Sunday, 3 May 2015

May Day Rally 2015: Leadership renewal most critical issue in next GE, says PM Lee

Forming a team to take Singapore into the future is critical: PM Lee
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

FINDING the right leaders to take Singapore into the future is the most critical issue for the next General Election, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Placing leadership renewal as the top priority for the Government, PM Lee said that Singapore's exceptional success had been brought about by exceptional leaders, starting from the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The elder Mr Lee's death "reminded people that exceptional leadership made a big difference to us", said PM Lee at the annual May Day Rally.

"So the most critical question for us is, how do we form the most outstanding leadership for Singapore?" he said. "And in the next election, leadership renewal is the most important issue."

The present Cabinet has turned out well, with a good mix of experienced ministers and younger leaders who joined after the 2011 GE. But the ministers will grow old and need successors, PM Lee said.

"If I lose any of them, my team would be weakened. And if the team is weakened, can the Government deliver on what Singaporeans expect of us?" he said. "We can never have an 'A' team for Singapore which is too strong."

Speaking to more than 4,000 unionists, employers and government officials at the Star Performing Arts Centre, PM Lee said Singapore had done very well for itself over the past 50 years.

It is a tiny country, with just five million people, but it is the largest foreign investor in China and Indonesia, countries much larger than Singapore, while foreign leaders poured in from all over the world for the late Mr Lee's funeral, he noted.

PM Lee warned that Singapore should not take its success for granted and said it was wrong to assume that, just because the system was working, things would naturally turn out well.

"Nothing happens by itself that is good, only bad things happen by themselves," he said.

"And so I need your help: Give me and my team your support, so that after the next election, and well before the election after that, a younger team will be ready to lead us forward."

PM Lee also revealed that he was given a clean bill of health after undergoing surgery in February to remove his cancerous prostate gland.

But he is still searching for good leaders because anything could happen to him or his team of ministers. So, he is still hoping to get more candidates to stand in the next polls, which must be held before January 2017.

Recruiting such talent is not an easy job, he added. "Suitable people are not so many and... the people who are suitable are not so easy to persuade," PM Lee noted.

"And when people volunteer, you don't know whether to take them or not," he said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Still, he is trying hard to find and persuade the right people. "We have to bring in enough new people, committed to Singapore, with the ability, character, dedication and gumption, so that we can keep this country special."

PM Lee reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the three-way partnership between the Government, unions and employers.

He also took the time to thank outgoing labour chief Lim Swee Say, who has delivered results during his time. Similarly, his successor Chan Chun Sing will also give his heart and soul to NTUC, he said.

"We may be a small country but we must have big dreams, otherwise we perish. So let's continue joining hands to achieve better lives for all Singaporeans."

This Government will always be on the side of workers. This was Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s promise right from the start, and this...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, May 1, 2015

Mr Lee's work with unions shaped Singapore
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

THE late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's contributions to the unions helped make Singapore what it is today, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He devoted his life to improving workers' lives, starting his political career by fighting for postal workers in 1952 and leading a successful strike.

Singapore's founding Prime Minister, who died on March 23, also led rallies with fiery speeches in stadiums packed with sweaty bodies.

"If you watch his speeches, you will find not a gentle, elderly uncle, you'll find a fierce, powerful mobiliser. You don't want to be the target of his speech," said PM Lee yesterday, to murmurs of laughter.

There has always been a strong connection between the unions and the People's Action Party, which the late Mr Lee helped found.

PM Lee added that because of the late Mr Lee's contributions, Singaporeans' lives have improved - many have their own flats and good jobs, and there are good healthcare and education systems in place.

Even yesterday's May Day Rally was held in an air-conditioned theatre, he noted.

"It's a completely different world," he said, addressing some 4,000 unionists, employers and government officials at The Star Performing Arts Centre.

This is why there are no angry speeches, no shouts and no demonstrations on May Day in Singapore, unlike in many other cities, he said.

Workers here recognise that the Government is on their side, he added. Unionists young and old had shared heartfelt words at the labour movement's tribute event in March for the late Mr Lee.

Recalling the eulogies delivered at the state funeral service for the elder Mr Lee, the Prime Minister said that one in particular stood out for him - the speech by trade unionist G. Muthukumara-samy.

"At the state funeral of our founding Prime Minister, to have a daily rated employee union leader stand up, stand tall, equal with all the others - the President, former minister, leaders - and speak about how (the elder) Mr Lee changed his life and share... personal stories with pride, it reflects the sort of man Mr Lee was," said PM Lee, choking with emotion.

"The kind of society he built, and the equality and respect he fostered among the citizens, working together to improve lives for all."

Singapore's survival depends on staying exceptional: PM
Education, skills upgrading, adapting to change vital for continued success
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

SINGAPORE must remain exceptional to survive or risk getting pushed around and shoved aside.

But ensuring that the tiny country continues to punch above its weight and stay exceptional is also the most difficult job for the Government to do, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking at the May Day rally yesterday, PM Lee said Singapore's success so far was remarkable, given that it is a country of just five million people.

"Sometimes we forget how unique our position is today... and (our neighbours) believe that we can make a contribution and we have something to add beyond this little island," he said.

Despite its size, Singapore is the largest investor in China today and one of the largest in Indonesia, countries that are much larger than Singapore.

World leaders from the United States, China and Japan, among other countries, came to Singapore to attend founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's funeral service in March.

Australia and New Zealand held special sessions in their Parliaments in Canberra and Wellington and moved motions to pay tribute to Mr Lee, while India flew flags at half-mast on the day of the funeral.

"Would they have done that if Singapore had been an ordinary country, if Mr Lee had been an ordinary leader?" PM Lee said.

"If we just want to be as good as our neighbours, habis liao (that's the end)."

The ingredients to continue keeping Singapore a success are well known: a good education for the young, skills upgrading for workers and adapting to change rather than resisting progress.

"To make all this work - education, training, SkillsFuture - we need outstanding leadership. That's one of the ingredients which brought us here," he said.

"Very few countries can do this. But here in Singapore, we can... deliver results for our workers."

For example, the SkillsFuture initiative which was announced in February is about upgrading "the whole workforce step by step, year by year".

But to make SkillsFuture a success, a mindset change is needed "so that workers learn and improve while on the job, all their lives", said PM Lee.

He spoke about how Mr Seah Keng Tia, a senior technician with Vopak, a logistics firm in the chemical and oil industry, plans to take up a part-time diploma course at the Ong Teng Cheong Institute to contribute more to union work this July.

The 30-year-old bachelor, who holds a diploma in chemical and pharmaceutical technology, said: "I took my studies for granted and failed a couple of courses during my time in Nanyang Polytechnic."

He then bucked up and took supplementary papers that allowed him to scrape through and graduate, he added.

PM Lee said: "If we fail in education and training, our workers' future will be bleak.

"But if we succeed, then Singapore can continue to be exceptional, and our children can live in a country which will be even better than the one we live in today."

PM Lee given clean bill of health
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been given a clean bill of health after undergoing surgery in February to remove his cancerous prostate gland.

Doctors told him after a blood test two weeks ago that his survival rate for prostate cancer is 98 per cent after 15 years, he revealed in his May Day Rally speech yesterday.

"Over the next 15 years, my chances of dying because of the prostate cancer is just 2 per cent. It is not bad... you can go to the bookies with that," said Mr Lee, drawing laughter from the audience at the Star Performing Arts Centre.

But on a more sober note, he noted that he will be 78 in 15 years, saying: "Even if the prostate cancer doesn't cause me trouble, something else will act up."

The same risk applies to the other ministers, which is why Singapore needs to form the next team of leaders, he said.

Mr Lee had a bout of lymphoma in 1992, which is now in remission.

His comments yesterday came more than two months after Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who is known for his fitness, was diagnosed with a build-up of fluid between layers of tissue lining the lungs and chest cavity.

Mr Lee noted that Mr Tan was part of a team of ministers who conceived the SkillsFuture credit scheme announced at this year's Budget. Similarly, schemes such as the Pioneer Generation Package relied heavily on the contributions of ministers.

Mr Lee said: "So, I need good men and women to come in, to form the next team to take Singapore forward, beyond me and my generation of leaders."

Unions, bosses, Govt 'are equal partners'
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

THE Government will always be on the side of workers, a relationship that has endured through the transformation from Third World nation to First, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The partnership began with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew holding the first May Day rally in 1960, and continues today, 55 years later.

Yesterday, PM Lee again reaffirmed the relationship between the Government and unions, calling it the strongest and the longest-lasting in the world. "Our unions are equal partners with employers and the Government," he said at the annual May Day rally.

Some governments might say they protect workers from competition and unscrupulous businesses, but often end up scaring off investors and hurting the economy, causing job losses for workers, he said. Other countries try to weaken union influence, resulting in tit-for-tat conflict, he added.

In Singapore, the Government, workers and employers are partners in growing and upgrading the economy - in a tripartite system that has produced results "not just over one or two terms of government, but for 50 years", he said to more than 4,000 unionists, employers and government officials at The Star Performing Arts Centre.

So he is "aghast" when he hears opposition politicians claim that tripartism is obsolete and that unions must fight the Government and employers. Either they do not understand the importance of tripartism, or they do but are not interested in workers' welfare and are trying to stir up trouble for their own ends, he added.

"No trade union congress anywhere else in the world has been as effective as NTUC in improving workers' lives," he said, calling tripartism a "precious legacy" that must be protected.

The partners are all willing to make compromises because each trusts the others to take a longer-term view of the collective interest, he said.

Operating on an equal footing has allowed trade unionism to become a profession that unionists can be proud of, with union leaders sitting on key statutory boards and the National Wages Council.

This model has been studied by other nations, said Mr Lee. But they do not have Singapore's long tradition of the Government delivering the goods for workers and building up trust with union leaders. "They can replicate the structures... but that trust, that magic, cannot be created overnight."

He said: "This is why, today, just as we have done for the past 55 May Day Rallies, we recommit ourselves to this promise - that the Government is always on your side, on the side of workers."

Support Chun Sing, says PM as he also thanks Swee Say
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave a ringing endorsement of incoming labour chief Chan Chun Sing, saying that the new man will give his heart and soul to the labour movement.

Mr Chan was doing an important job at the Ministry of Social and Family Development and doing it well, Mr Lee noted.

"But National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is crucial, and if we say that this Government is on the side of the workers, we must put our money where our mouth is and back it up," said Mr Lee on why he agreed to the NTUC Central Committee's request for Mr Chan to join the union movement.

"Please give him your support, and help him to serve you well."

In his speech, Mr Lee also thanked outgoing NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say, saying that he had delivered results.

Mr Lim, who turns 62 in July next year, is stepping down on Monday as NTUC secretary-general as part of a self-imposed leadership renewal plan where union leaders voluntarily retire at age 62 to make way for new blood.

He hands over the NTUC baton to Mr Chan, who is 45.

Mr Lee revealed that Mr Lim, who took over the helm in 2007, had planned his own retirement "from day one". He had implemented a system of leadership renewal in union ranks by identifying younger union leaders with potential early and grooming them for key posts systematically.

Mr Lee added that Mr Lim has the "ideal curriculum vitae" which will make him a "very good Manpower Minister".

"He is coming straight from the NTUC, so he understands workers and unions. He spent many years in EDB (Economic Development Board), so he understands investors and I think the investors still remember him. And he served in the Cabinet as Environment Minister, and delivered Newater - very important to our survival," said Mr Lee of Mr Lim's credentials.

"If I were a headhunter looking for a new Minister for Manpower, and I produced (Mr) Lim Swee Say, I think I deserve a special bonus," said Mr Lee, drawing laughter from the audience.

Praise for workers with extraordinary spirit
Outgoing labour chief pays tribute to those who helped build country
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

MADAM Rahmah Abdul Rahim lost her job producing videocasette recorders during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, but instead of giving in to despair, she pulled her socks up and went for training to get a new job.

Today, with the help of the labour movement, she is working as a senior manufacturing specialist at ST Microelectronics.

"I didn't know what to do when I lost my job. I had been working at the same place since I graduated in 1977. If I was not open to upgrading my skills, I don't know what I will be doing now," said Madam Rahmah, 55.

She is one of the thousands of workers who have contributed in their own small way to the progress of the country.

And yesterday, outgoing labour chief Lim Swee Say paid tribute to them in his May Day rally speech. He cited some 15 workers who have helped build the country, including Mr Chiam Ah Kow, who reclaimed land at Tuas.

Today, the 71-year-old is a lifting supervisor, mentoring new staff at PPL Shipyard.

He decided to take a course in lifting because operating a crane or forklift was considered skilled labour that paid more.

"I had a family, and I was worried about feeding them for the long term," he said. "Reclaiming land was very hard work, and I was not sure I could do it for long."

Mr Chiam was among the various "ordinary workers with extraordinary spirit", said Mr Lim.

He said: "As a workforce, we must uphold the fighting spirit and courage of our pioneers... and keep moving forward together as one new economy, one renewed workforce."

The reason for Singapore's success - "where many others have failed" - is tripartism, said Mr Lim.

This year's May Day is also special because it marks the creation of a new set of tripartite leaders.

At the Singapore National Employers Federation, Dr Robert Yap took over from Mr Stephen Lee.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, who is currently deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), will take on the role of labour chief on Monday.

Meanwhile, Mr Lim will move from NTUC to be the new Manpower Minister - a position previously held by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, the current Social and Family Development Minister.

Dr Yap said: "We have a nice tripartite relationship. We get together all the time, we speak to each other and tell our issues and problems."

May Day fun and revelry for 14,000 at Istana open house
The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

ABOUT 14,000 people queued for up to two hours to visit the Istana during the open house on Labour Day yesterday.

Nature lovers marvelled at the rare flowers on the grounds of the President's official residence, while some squeezed in a national education lesson.

Mrs Carol Quek, 35, said her 62-year-old mother learnt the significance of the Presidential standard. An all-red flag featuring a crescent and five stars, it is used to signify the presence of the President when he is in Singapore.

"When she caught sight of the signboard explaining what it meant, she lit up," Mrs Quek said.

At 4pm, when President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife greeted visitors, they were welcomed with an energetic samba dance by the People's Association.

Other performances included a recital by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, which was sponsored by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) as part of its SPH Gift of Music series.

The Istana opens its doors to the public during Chinese New Year, Labour Day, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, National Day and Deepavali.

Meanwhile, the labour movement kicked off its May Day Fiesta with a night of fun at Universal Studios Singapore.

This year, the annual event will last three days to mark SG50. Some 35,000 union members and their families and friends get exclusive use of the theme park from 5pm to midnight.

The Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) was also busy last night, organising four celebration events for 18,000 migrant workers. Those at Penjuru Recreation Centre were treated to dance and magic performances and a lucky draw. MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang was the guest of honour.

Three other events were held at Soon Lee Recreation Centre, Kaki Bukit Recreation Centre and Woodlands Recreation Centre.

The festivities aim to recognise migrant workers as an integral part of Singapore's workforce and make them feel appreciated, said Mr Yeo.

PM: Further rise in wages hinges on productivity
Fresh approach needed, hence the push to make SkillsFuture a reality
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 1 May 2015

WAGES may be rising in a tight labour market but they could stagnate or even fall back if productivity does not catch up, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

With the economy maturing and facing tight resource constraints, Singaporeans will need to get used to the idea of slow growth.

"Our economy grew by 2.9 per cent last year. This year we expect between 2 per cent and 4 per cent," said Mr Lee. "We have to get used to slower growth than before, because our economy is more mature, and we have tightened up on foreign manpower."

While growth may be slower, Mr Lee indicated in his annual May Day message released yesterday that Singapore cannot afford to take its eyes off it.

"We must still be concerned with growth, because that is how we can afford to invest in healthcare, education and our people."

To overcome the limitations the economy is facing, Singapore has to push ahead with productivity and innovation, he said. But Mr Lee warned that productivity growth is moving "too slowly".

This is partly the result of an unsettled world economy and the fact that Singapore's "previous strategy is reaching its limits".

"Wages have been rising in the tight labour market, but this is not sustainable. If productivity continues to stagnate, after a while so will wages, which may even fall back," he said.

"We need a fresh approach. This is why we are working hard to make SkillsFuture a reality."

During the annual Budget debate this year, the Government announced the SkillsFuture Credit account scheme for all Singaporeans, with every citizen aged 25 or older receiving an initial $500 grant which they can use to attend training courses.

Mr Lee said that the Government is taking the lead but "for SkillsFuture to take off, everyone has to play his part".

Workers need to take charge of their development and career, he said, adding that the Government is working with educational institutions and employers to create more learning opportunities and skill certification programmes.

Turning to employers, Mr Lee said: "Employers must support their workers and where possible, grant time off to attend training.

"As workers upgrade their skills, employers should re-design and update their jobs to make good use of the new skills, and recognise and reward workers who contribute more," Mr Lee urged.

A key ingredient to making SkillsFuture a success is the strong three-way partnership between the Government, employers and unions.

"Unity is our biggest strength," said Mr Lee. "Nowhere else in the world do government, employers and workers work closely together, give and take and create win-win outcomes out of difficult circumstances."

Mr Lee will speak to some 3,500 union leaders, employers and government officials on tripartism in his annual address to workers at the May Day Rally at The Star Performing Arts Centre in Buona Vista today.

Good leaders needed to inspire and deliver results
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave a speech at the May Day Rally yesterday. Below is an excerpt from his speech.
The Straits Times, 2 May 2015

SOME people say we don't have to worry about national leadership any more.

We already have a good system. You just keep it running on auto-pilot. The civil ser-vants know what to do. They will write the papers, they will draft the speeches, they will draft the parliamentary-question replies. Not so hard to be a minister, even a prime minister.

And anyway, nowadays we have lots of talent. In fact, why don't we have a different team? May be more exciting.

I say: "Be very careful." By that logic, because Mercedes has an outstanding F1 car, you don't need Lewis Hamilton to win the F1 championship! The car will drive itself.

But national leadership makes all the difference. And I think because people realise that, when Mr Lee passed away, there was such a strong reaction, because everyone knew that what we see around us would not be around us today had not Mr Lee and his team made it happen. Without that leadership by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his team, there would not be modern Singapore.

And I think his passing reminded people that exceptional leadership made a big difference to us. It has caused many people to pause and to ask ourselves: Are we sure we don't need that quality of leadership any more?

Of course, Mr Lee didn't do it alone and part of his greatness was that he brought together exceptional people to form an outstanding team.

And today, my job is to build that strong leadership team for Singapore - for now, and for the future.

For now we are all right. I have a balanced Cabinet, some ministers with more than 20 years' experience, just the right amount of grey hair, battle tested, some who joined in the last General Election (GE), long runway ahead of them.

They've mastered their portfo-lios, learnt about politics, gained the trust of Singaporeans. I think they've come under some fire and they have come through and they have gelled and work together as a team.

But we all grow old and we all need successors. I'm already 63 years old this year. I just came back from Jakarta, the Asia-Africa Summit. It's held every 10 years.

I went in 2005. Ten years from now - 2025 - they may hold an Asia-Africa Summit again, I will be 73 years old, I really should not be attending. But you must make sure that whoever is the Prime Minister in 2025, when he goes, he will do us proud and advance our interests.

This year, my doctors discovered that I had prostate cancer. Luckily they discovered it early, I went for an operation in February, it was successful, now I'm back to work, no medical leave on May Day.

After the op, the doctor told me: You wait two months, do a blood test, then we'll know whether you're clear and then we will see. So two weeks ago, two months was up, I went for the follow-up blood test, results were good, doctors gave the all-clear.

But they were very precise, they never say you're completely out of the woods, they say prostate cancer specific survival rate, 15 years is 98 per cent. What that means is over the next 15 years, my chances of dying because of prostate cancer are just 2 per cent. It's not bad but 15 years from now I will be 78 years old. Even if the prostate cancer doesn't cause me trouble, something else will act up.

It's not just me, it's the same with my team. Just because you're a minister doesn't mean you're Superman, it doesn't mean you won't get ill, it doesn't mean you don't grow old. And from time to time, ministers get ill.

If I lose any of them, my team would be weakened. Can I replace them quickly with people of the same quality and experience? And if the team is weakened, can the Government deliver on what Singaporeans expect of us?

The SG50 Budget this year, the Pioneer Generation Package last year - could it have happened without Tharman (Shanmugaratnam) as Finance Minister, without (Gan) Kim Yong in the Health Ministry, without (Senior Ministers of State) Josephine (Teo) and Amy (Khor) and (Minister of State) Sim Ann helping to promote, making videos?

SkillsFuture - can we have conceived it and now make it work without (Education Minister) Heng Swee Keat, (Manpower Minister) Tan Chuan-Jin, (Senior Minister of State) Indranee (Rajah), (outgoing labour chief Lim) Swee Say and (incoming labour chief Chan) Chun Sing on the union side as well as on the Government side?

The 27,000 HDB flats this year - would they have been built without (National Development Minister) Khaw Boon Wan, (Senior Minister of State) Lee Yi Shyan, (Ministers of State) Desmond (Lee) and Maliki (Osman), the whole Ministry of National Development team?

Nothing happens by itself that is good, only bad things happen by themselves. So I need good men and women to come in, to form the next team to take Singapore forward, beyond me and my generation of leaders. I tell you frankly it's very tough to do.

First, because suitable people are not so many, and, secondly, because the people who are suitable are not so easy to persuade. More than once, I've been told: "Thank you very much, you're doing an outstanding job, you have my full support but please count me out. I've considered it carefully, honestly, I don't think I have what it takes to enter politics. And, anyway, my family say no."

I'm still trying hard, and I think I will get a few people to enter and join politics and stand for election in the next GE, but you can never have enough. We can never have an A Team for Singapore which is too strong. So the most critical question for us is: How do we form the most outstanding leadership for Singapore?

And in the next election, leadership renewal is the most important issue. It's not doing more or spending more, as some would like you to think, it's who will lead Singapore into the future. This place could not have been built, and cannot be kept going, without exceptional leadership so that people can perform their jobs and do exceptional things.

We need good leadership to set the direction, to guide, to work, to inspire and to deliver results. And we have to bring in enough new people, committed to Singapore, with the ability, with the character, with the dedication and gumption, so that we can keep this country special.

And so I need your help: Give me and my team your support, so that after the next election, and well before the election after that, a younger team will be ready to lead us forward.

Who's to say that the next 50 years will not be even better? We may be a small country, but we must have big dreams - otherwise we perish. So let's continue joining hands to achieve better lives for all Singaporeans.

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