month, low-income seniors will be able to sign up for more affordable one-year mobile data plans that cost as little as $5 a month for 5GB, as part of a national initiative to get them connected online.

Basic smartphones starting at $20 will be bundled with the mobile plans under the Mobile Access for Seniors scheme, which was announced yesterday by the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

There will also be no excess data charges, though surfing speeds will be limited should seniors inadvertently exceed their data limits.

The plans will be offered by Singtel, StarHub, M1 and TPG Telecom. Seniors have to be aged 60 and above, and be receiving ComCare assistance or living in HDB Public Rental Scheme housing, to qualify for the new scheme.

"Seniors worry about the knowledge part (when going digital) - 'Who can help me'? Another major concern they have is about cost, and I think this subsidised plan addresses that concern," said Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran yesterday when unveiling the mobile data plans.

He added that the absence of excess data charges is an "important source of reassurance" for seniors - that they are not going to be "shocked by a bill" that exceeds what they are committed to.

Eligible seniors can register their interest in the mobile plans with Seniors Go Digital digital ambassadors after they have attended digital literacy programmes and acquired at least one basic digital skill, such as using messaging apps like WhatsApp, or scanning QR codes.

Separately, the four telcos, along with virtual telco Circles.Life, are also launching low-cost mobile plans available to all seniors.

For example, StarHub's four plans include SIM-only plans with 5GB or 30GB of monthly mobile data for $8 or $20, respectively.

The other two plans, which come with a bundled smartphone, are priced at $40 or $60 a month for 15GB or 40GB of mobile data, respectively, over two years. Customers can sign up for these plans now at all StarHub outlets.

Meanwhile, M1 is offering a 25 per cent discount on its regular device and SIM-only plans for seniors, along with three-month complimentary access to streaming services Viu Premium and TVBAnywhere+.

This means, for instance, that its $25 SIM-only plan with 30GB monthly mobile data will cost $18.75 for seniors. The plans will be available for sign-up from July 24.

Singtel said it will launch its plans next month. These will come with data-free messaging on WhatsApp, among other perks.

The telco will also hold Seniors Go Digital workshops at eight outlets across the island every Wednesday to give seniors personalised assistance. These will be held from 9am to 11am, two hours before the outlets open.

The new Mobile Access for Seniors scheme augments broad-ranging outreach efforts under the Singapore Digital Office (SDO) formed last month, including the Seniors Go Digital movement that aims to reach 100,000 seniors by the end of this year.

The SDO will recruit 1,000 digital ambassadors by the end of this month to help seniors as well as stallholders at hawker centres and wet markets to learn how to use digital tools.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to retire from politics after 44 years as MP; Low Thia Khiang and Khaw Boon Wan also not running in GE2020

Singapore GE2020: Singapore's second Prime Minister tried to foster a kinder, gentler nation and enhanced regional links
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2020

The man who served as Singapore's second prime minister from 1990 to 2004 is retiring from politics as the country gears up for an election campaign in which leadership transition is a key issue.

Specifically, it involves a planned handover to the PAP's fourth generation of leaders since Singapore's independence in 1965.

Mr Goh Chok Tong, 79, has been a Member of Parliament for 44 years. He stepped down from Cabinet in 2011 and has been known as Emeritus Senior Minister since then.

Even as he departs the political stage, he has signalled his continued preoccupation with Singapore's future, asking in a cryptic Facebook post on Tuesday, the day the election was called: "Parliament dissolved. Quo vadis, Singapore? Quo vadis, me?"

"Quo vadis" is a Latin phrase commonly translated as "Where are you going?" or, more poetically, "Whither goest thou?"

Mr Goh announced his decision to retire in a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

PM Lee accepted his decision and thanked Mr Goh for a lifetime of distinguished service.

Born into a working class family in 1941, the man who stood out from childhood - not just because he was the tallest among his peers - began his working life as a civil servant who went on to lead Neptune Orient Lines before being inducted into politics in 1976, at the age of 35.

He rose swiftly to helm several ministries, including Trade and Industry, Health and Defence, before being appointed deputy prime minister in 1985. Five years later, he succeeded Mr Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister.


When he was sworn in as prime minister on Nov 28, 1990, he pledged to make sure "Singapore thrives and grows after Mr Lee Kuan Yew".

During his 14 years at the helm, Singapore's per capita gross domestic product grew from $21,950 in 1990 to more than $38,000 in 2004. A web of free trade agreements (FTAs), including with major economies like the United States and Japan, expanded the island nation's political and economic space overseas.

Mr Goh played a key role in regional integration, working to narrow the development gap between the original Asean five and the newer member states of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. This was done through the Initiative for Asean Integration (IAI) launched in 2000.

He sparked an "India fever" in Singapore in the 1990s, making multiple trips to the country, urging it to forge closer ties with the region and pushing for the conclusion of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

He also led Singapore's efforts to grow links between world regions, through the Asia-Europe Meeting, the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation and Asia-Middle East Dialogue. These cemented Singapore's cultural, economic and political relevance to the world.

As prime minister, it also fell to him to secure a team to succeed himself and his peers in Cabinet.

During his tenure as minister for defence, Mr Goh talent-spotted a young Lee Hsien Loong, then a Singapore Armed Forces leader, and persuaded him to enter politics and stand for election in 1984.

PM Lee himself spoke of Mr Goh's ability to get capable people to join his team and work for him, when he launched the latter's biography Tall Order in 2018.

PM Lee said of his predecessor: "He nurtures and holds the team together. He considers and takes in their views, and gets the best out of the team."

It was Mr Goh who brought in key third-generation leaders, including Mr George Yeo, Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, as well as Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Professor Yaacob Ibrahim and Mr Lim Swee Say. In his speech, PM Lee observed that Mr Goh had assembled "some of the strongest Cabinets Singapore has had" at a time when the task of governing Singapore had become more complex.


At home, the Goh years were about renewing the bond between people and government on terms that the second-generation PAP leaders believed in - a kinder, gentler nation, a government that listened, and paid attention not just to material well-being but also matters of the heart, or "heartware".

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

GE2020: Singaporeans to vote on 10 July 2020

Singapore General Election 2020: Parliament dissolved, Polling Day set for July 10
PM Lee Hsien Loong sets out why he is calling general election now amid COVID-19 pandemic
By Royston Sim, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Jun 2020

Singaporeans will go to the polls on July 10, in a general election that will take place in a time of crisis as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

The widely anticipated announcement of the election date came yesterday, when President Halimah Yacob dissolved Singapore's 13th Parliament and issued the Writ of Election.

Nomination Day will be next Tuesday, with the minimum nine days of campaigning before Cooling-Off Day on July 9.

Polling Day will be on July 10 - a Friday and a public holiday.

In a televised address to the nation yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he has decided to call the general election now, while the COVID-19 situation is relatively stable, to "clear the decks" and give the new government a fresh, full five-year mandate.

After the election, the new government can focus on the national agenda - which includes handling the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and jobs - and the difficult decisions it will have to make and to carry, he said.

The alternative is to wait out the pandemic, he said, noting however that there is no assurance the outbreak will be over before the Government's term ends next April, with the virus expected to linger for at least a year - most probably longer - until a vaccine is available.

The election, Singapore's 13th since independence, is likely to see the People's Action Party (PAP) challenged for all seats - as the ruling party was in 2015.

A total of 93 elected seats are at stake - in 17 group representation constituencies and 14 single-member constituencies.

GE2020 will be waged on a drastically different battleground due to the pandemic.

Safe distancing rules that restrict the size of public gatherings to five people mean traditional campaign staples like mass rallies cannot be held. Political parties will also have to scale back on the scope of their walkabouts in constituencies.

They have geared up to turn to cyberspace and social media instead, to get their messages across to the electorate. Each candidate will also get airtime on national television, as part of the new, one-off constituency political broadcasts.

Following the announcement yesterday, political parties sprang into action and ramped up their planning and preparations.

Due to safe distancing restrictions, they ironed out campaign strategies via WhatsApp messages and Zoom calls, instead of traditional meetings in larger groups.

The PAP will launch official introductions of its new candidates and release its party manifesto over the course of this week.

Opposition parties said they were ready for the election, as the possibility of one has been on the cards for some time.

Observers reckon issues that will feature prominently at the hustings include the state of the economy and jobs, the Government's handling of the coronavirus situation, political succession and the setting of the direction of Singapore's future after COVID-19.

The PAP's leaders have, in a series of six national broadcasts over the past two weeks, set out the key issues at stake, including protecting jobs, overcoming the current crisis and securing Singapore's future.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are expected to question the Government's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and call for greater accountability as well as more checks and balances to keep the ruling party on its toes.

The pandemic has brought economies to a near standstill, as countries lock down to curb the spread of the virus. Singapore's economy is projected to shrink by up to 7 per cent this year, which would make it the worst recession since independence in 1965.

In response, the Government has rolled out nearly $93 billion to fund four COVID-19 support packages, requiring a draw of up to $52 billion from past reserves.

This coming election will see Mr Lee lead the PAP into battle for the fourth, and what looks set to be the final, time as prime minister.

He had earlier declared his intention to hand over the reins to his successor by the time he turns 70, which will be in 2022.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who leads the PAP's fourth-generation team, is poised to take over.

The 2006 General Election, the first led by Mr Lee, saw the PAP get 66.6 per cent of the popular vote.

The ruling party saw its vote share fall to 60.1 per cent in the 2011 election, but rebounded to secure 69.9 per cent of the vote in 2015.

There will be 2,653,942 voters heading to the polls next month.

There will also be a minimum of 12 opposition MPs in Parliament - including Non-Constituency MPs - up from nine currently. This stems from changes to the Constitution that were passed to guarantee that number, should there be fewer than 12 elected opposition MPs.

The Returning Officer for this election is Mr Tan Meng Dui, replacing Mr Ng Wai Choong, who was the Returning Officer for the 2015 General Election.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Madam Halimah said: "It is important that every care and effort be taken to ensure that our voters' safety is not compromised.

"I would also like to urge Singaporeans to have open, civil and respectful conversations with one another during this period.

"For us to continue prospering as a nation, we must stay united and build upon our strengths."

Sunday, 21 June 2020

National Broadcast: DPM Heng Swee Keat on Emerging Stronger Together from COVID-19

DPM Heng spells out plans for Singapore to emerge stronger after COVID-19 crisis
Robust response to crisis with past reserves tapped; present generation must 'build back better' for future
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 21 Jun 2020

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday made a rallying call to Singaporeans, saying that this generation will respond to the COVID-19 crisis, emerge from it stronger, and "build back better" for the future.

Underpinning this is the partnership between the Government and the people, which has become more critical than ever in the face of the twin threats of a pandemic and recession, he said in a televised address from The Treasury building.

Capping the series of six national broadcasts by ministers on the country's post-coronavirus future, he unveiled plans for Singaporeans and the Government to shape the future together.

A sum of $20 billion will be set aside to support basic and applied research, along with a series of innovation challenges to rally people to pioneer solutions for some of the world's major challenges.

Industry-led alliances have been formed to prototype ideas that can become new avenues of growth, while ideas from Singaporeans will be turned into solutions through new networks that bring together partners from different sectors.

Already, the Government has marshalled almost $100 billion in support measures to mount a robust response to what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has described as "the crisis of a generation".

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said: "I never expected to put up four Budgets, one after another, within just 100 days. Never before in our history have we done so... Had we not done so, we would have lost years of progress and an entire generation."

More than half of the war chest had come from the country's past reserves, painstakingly built up by the previous generations.

"So let us remember - once we have recovered from this crisis, our generation must build back better," he added.

Amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Singapore will face its worst economic contraction to date and Mr Heng acknowledged people's anxiety over their livelihoods.

He said saving jobs is the Government's top priority, and it will do so by helping viable companies survive so they can keep their workers, and also by transforming the economy so more and better jobs can be created.

In the earlier broadcasts, PM Lee and the other ministers had laid out the Government's plans, explaining how it would deal with the virus, help Singapore navigate a more fractious world, transform its economy and create opportunities, as well as deepen the social compact and care for the vulnerable.

In his address to the nation, Mr Heng sketched out how all this would be jointly realised as "Singapore Together", inviting all Singaporeans to join in these efforts.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who had overseen several national engagement sessions and launched the citizens engagement movement named Singapore Together last year, said the Government has started a new series of Emerging Stronger Conversations to hear from people about how the pandemic has affected them and how to overcome the challenges.

Mr Heng also set out the work that the fourth generation ministers have been focusing on, and promised that the Government is committed to safeguarding everything that Singaporeans hold dear.

He said the Government has the will and the way to lead the country out of the crisis and added that the actions in the next five to 10 years will chart Singapore's course for decades to come.

"We will fight COVID-19 as Singapore Together. Everyone counts, and can be counted on... We will overcome this crisis of our generation. We will be a generation that emerges stronger. Together, we will be the generation that sets our children and their children onto a path to an even brighter future."