Thursday, 2 July 2015

PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 7th Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia Public Lecture 2015

PM Lee paints stark reality of challenges in 3 critical areas
Singaporeans must pull together to tackle issues of economy, population and identity, he says
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2015

For more than an hour last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong laid out the stark reality of the challenges Singapore faces in three critical areas: the economy, population and identity.

Warning that these challenges concern Singapore's survival, he said the country will face "profound problems" if Singaporeans do not pull together to meet them.

In a wide-ranging speech, he described how Singapore needs to maintain economic growth to improve lives in the short term, raise its total fertility rate in the medium term and forge a common identity in the long run.

The Government, for its part, is tackling these challenges through a raft of policies, PM Lee said at the annual Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia lecture organised by the Singapore Management University.

To maintain growth, it is encouraging productivity growth and rolling out the SkillsFuture scheme, which helps individuals master skills needed at the workplace.

And to boost population growth and cope with a rapidly ageing society, the Government is managing immigration, promoting active ageing and encouraging marriage and parenthood. "But the Government cannot solve these problems just by policies, because it requires all of us to change our norms, our culture, to become a more family- friendly country," PM Lee said.

All Singaporeans, not just the Government, have a role to play in tackling the challenges as this will decide whether the country will thrive and survive, he said.

"The fundamental reason we have succeeded over the last 50 years is not just that we've had good policies... the policies have worked because the population has supported these policies, which could therefore be implemented," he said to an audience of 3,500, mostly students, at the Suntec convention centre.

For policies to succeed, Singaporeans must also have a strong sense of identity and nationhood, a sense that being Singaporean is something to be proud of, he said.

"It's a spirit which is not manufactured by the Government... it's a spirit which is embraced, created and owned by Singaporeans.

"To keep Singapore special... to feel a duty and a responsibility not only to your fellow citizens today but also to the next generation, to feel as one united people and not warring clans - I think in the very long term, that is our most fundamental challenge," he said.

Without this glue holding the country together, Singaporeans may become too comfortably cosmopolitan and no longer consider Singapore their home.

PM Lee said Singaporeans may also run the risk of being divided along the fault lines of race, religion or values, a point he addressed later in a dialogue with the audience.

He acknowledged that the challenges are difficult and some of these policies are not easy. Raising productivity, for instance, is a "hard slog" requiring a transformation of society, he said. But Singapore has no other option.

The economy would otherwise stagnate and this would lead to social problems such as youth unemployment and a lack of hope for the future.

And if the population continued to shrink and age, "the whole tone of the society, instead of being young and forward-looking, would be pessimistic, oriented to the status quo or even looking towards a glorious past", he said.

Concluding, PM Lee said Singapore needs committed and responsible leaders who can win the support of Singaporeans, rally the country together and work to "give our next generation not only good lives, but also a brighter future".

Economy, Population, and Identity. Three critical challenges over the next 10, 25, and 50 years respectively. I spoke...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What challenges lie ahead in the next...

10 years: Economy

Singapore needs to find a way to continue growing its economy, to improve the lives of its people.

The country's growth has been high, with its real gross domestic product soaring 40 times since independence in 1965.

But this growth is slowing. Singapore's GDP is forecast to grow by 2 per cent to 4 per cent a year going forward.

How will this growth happen? There are two ways: by growing the workforce, and by boosting workers' productivity.

Employment growth from now until 2020 will be about 2 per cent. This is because baby boomers are retiring, fewer young people are entering the workforce, and Singapore cannot continue taking in foreign workers at a high rate. This means that its productivity must grow by 2 per cent - a hard slog that requires transforming businesses and helping individuals master workplace skills under the SkillsFuture programme.

For example, in the PSA's older container yards, one operator was needed for each rail-mounted gantry crane which stacks containers.

But with automated cranes now being used in its expanded Pasir Panjang terminals, one operator can oversee five cranes. So productivity has gone up.

Mr Lee said constant improvement is needed to stay ahead of its competitors. Workers will benefit from this because if PSA's business grows, their wages will go up. If it fails to grow, four out of five operators will be made redundant.

25 years: Population

Singapore needs to boost its falling birth rate.

Like the economy, the population experienced a boom, growing from 1.9 million to 5.5 million over the past 50 years.

But the population growth is now slowing. This year's population growth will be the slowest in 10 years, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who noted that the population grew by 1.3 per cent last year.

At the same time, the population is ageing rapidly. Singapore will have 900,000 seniors by 2030, twice the 440,000 it has this year. Today, every five working adults support one senior citizen. In 2030, two adults will support one senior citizen.

The consequences of this are wide-ranging - in terms of taxes that are paid and how taxes are used, how the economy can stay vibrant and even how the armed forces can be manned.

Already, the effects can be felt today: There are greater demands on healthcare and social services, for instance. And more working adults feel "sandwiched" having to support their children as well as their parents.

The way forward is for Singaporeans to marry and have more children, he said. The Government is helping them do so by helping young couples get housing, providing childcare and reducing stress in the education system. The early signs are encouraging, he said, with marriages and births last year the highest in the past 10 years.

50 years: Singapore identity

Singapore needs to forge a common identity among its people, so that the country can hold itself together and succeed.

This bond is needed because as Singapore progresses, there is the danger of becoming so globalised that there is no distinctive identity that sets Singaporeans apart from non-Singaporeans.

"If we become so comfortable abroad that we lose the sense that only Singapore is truly home... if a large part of our talent goes overseas seeking challenges or fortunes, then I think we will be depleted, our centre will not hold... we will just melt away, dissolved by globalisation."

On the flip side, Singapore could be divided along the lines of race, religion and values.

But a unity and common identity can arise when people share values - such as meritocracy, multi-racialism and fairness and justice in society. These bonds are born when they share experiences such as going to schools and national service together, or celebrating successes like the SEA Games.

Overcoming crises such as the outbreak of Sars in 2013, or grieving together at the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, or in the face of tragedies like the deaths of schoolchildren and teachers on Mount Kinabalu last month, also brings people together, said PM Lee.

There will be hard times in the 50 years ahead, but these tests will also be an opportunity for Singaporeans to bond, he said.

Staying nimble amid competition is vital
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2015

The need to remain nimble in the competitive global landscape was a vital quality Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted yesterday during a dialogue he had with tertiary students.

There will always be uncertainties, he told a student worried about the upheavals should cash-strapped Greece leave the euro zone. "But there will also be opportunities in the midst of a crisis," Mr Lee said at the question-and-answer session after his address at the Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia Lecture at Singapore Management University.

Citing Turkey, which he visited last year, he said the Turks had worked hard to try to enter the European Union. When it did not go as planned, they were nimble enough to change direction. He noted that as the EU plunged into a crisis, the Turks " focused on new markets, they developed links with Africa, with Latin America, and I think they have a lot of success opening the markets, getting the businesses there, getting a new source of growth."

Australia was another example Mr Lee gave. It had to find new customers for its dairy products and mineral exports when some of its trading partners in Europe were hit by the global financial crisis.

"They found the Chinese, developed the emerging markets, they promoted new customers. They found a living. Singapore has to be like that too, " he said.

Mr Lee encouraged the students to work together amid rising competition and be ready to learn new skills. However, he urged them "not to have a ready set of skills so that you can plug in and straightaway you can work, but to be able to have that spryness in an uncertain situation to judge where you are".

Balancing family, career requires trade-off: PM
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2015

While measures are in place to lighten the burden of Singaporeans looking to juggle family and career, couples must realise that striking a balance between the two calls for a trade-off, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He gave this reality check to students at the annual Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia lecture yesterday, when he was asked how young couples can face the daunting task of starting a family while pursuing a career.

"We would like you to be a supermum, but not everybody can be a supermum," he said. "And so we try to make it easier."

This includes making childcare affordable, giving out incentives like the Baby Bonus, and encouraging employers to welcome the family into the workplace.

But Singaporeans must face up to the reality that trade-offs must be made. Setting aside time for their children will mean time taken off work, said Mr Lee.

"At the end of the day, let's say (at) 70 years old, would you like to look back and say, 'I've been a super lawyer' or 'I had a good career, and I also have a good family... and I'm content. I have lived my life well'?"

He noted that in Scandinavian countries, people are "often content to have three-quarters of a career", working till 3pm or 4pm and then spending time with their children.

"We're not like that. But it's a balance, and these are the choices which we have to make ourselves," Mr Lee added.

Noting the benefits parents in Scandinavian countries receive, moderator Ho Kwon Ping asked if Singapore would consider such measures. In Sweden, parents get 480 days of leave when they have or adopt a child.

"Well, if you're prepared to have a GST (goods and services tax) of 20 per cent, I can imagine funding that," said Mr Lee to laughter. "It's up to you."

Beyond benefits, the society has a role to play in encouraging people to get married and start a family, he later noted.

"You do want to build a society where we have a chance for everybody to feel that he's respected and he has a valued place. You do not want to be a place where, if you are rich, you live in one little circle; if you are poor, you are cut out from that circle," said Mr Lee.

"We are all Singaporeans together... If we can do that... there'll be the social matrix, the basis by which people will say, 'Yes, I want to get married. I want to start a family'."

In the 7th installment of the Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia Lecture Series, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered a...
Posted by Singapore Management University on Tuesday, June 30, 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment