Thursday, 23 July 2015

PM Lee's dialogue at the 2015 FutureChina Global Forum

Govt 'has interests of citizens at heart'
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 22 Jul 2015

Foreign labour and immigration are sensitive, difficult issues, but the Government has to lead the country and make the best possible decision, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

And he hopes people understand that, while there may be different views on the matter, the Government's underlying motivation is the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.

"Even on the most difficult issue, we need to make the best decision and be accountable to the people," he said. "There may be different views on how the policy should be, but I hope people understand that the Government's intent is good. We are doing this for Singapore, and for Singaporeans."

Mr Lee was speaking at a dialogue at the annual FutureChina Global Forum, where moderator Goh Sin Teck, editor of Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, asked how Singapore and China could better manage the issue of their ageing populations.

PM Lee noted that Singapore could mitigate its low birth rate through foreign labour and immigration, but these were sensitive issues on which many citizens had strong opinions.

He noted that the 2013 Government White Paper explaining its population policy drew a strong reaction from the ground, and the Government moderated the number of immigrants.

"But we cannot do without them altogether," he said.

Mr Lee acknowledged that people may not necessarily want more explanations, but he hoped they would see that the Government had Singaporeans' interests at heart on the subject.

Mr Lee was also asked what China could learn from Singapore's political system. He replied that, while "intra-party politics" was a main issue in China, such tension existed among parties here.

But while a multi-party system can cause some conflict, it is also a source of dynamism and ultimately good for the country, he said.

"No matter how the system evolves, we hope that politicians admit that the task is to serve Singaporeans - not a party, or an interest group, but all Singaporeans," he said.

"The People's Action Party (PAP) wishes to represent the interests of the vast majority of Singaporeans, regardless of race, religion, language, income group, or where they live. We hope that you will support the PAP, and we will do everything in our ability to serve you," he added.

He said: "If there is one party that can represent multiple groups, it would be conducive to the country's stability and to nation building in the long run."


Purely from the perspective of numbers, it makes sense to take in foreign labour and immigrants. But from an emotional standpoint, it is not easy for people to accept, to agree and support. We have explained the reasons many times. I think people may not necessarily want more explanations.

What I hope people will know, and I mean this from my heart, is that on immigration and population, we have Singaporeans' interests at heart.

We have this responsibility; we are the Government; we need to lead the country; we need to make the best possible decision for Singaporeans. Even on the most difficult issue, we need to make the best decision and be accountable to the people. There may be different views on how the policy should be, but I hope people understand that the Government's intent is good.

We are doing this for Singapore, and for Singaporeans.


Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Singapore hopes to boost ASEAN-China relations in new role
Republic will also seek to ease tensions in South China Sea as coordinator of the ties
By Goh Sui Noi, Senior Writer, The Straits Times, 22 Jul 2015

Singapore hopes to promote relations between ASEAN and China, including cooling down tensions in the South China Sea, when it becomes the coordinator of ties between the grouping and its giant neighbour, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

Singapore takes over as coordinator from Thailand next month at a time when tensions in the South China Sea have escalated over competing territorial claims in the resource-rich waters that China has with four ASEAN states and Taiwan.

This is especially as China has raised concerns in the region with its reclamation of several reefs into islands, at least one of which is large enough to accommodate a military airstrip. Beijing, for its part, has been incensed by Manila's taking it to the United Nations arbitration court over its claims.

"We hope to try and find common ground among members of ASEAN and facilitate the discussion between ASEAN and China" on the disputes, Mr Lee said at a lunchtime dialogue yesterday. "Maybe we cannot solve the issues immediately. However, at least we can cool down the tensions and we can avoid the escalation of tension, that's our hope."

Singapore hopes to facilitate improved ties between ASEAN and China, including by aligning different interests members may have when it comes to the world's second-largest economy.

"We also hope to help ASEAN hammer out more cooperative projects with China," Mr Lee added.

These projects need not all be economic ones, but could include cooperation in human resource development and education, he said on the final day of the two-day FutureChina Global Forum, of which The Straits Times is a media partner.

At a wide-ranging dialogue spanning issues such as immigration, entrepreneurship, terrorism and climate change, Mr Lee also spoke about the future of Singapore-China ties as the two nations celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations.

While noting ties between the two sides have deepened and widened in content - including economic ties, academic exchanges, and political and regional cooperation - he said both sides had seen huge changes through the years. While in the past, Singapore in the role of forerunner could help China find its path forward, such as through the first bilateral project, the Suzhou Industrial Park, things had changed. "China is now very open and its contacts with several other countries are very developed and smooth."

What Singapore can do now is, through its own search for ways to resolve its problems, be a point of reference for the Chinese, so that some cities or regions could, in accordance with their own conditions, make use of some of the ideas that the Singapore experience presents. "If we can do this, I'll be satisfied," he said.

Mr Lee was also asked about external forces that could negatively affect Singapore, to which he said the key one was Sino-US ties.

"It is the most important bilateral relationship in the world and if it is stable and both countries are cooperating with one another, it makes it very easy for small countries like Singapore to be friends with both. If they have problems, if they are at odds with one another, well then, many countries will be forced to choose sides and will feel very uncomfortable having to do so."

Another is stability and cooperation within South-east Asia. While ASEAN is set to declare a closer-knit community by the end of the year, each member state has its own internal preoccupations. Singapore is watching developments in its neighbouring nations closely as "we have such intimate relations with them that if they get sick, we will fall sick".

A third worrying force is extremist terrorism, with many from the region having gone to the Middle East to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group. "One day some of them may come home - some of them have already come home - and they will bring the virus back and cause a lot of trouble in our societies," he said. As a multiracial society, this was a "very dangerous" development which Singapore was watching very carefully, he added.

Answered a question today on Singapore’s role in sustainable development. This was in a dialogue at the FutureChina...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, July 21, 2015

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