Sunday 1 January 2012

Social capital will define S'pore's success as a nation: PM Lee

By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia, 31 Dec 2011

Singaporeans must strengthen their values of tolerance, mutual respect and empathy, as their country's success as a nation is increasingly defined not just in economic terms but also by the country's social capital.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the call in his 2012 New Year message on Saturday, saying the effort must go beyond being civil and considerate.

He said it involves actively appreciating others' perspectives, caring for fellow citizens, conducting a constructive public discourse and accepting the need to make compromises that benefit the majority.

Mr Lee said these are essential attributes of a mature, gracious society, which he believes Singaporeans want for their country.

He said he is glad to see signs of such positive engagement emerging and cited the work of nature, heritage and other interest groups as an example.

He praised them for working closely and enthusiastically with the Ministry of National Development on the project to redevelop the former KTM railway land.

At the same time, interested Singa­poreans are making innovative suggestions on how to balance development and nature along the rail corridor.

Mr Lee said Singaporeans need to handle other more contentious issues as constructively too, such as the building of new expressways, train lines or nursing homes that affect residents nearby.

He said if all sides refuse to budge, Singapore will be gridlocked and nothing will move.

He urged Singaporeans to uphold a spirit of give and take, actively search for creative and practical outcomes that serve the common good, as well as rally behind collective decisions.

S'pore faces challenge of population growth: PM Lee
By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia, 31 Dec 2011

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore must find workable solutions to keep its society vibrant and forward-looking, maintain its economic vitality and strengthen the Singapore core, as it faces the challenge of population growth.

In his 2012 New Year message on Saturday, Mr Lee described population as a "particularly complex and critical challenge".

Mr Lee said the country needs to balance the conflicting factors, make judicious compromises and accept the unavoidable trade-offs.

He highlighted the conflicting factors that have to be considered:

Singaporeans need to have enough children to replace themselves, yet getting married and having children are ultimately personal decisions.

A vibrant economy needs enough workers and talent, yet it runs into physical and social constraints if it admits too many foreign workers too quickly.

Diversity enriches society, provided the new arrivals adopt Singapore's values and culture.

Mr Lee said the government is tightening the inflow of foreign workers to a more sustainable rate but companies are already feeling the pinch, especially small and medium enterprises.

He said individual Singaporeans will feel it too because many foreign workers do jobs that serve citizens.

Mr Lee said admitting fewer foreign workers also means forgoing business opportunities and accepting slower growth.

He said the government must do its utmost to raise productivity, to make up in quality what it will miss in quantity.

The prime minister said these population issues affect all Singaporeans, and will be discussed over the next year to understand better what's at stake and what choices have to be made as a nation.

Mr Lee said how Singaporeans manage the difficult trade-offs, like the population issue, reflects the strength of the community.

He said as the nation matures, its society is increasingly diverse and the public debate has become more open and robust.

Mr Lee said just as important is how well its people relate to one another in a shared home - not only in good times when there are fewer frictions and it is easier to get along, but also when they encounter tough issues and when passions run high and different points of view have to be bridged.

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