Monday 24 August 2015

National Day Rally 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2015 Speech - English, Malay, Mandarin

PM Lee: Keeping Singapore special for the next 50 years
Multiracialism, self-reliance, mutual support and strong Govt-people bonds are key factors
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong used his SG50 National Day Rally last night to remind Singaporeans of what it took to make Singapore succeed and what is needed to keep it special for the next 50 years.

He had no video clips or special effects as he paid tribute to the pioneer leaders and citizens who strived from 1965 to defend a suddenly independent Singapore, turn vulnerability into strength and remain united despite challenges.

It has been an exhilarating journey, he declared, adding that three factors helped Singapore get to where it is today: the determination to be a multiracial society; a culture of self-reliance and mutual support; and keeping the faith between the Government and the people.

He said the same elements were needed if Singapore is to celebrate SG100 from a position of strength.

Last night's Rally was held at the Institute of Technical Education's College Central in Ang Mo Kio. As always, Mr Lee spoke first in Malay and Mandarin, but there was a surprise before his speech in English.

Singer Kit Chan appeared on stage to deliver a soulful rendition of Singapore's best-loved National Day song, Home, dedicating it to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March, aged 91.

PM Lee noted that just two weeks earlier, the Padang had reverberated with the strains of the same song, as National Day Parade spectators sang along heartily.

He said the Golden Jubilee parade was much more than a big birthday bash. It celebrated the resolve to make Singapore succeed despite the odds and go from Third World to First.

He noted that policies to foster multiracialism - from making English the working language to ethnic integration in HDB estates - helped encourage communities to come together and were a key factor for Singapore's success.

"Some people may think that racial and religious harmony is not a problem any more and that I am making too much about this, but they would be wrong," he said. "Race and religion are always sensitive matters, especially for us, and in some ways more complex and difficult to handle than 20 years ago because religiosity has gone up."

Stressing the importance of self-reliance and mutual support, he said the ethos of a "rugged society" had to be ingrained in the young.

Especially crucial was the strong bond between the Government and people over the past 50 years. The Government, PM Lee said, did not shy from hard realities, and people trusted it to have their interests at heart as they supported it.

He cited the tough issue of land acquisition in Singapore's early years when land was needed to build homes, industrial estates and later, the MRT network. It was tough on landowners who suffered financial loss, and resettled families whose lives were disrupted.

"But if the Government had not done this, we could not have housed our population, we could not have transformed Singapore," he said. "There were sacrifices, but in the end, it was for the common good and everybody benefited."

New tough issues will come up - such as immigration and the need for foreigners in the workforce - a difficult issue because people have strong views, and every option for dealing with it has a downside.

"Whichever option we choose, it will involve some pain. But I believe that I am doing what Singapore needs and what best safeguards your interest," he said.

"It is my responsibility to make this decision, to make this judgment and then to act on your behalf. And having acted on your behalf, to account to you for the results and for the reasons why I decided the way I did. I owe it to you. You've elected me."

He said as a little red dot, Singapore had to be alive to its external environment. "South-east Asia is an exciting place to be, but also a rather dangerous place to live," he said.

A strong Singapore Armed Forces, successful economy, good diplomats and leaders all help to safeguard the country's interests.

Singapore has to be special, "a shining red dot", he added. "If we are soft and flabby, we are going to be eaten up. We have to be rugged, to have that steel in us. If we are divided, whether along racial lines or class lines, we can't survive."

For Singapore to continue to do well, a strong sense of national identity is also key. "After 50 years, this faith, this sense of togetherness and purpose, is stronger than before," he said, as he cited instances when the Singapore spirit shone.

"Fifty years ago, our challenges seemed insurmountable," Mr Lee added. "Fifty years on, our challenges are still formidable but they are far from insurmountable."

Returning to the Parade at the end of his speech, he recounted how he went down to the Padang to meet the youngest performers.

"They were in high spirits, their faces shone with excitement and hope. I thought to myself: These are the faces of the future of Singapore. 50 years from now, SG100... I hope they will be back at the Padang celebrating again, remembering SG50, congratulating one another on how much they have done, on how far they have come and looking at more young, radiant faces of children and many grandchildren and singing Majulah Singapura."

SG50 is not the end, but the beginning. Singapore has come far since independence and together, we can scale many new...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew told friends: Singapore will be even better 50 years from now
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

No one can be sure what Singapore in 50 years will be like.

But there is one opinion that all Singaporeans would have liked to have heard, noted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night, and that was founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's.

At the National Day Rally, PM Lee gave a glimpse into what Mr Lee may have thought of the chances of Singapore making it to its centennial.

In Mr Lee's old age, a group of friends regularly took him out for meals, revealed PM Lee: "Conversation would flow, and Mr Lee would get a chance to see a different bit of the Singapore he had built."

The final meal took place in January this year, shortly before Mr Lee was hospitalised in February.

He died in March, aged 91, of severe pneumonia.

PM Lee read out a letter that one member of the group had written to him, describing the final dinner.

It read:

"As it was the start of 2015, we talked at length about the celebrations for SG50.

"We took turns to encourage Mr Lee to attend as many SG50 events as possible. Actually, we hoped he would be there for the SG50 National Day Parade.

"Mr Lee listened to our exhortations, but stopped short of saying yes to our suggestions.

"At each of our gatherings, it had become a tradition to ask Mr Lee 'Will there be a Singapore many years from now?'

"Once, Mr Lee said 'Maybe'.

"On another, Mr Lee said 'Yes, if there is no corruption'.

"This was classic Mr Lee - ever-believing in Singapore, yet

ever-cognisant that there was always work to be done, that we should never take things for granted. Continuing with our tradition and in the spirit of SG50, that evening we asked him 'Will there be a Singapore 50 years from now?'

"Mr Lee's answer took us all by surprise. That evening, for the first time, Mr Lee said: 'Of course there will be… even better!'"

When's the general election? 'Soon'
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stopped short of revealing the date, but gave notice last night that the general election will be held "soon".

After 50 successful years since independence, Singapore is at a turning point as it embarks on the next 50 years of nationhood, he said.

"Soon, I will be calling for election, to ask for your mandate to take Singapore into our next phase," he told the nation in his National Day Rally speech. Speculation over the date of the election has been growing, given the many signs that it is imminent. The ruling People's Action Party has been introducing candidates in quick succession in recent days, and opposition parties have completed talks on avoiding three-cornered fights.

Describing the general election as critical, Mr Lee said: "You will be deciding who governs Singapore for the next five years but, much more than that, you will be choosing the team that will be working with you for the next 15 to 20 years.

"You will be setting the direction for Singapore's next 50 years. You will be determining the future of Singapore."

He said Singaporeans must ask themselves what the future will hold, and sketched two scenarios.

Would Singapore become an ordinary country with intractable pro-blems, with slow or negative growth, overspending that puts a heavy burden on the young, and gridlocked government unable to act? Or would it remain special, with a multiracial society streng-thened by diversity, not splintered by divisions, a rugged society where people strive to do their best yet look out for others, and Singaporeans living up to being "one people, one nation, one Singapore"?

Mr Lee said: "If you are proud of what we have achieved together and look forward to the future that we are building, please support me, please support my team."

Income ceilings up for buyers of new HDB flats, executive condos; grants increased
Low-income households to benefit as well, with two-room flats 'even more affordable'
By Janice Heng and Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

More Singaporean households will be eligible to buy new Housing Board (HDB) flats and executive condominiums (ECs) as income ceilings for both are being raised, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day Rally speech last night.

An existing housing grant for middle- and lower-income households will also be made available to more homebuyers, and the grant amount will be increased.

"HDB flats will always be affordable and accessible to all," said Mr Lee, as he announced changes to help homebuyers across the income spectrum.

Firstly, more high-income households will be able to buy public flats.

The household income ceiling is currently $10,000 for new HDB flats and $12,000 for ECs.

These are being raised to $12,000 for HDB flats and $14,000 for ECs. The last time ceilings were raised was four years ago.

But incomes have since risen, noted Mr Lee.

The backlog of first-time buyers has also been cleared, after 100,000 HDB flats - the equivalent of four Clementi towns - were launched in the past five years.

"Most first-timers can now choose a flat in a non-mature estate on their first try," noted Mr Lee.

The Government is, therefore, raising the income ceilings for both HDB flats and ECs.

One of those who will benefit is bank compliance officer Sheila Yeo, 26, who hopes to get a flat with her boyfriend, a 27-year-old customer service manager. Their combined incomes are just $100 over the current $10,000 ceiling.

"I'm happy that they've raised the ceiling as I don't have to go through the appeals process. It's very troublesome," said Ms Yeo, who tried unsuccessfully to get a Clementi flat in May.

But she worries that applying for a flat will be more competitive now.

Mr Ku Swee Yong, chief executive officer of real estate firm Century21, also notes that possibility, saying: "This will increase the pool of applicants and competition may be tougher."

For middle-income households buying a new flat for the first time, more will now qualify for the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG).

This grant is currently available to households earning up to $6,500, covering half of all households.

It will now be extended to those earning up to $8,500, such that two-thirds of households qualify.

R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng said the change is a good move that is likely to benefit many young working adults.

He does not expect it to increase competition too much, as the newly eligible buyers are likely to have aimed for a BTO flat to begin with.

Low- and middle-income households covered by the SHG will also get more, as the maximum grant goes up from $20,000 to $40,000.

But this varies with income, with lower-income families receiving bigger grants. For instance, a median-income household that would previously receive $10,000 in SHG will now receive $30,000.

For low-income households, two-room flats will become "even more affordable" with the doubled SHG, said Mr Lee.

"Now with these latest changes, even if you earn below $1,000, but you hold a stable job and you contribute to CPF regularly, you can still afford a two-room flat."

The Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Housing & Development Board (HDB) introduced three new measures to...
Posted by Ministry of National Development on Monday, August 24, 2015

New proximity grant for non-first-time buyers too
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

A new housing grant will be introduced to further help families live closer together.

The Proximity Housing Grant will go to those buying a resale flat with or nearer to their parents, or near their married children.

It will be available to all Singaporean households including non- first-time buyers, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday during his National Day Rally speech.

"Parents often would want to stay with or near their married children. So that the grandparents can enjoy their grandkids, and the adult children can help to look after the old folks as they age," Mr Lee said.

He added that the Ministry of National Development will announce details of this grant soon.

The Housing Board already has incentives for families to live closer or together.

Currently, parents and their married children who apply to live with or near each other have up to 30 per cent of new flats set aside for them under the HDB's Married Child Priority Scheme.

The Multi-Generation Priority Scheme also sets aside a portion of flats for married children and their parents applying for units in the same BTO project.

Meanwhile, first-time buyers of resale flats now enjoy a grant of up to $40,000 if they move in with their parents, or if their parents or married children live in the same town or within 2km.

PropNex Realty chief executive Mohamed Ismail Gafoor said the new grant promotes "pro-family cohesiveness".

"Such a grant will also come in handy, given current market conditions," he said, referring to weak HDB resale prices.

But IT consultant Brenda Lee, 27, who is looking for her first flat with her fiance, described the new grant as "bad news". She said: "We now have to fight with non-first timers for resale flats in mature estates. The greater demand might drive up prices, too."

Rental flat boost for families with kids
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Families with children in public rental flats will soon get more help to buy their own homes.

A Fresh Start Housing Scheme will be introduced to help second-timer rental households own a two-room flat. These are families who previously bought a flat but sold it and now live in a rental unit.

Announcing this scheme yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the two-room flats will come with shorter leases and stricter resale conditions, in order to make them more affordable.

He described this group of households as "more tricky to help", as they have enjoyed Housing Board subsidies before and might find it tough to afford another flat.

"Also, these households often have many different problems - jobs, relationships, children's education, sometimes drugs.

"I am very concerned about the future of this group because, without help, they may be permanently out of reach of getting a flat of their own. And they will be trapped in poverty and their children will be affected."

There will also be a Fresh Start Housing Grant to help such families purchase their new flat, along with counsellor support. But the grant is "not without conditions", and will be given only if the families show they are determined to get back on their feet, said Mr Lee. "It shows our philosophy - that in Singapore, we will help you, but you must help yourself, and we don't want anybody to be left behind."

He also noted that Malays are "over-represented" in public rental flats, and was concerned about their future and their children.

Senior social worker Alvin Chen, 34, called the Fresh Start scheme and grant a "practical solution".

He said: "Owning a flat would give them stability and a sense of achievement. It would encourage them with a new headstart to work hard and keep owning their flat."

Rental households who have not owned a flat before will also benefit, Mr Lee said, pointing to the Housing Board's new Two-Room Flexi Scheme, which offers shorter lease options for elderly households. The doubling of the maximum Special CPF Housing Grant will also render two-room flats more affordable, he said.

All this is good news for tenants like Mr Gurmit Singh, who is 60. He lives in a two-room rental flat in Toa Payoh with his wife, who is a part-time babysitter, and two teenage daughters. They used to own a three-room unit in Serangoon, but moved out in 2009 after struggling to pay their mortgage.

"This is like a second chance," said Mr Gurmit, who is unemployed owing to a medical condition. "Without help, people like me won't be able to move out. It is really for the children. We want a more conducive environment for them to grow up in." But he hopes the scheme can include three-room flats. "I can't afford it now, but I dream of owning a bigger flat."

Population: 'Extra push' to help couples have babies
New measures aimed at boosting family support, easing costs for young families
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Couples who want to have children will get an extra push to do so through a raft of measures aimed at boosting family support and easing the costs of raising a child.

These measures are: A new housing grant to help them live nearer their parents, an enhanced Baby Bonus package, an increased Medisave grant for newborns, and an extra week of paternity leave.

"Having a child is a major responsibility but we will help you because every Singaporean child is precious to us," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday in his National Day Rally speech.

Children ensure Singapore will have a future, he said. "In fact, our children are why we want Singapore to have a future - for them."

Although Singapore's low birth rates have been a perennial worry, things have been looking up.

Showing a graph of the number of babies born in the past 15 years, Mr Lee said the 33,200 births last year were the highest in 10 years.

It was all the more remarkable because last year was not a Dragon year, considered the most auspicious zodiac sign by the Chinese. But last year saw as many births as in 2012, the last Dragon year.

"I expect that this year, we will have about the same number as 2014," Mr Lee said, adding that 129 babies were born on National Day itself this year, the highest since 2007.

"These are the statistics, but what I see directly when I go around confirms this. Nowadays, I often see families who have lots of kids, and they are proud and happy that they have many children."

It is therefore a good time to give families and their efforts to have babies an extra push, he said.

"I know it is a serious decision... You sacrifice your time, your sleep. You have to buy milk powder, diapers. And parenting goes on for many years, well after your children have supposedly grown up," said Mr Lee, a father of four, before he listed the policy changes.

First, there will be a new Proximity Housing Grant to encourage couples to live closer to their parents.

Every Singaporean household is eligible. They will receive the grant when buying a resale flat with or near their parents, or when parents buy near their married children.

Second, the Baby Bonus scheme, which includes cash for newborns and childcare subsidies in a co-savings account, will be enhanced.

The bonus amount will be raised to help cover more of the child-raising costs during the child's infancy, said Mr Lee. It will also be given to every child. Previously, it was given to a married couple's first four children.

"This provides more support to parents with larger families, and reflects our attitude that every child is valued in Singapore," he said.

Third, newborns will get a larger Medisave grant. The higher grant will be enough to cover the child's new MediShield Life premiums until age 21, and also to help with healthcare expenses like recommended vaccinations, said Mr Lee.

Fourth, fathers will get two weeks of paternity leave, double the existing one week, and backdated to take effect at the start of this year. Mr Lee said the public sector - Singapore's largest employer with 143,000 people on its payroll - will start the ball rolling.

For other employers, the extended paternity leave will be voluntary for now, to give bosses time to adjust. The Baby Bonus and increased Medisave grant will also take effect from Jan 1 this year. "I hope this will help many more couples to experience the joy of parenthood," said Mr Lee.

Speaking to reporters after the Rally, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who oversees population issues, said she hoped the added support will send "a strong signal to young couples to consider having families, and bigger families".

The tweaks are the result of consultations with young couples. But the goal, she added, is to recognise the high costs of raising a child, not to lift the total fertility rate, which was 1.25 children a woman last year.

Additional reporting by Rachel Au-Yong

Newborns to get bigger Medisave grants and Baby Bonus
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

All babies born from Jan 1 this year will get a more generous Baby Bonus package and larger Medisave grants, the details of which were announced yesterday.

This is to help offset the cost of raising a child here, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during last night's National Day Rally speech.

"I hear mothers telling me that milk powder is expensive," Mr Lee said. "Well, if that is so, this will be a little bit of assistance."

Sharing the "promising" number of babies born last year - some 33,200 - he added that the move is also meant to encourage young Singaporeans to keep up the good work in having babies.

Said Mr Lee: "I think this is a good time to give our families-and-babies efforts an extra push."

Effective from Jan 1 this year, the expanded Baby Bonus scheme will cover all the children in a family, rather than just the first four.

Said Mr Lee: "This will provide... more support to parents with larger families, and also reflects our attitude that every child is valued in Singapore."

Each newborn will also get more money credited into his or her Medisave account to cover the higher MediShield Life premiums when the scheme starts in November, until they reach age 21.

Currently, annual premiums for the basic MediShield are $50 for those under 21.

After transitional subsidies for the compulsory health insurance scheme are phased out in 2019, this group will have to pay between $98 and $130 a year.

The bigger Medisave Grant for Newborns will also go towards defraying other healthcare expenses for children, such as recommended vaccinations.

Housewife Sarah Yeo, who gave birth to her first child a month ago, welcomed the improved Baby Bonus package.

"Having a kid is not cheap," said the 29-year-old.

"It will help to reduce our financial burden, and we won't be so tied down by money considerations."

She added: "This is especially so because I'm not working, and my husband is the only one supporting the family."

Additional reporting by Choo Yun Ting

Paternity leave raised to 2 weeks
By Linette Lai and Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Working dads will start getting an extra week of paternity leave fully paid for by the Government, bringing the total to two weeks.

This is in recognition of the important role they play in every family, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during yesterday's National Day Rally speech.

"Fathers play a very important role in bringing up children," he said. "You have to do your part. If it is just the mother's responsibility to care for and raise the children, I think (she) will decide enough is enough."

To give employers time to adjust, firms will join the new scheme on a voluntary basis for now.

"We will implement this, but the companies have to agree to give the leave," he said. "So we will not force the companies, for a start."

The civil service, he added, will be one of the first to offer new fathers this extra week.

Paternity leave was first introduced in 2013, as part of the Government's enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package.

Civil servant Alan Shui, whose son Alzander was born in February, welcomed the news. "When your wife gives birth, she will be very tired, so it is better if you have another pair of hands to help," said the 26-year-old.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who oversees population issues, said details will be announced later this week, but noted that the Government will encourage the "more enlightened" companies first.

"Critical mass will set the tone," she said. "The labour market is competitive and we hope that with some big employers leading the way, others will have to follow in order to attract and retain talent."

She said that the enhanced package of benefits - including the bumped-up Baby Bonus - is not so much to increase Singapore's fertility rate, but a recognition of the high costs of raising a child here.

"What we are doing is to create a supportive environment, from financial support to childcare arrangements, to arrangements in the office," said Ms Fu.

Giving young couples help to start families
By Aaron Low, Deputy News Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

If there is one group that benefits most from last night's National Day Rally, it has to be young couples.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's two main areas of focus for policy changes this year dealt with housing and population, and both sets of changes promise to go some way in encouraging couples to think about starting a family or have more babies.

For most young couples, there are three big considerations - buying a home, managing costs associated with raising children, and finding help to care for the children when they go out to work.

Mr Lee addressed all three points when he announced changes affecting families last night.

For housing, he made sure more people are eligible for new flats by raising the income ceiling from $10,000 to $12,000, thereby ensuring that affordable public housing becomes available to more couples.

At the same time, he promised to enhance the Baby Bonus scheme, which now gives $6,000 for the first two children and $8,000 for the third and fourth children. The cash gift will not only become bigger but those with bigger families will get it for all babies, not just the first four.

There will be more relief as the MediShield Grant for Newborns, to help cover health insurance and medical expenses, will be made more generous - enough to cover Medishield Life premiums up to the age of 21.

These moves will go a long way to help parents take care of the basic necessities for their infants, and worry less about medical bills.

The third and, arguably, most important worry couples have when they consider having a baby is getting help with childcare.

On this front, Mr Lee moved to do two things: doubling paternity leave to two weeks and introducing a Household Proximity Grant.

Having two weeks of paid paternity leave sends a strong signal, that men have to do their part in bringing up baby.

This will also let them get more involved early.

Similarly, the new Proximity Housing Grant scheme will encourage couples to move nearer their parents, or vice-versa. For most young parents, grandparents are the preferred caregivers, provided they are healthy and willing. Living close by also means that when the time comes, it will be easier for children to care for their ageing parents.

Taken together, the measures Mr Lee announced are welcome improvements to Singapore's pro-parenthood package.

But will they have the intended effect of raising Singapore's dismal fertility rate?

The Total Fertility Rate, which measures the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime, dipped from 1.6 in 2000 to 1.25 last year, one of the lowest in the world. A country's population replaces itself if it has a TFR of 2.1.

More worryingly, there is evidence that pro-baby policies might be losing their effectiveness as couples start to take the financial incentives for granted.

An Institute of Policy Studies survey of 2,000 respondents, released earlier this year, showed that carrots like the Baby Bonus cash gift and maternity leave are having less of an effect in boosting birth rates.

PM Lee acknowledged this when he said that the Government is working not just to give practical help but also to change social attitudes by encouraging more child-friendly workplaces, for instance.

There is evidence that these moves have started to take effect.

Mr Lee said the number of babies born last year was the highest in a decade, a promising sign that the pro-family policies of the past decade are taking effect. He added that this year's baby numbers are likely to be as good as last year's.

Last night's announcements build on this foundation, by making sure that for young couples, there is help at every stage, from alleviating the costs of delivering the baby, to giving parents those first few weeks and months of leave to spend with their newborn, and even giving couples subsidies for a home in which they can bring their children up in.

For some young couples, there could be even more help in childcare. Many young parents continue to complain that there is a lack of reasonably priced quality childcare facilities to help them take care of their children while they work. The Government has done much in recent years to ramp up infrastructure and manpower to boost this area, the effects of which could be seen some years down the road.

To be fair, however, these policies can only go so far in persuading people to have more children.

As Mr Lee said: "But at the root of this is not policies. It's people - families and their children. Our families are what make life meaningful for many of us."

Earlier this year, my wife and I discussed having Baby No.3 because we have grown to love children so much.

It will not be without much personal sacrifice. In all likelihood, one of us will have to leave our job because we do not like the idea of having a maid to care for our kids.

The new measures, though welcome improvements, will not help us decide to go ahead right away, and we will still have to think hard.

Ultimately, the government can do only so much to get couples to have babies. The latest measures are better than anything we've seen so far, in creating the conditions to help us make a good decision.

Re-employment age will rise to 67 by 2017
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Older workers who want to continue working after turning 65 will be able to do so within two years.

The re-employment age will be raised to 67, with the law to be updated by 2017, announced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally yesterday.

Giving a definite timeframe for the first time, Mr Lee said the timing was the result of negotiations between unions, employers and the Government. The Government has been mulling over the move since last year.

"From the workers' point of view, 65 may be too early to stop work. Workers want us to raise the re-employment age," said Mr Lee.

"They want to keep working for as long as they are healthy.

"They say 'If I sit at home and do nothing, I will go ga-ga'."

Singapore introduced the idea of re-employment three years ago. While the official retirement age is still 62, bosses must rehire healthy workers who have performed satisfactorily until they reach age 65, or give them a one-off payment.

While it is still too early to judge, the policy seems to be working well so far, said Mr Lee. "Unions and workers were happy, employers have accepted it, they are adjusting and starting to benefit from it."

With two years to go for the next age hike to kick in, companies will have time to work out arrangements so that the older workers can contribute and not be a burden to their employers, he said.

The issue has always been a contentious one, with unions fighting to increase the age till which workers must be hired, while some employers resist the change.

It took 19 years for the Government to raise the retirement age from 55 to the current re-employment age of 65. The impending change is part of an action plan that a Ministerial Committee on Ageing, headed by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, is putting together.

The details of the plan, which aims to make Singapore a model of successful ageing, will be announced soon, said Mr Lee.

The labour movement yesterday hailed the move, with National Trades Union Congress deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How telling The Straits Times that older workers have been wanting more legal teeth to their appeals to companies to hire them for longer.

"The labour movement has negotiated hard with tripartite partners for this over the past few years," he said. "The focus now must be for all companies to get ready for the enhancement."

Mr Lee, who devoted a section of his speech last night to older Singaporeans, pledged that the elderly will always have a place in the country. "We honour them because they brought us here, they brought us up, and they will always have something to contribute to Singapore."

He spelt out the steps taken by the Government to recognise and help senior citizens. The Pioneer Generation Package was one, he said, adding that it was introduced to express gratitude to those who have contributed to building Singapore.

The $8 billion package provides subsidies to help Singaporeans aged 65 and above last year pay for their healthcare costs for life.

Mr Lee stressed that the Government has made "an extra effort" to reach out to these pioneers, including visiting every one of them in their homes.

Those who are "not quite as old" as the pioneers were not forgotten, he added. Some 528,000 Singaporeans aged 56 and above who do not enjoy Pioneer Generation Benefits will get special annual Medisave top-ups of $100 or $200 annually from last year to 2018.


What Jubilee NDP said about Singapore
It celebrated Singaporeans' resolve to survive and thrive as one united people, says PM
By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

The Golden Jubilee National Day Parade at the Padang was "not just a birthday bash" to mark the country's 50th year of independence.

It was, in fact, an occasion at which Singaporeans were celebrating "something far greater", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech last night, outlining three reasons.

For one thing, the parade celebrated Singaporeans' resolve to defend themselves and survive over the last 50 years.

After Singapore was thrust into independence in 1965, the Republic started out with only two infantry battalions "in a rough neighbourhood", said Mr Lee to the audience at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio. "But our pioneers were determined to defend ourselves. We built the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces)."

Within four years, Singapore unveiled a few of its fledgling units in the 1969 parade, like the Hunter aircraft and Alouette helicopter flying the flag, as well as 18 AMX-13 tanks in the first mobile column. "Singaporeans cheered. Everyone understood what it meant and it wasn't just Singaporeans who took note," Mr Lee said, adding that some of Singapore's first defenders took part in the vintage parade segment in this year's National Day show.

NDP 2015 Mobile Column
Look at how far we have come. PM Lee recounted the jubilee celebration during the opening address of his National Day Rally speech. From the 18 tanks in our first mobile column to 179 vehicles that made up the mobile column this year - with 9 vehicles carrying 9 families of different generations who have served in the SAF and Hometeam - we have progressed tremendously. #SG50#SAF50#ndrsg
Posted by cyberpioneer on Sunday, August 23, 2015

He singled out some of them present at the rally, including Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Swee Boon Chai, from the first batch of officer cadets, and Major (Retired) Ibrahim Bulat, who trained Singapore's first national servicemen. "They were older, greyer, but their spirit remained undaunted."

Mr Lee also paid tribute to those in this year's NDP mobile column, which featured three generations of servicemen in the SAF, police and old Fire Brigade.

The SG50 parade celebrated how Singaporeans turned vulnerability into strength, said Mr Lee, adding that Singapore started off with no hinterland and a weak economy.

While the Republic relied on its entrepot trade, its neighbours were building their own ports and "sought to bypass us". Workers then were unskilled, and anxious about their future. But Singapore was "determined to make the world our hinterland", said Mr Lee. The Government worked with employers and the worker unions and created "the best workforce in the world".

Back then, people also lived in cramped and squalid slums, with no modern sanitation and no utilities, and nearly all of Singapore's water supply came from Johor. And when an issue arose across the Causeway, "some crazy politician would threaten to turn off the tap to get us in line", said Mr Lee.

But HDB flats were built, making Singapore a First World metropolis.

Singapore also "didn't die of thirst", he said, as it cleaned up its rivers and dammed them up to become reservoirs. "Our whole island became a catchment area."

Singapore also invented Newater, which was launched at the NDP in 2002, and the nation "toasted our success, 'Huat Ah!'", Mr Lee quipped, drawing applause from the audience.

Finally, the NDP celebrated how people embarked on the journey as "one united people" to take Singapore from Third World to First.

When Singapore separated from Malaysia, "we were not yet one people", said Mr Lee. "Memories of the race riots were fresh and raw. The minorities were uncertain of their place in the new country. They saw what had happened in Malaysia. They wondered: Will the new Singapore Government keep its promise of a multiracial society?

"But 50 years on, we celebrate as one united people. On National Day, when the siren sounded, we stood and recited the Pledge together. Regardless of race, language or religion, we sang Majulah Singapura!"

'Do not call me Mr Prime Minister'
By Zakir Hussain, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Two days after Singapore became an independent nation in 1965, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew held a press conference with Malay journalists.

Before asking his first question, a journalist addressed Mr Lee as "Tuan Perdana Menteri" - Mr Prime Minister.

Mr Lee immediately replied: "Please do not address me as 'Tuan Perdana Menteri', but just as usual, 'Saudara Lee' (Comrade Lee).

"It is not necessary. I am not a Syed, like Syed Jaafar Albar. I am a common man, a small man." The late Syed Jaafar was an ultra who whipped up Malay emotions against Mr Lee.

Yesterday, in recounting the anecdote in his Malay speech at the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the late Mr Lee's remark "set the tone for our society in Singapore".

"That we will be equal, egalitarian. That we will work side by side, that we will build Singapore together," PM Lee added. "That is how our journey began."

PM Lee also recalled an earlier press conference on Aug 9, 1965, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew had promised all Singaporeans they would have an equal chance to progress.

The late Mr Lee had said: "We are going to be a multiracial nation in Singapore. We will set an example. This is not a Malay nation, this is not a Chinese nation, this is not an Indian nation.

"Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion."

Fifty years on, PM Lee said Singapore has become "a harmonious, multiracial society, egalitarian and successful".

Malay/Muslim community 'integral'
Group has contributed significantly to Singapore's harmony and progress: PM
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

The Malay/Muslim community has made enormous progress in the past 50 years and can be proud of its achievements, especially in helping to build a cohesive multiracial society, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Speaking in Malay at the start of the National Day Rally, PM Lee lauded the community's growth and its efforts in nation-building.

"The Malay/Muslim community is an integral part of Singapore," he said, adding: "And they have contributed significantly to our nation's harmony and progress."

He said: "The Government appreciates the community's contributions and strong support. Let us continue the strong cooperation we have established over the years. Let us continue to write the Singapore story by strengthening our harmonious, multiracial community ."

In highlighting the community's contributions, PM Lee paid tribute to veterans such as master potter Iskandar Jalil, who received a Meritorious Service Medal, and former senior minister of state Sidek Saniff, who spoke at the funeral of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. He said Mr Sidek started off opposing a few government policies, but in the end still called the late Mr Lee a friend.

"Mr Lee succeeded in building an inclusive, multiracial society as he promised from the beginning. Fifty years on, I am touched and proud to see many Malays, especially the young, expressing heartfelt love for Singapore openly," said PM Lee.

"They appreciate and uphold our multiracial society."

The community has much to be proud of today, he added.

Malays are represented in every part of Singapore society. "When we look for promising professionals to field as candidates, we find many successful Malays in different fields - lawyers, bankers, educators, engineers, SAF officers."

While the Malay/Muslim community is constantly instilling a culture of self-reliance, it has kept the spirit of "gotong royong", said PM Lee.

It rallied together, setting up self-help groups such as Mendaki and the Association of Muslim


The Government has supported the community's progress strongly by providing resources and advice, and offering the leadership of Malay/Muslim ministers and MPs.

The community has also benefited equally from national policies in areas such as housing, education and healthcare, PM Lee added.

Most Housing Board dwellers own their flats but a small group still lives in rental public flats. "Within this group, Malays are over-represented," he said.

Many of them are young Malay families with marital and financial problems, he said. "I am concerned about their future, especially that of their children. They may be trapped in the poverty cycle throughout their lives."

These families should be helped to start anew if they are determined to put their lives in order, he said. "We should help them own flats again, to provide their children with a more stable environment."

Later, in his English speech, he announced a scheme to help such families own their homes.

Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said the Malay community has progressed with the nation, but held firm to its identity.

"We've been able to practise our religion, preserve our language and culture and yet participate actively in the Singapore story," he said.

"We're a community that can balance our interests and the needs of religion with those of our nation."

Group 'created something uniquely Singapore'
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

The late Zubir Said composed Singapore's National Anthem, Majulah Singapura. But less known to the people is his Semoga Bahagia, which celebrates Children's Day.

It is such songs, slowly being forgotten, which inspired the establishment of The Teng Ensemble in 2009.

"We wanted to promote a type of Singaporean sound that we felt was lacking here," said the group's sheng player, Mr Yang Ji Wei.

The group was mentioned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his Mandarin speech during the National Day Rally yesterday, as one which "injects new elements into traditional culture and created something uniquely Singapore".

Besides delving into Singapore's heritage for inspiration, the ensemble also marries the sounds of Eastern and Western instruments.

It is the performing arm of Chinese instrumental music events and education firm The Teng Company. But the performers do not see themselves as "Chinese musicians".

"When we were growing up, we were influenced by many genres," said Mr Yang, 34, adding that the ensemble comprises alumni of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

Catch the six-member ensemble on YouTube at

Passion for Chinese culture among youth
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Pop singers JJ Lin, Stefanie Sun and Kit Chan studied at English schools but that did not stop them from becoming Mandarin pop superstars, with fans across Greater China.

Similarly, younger ministers and MPs are effectively bilingual and can explain policies in Mandarin.

These people, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, illustrate the success of Singapore's bilingual policy.

Mr Lee made the point as he paid tribute to the Chinese community, including its teachers who have inspired students' interest in Chinese language and culture. "They work tirelessly to lay the foundation of the language for our bilingual young, who can find opportunities in Greater China, and have done well," he said in his Mandarin speech at the National Day Rally.

He added that he is heartened to see many young people passionate about Chinese culture, showing it through the arts, such as theatre and music. Chinese orchestras, for example, have been thriving. The Marsiling Chinese Orchestra counts among its founding members a Malay erhu player, he said.

Young musicians like the Teng Ensemble have also succeeded in creating a uniquely Singaporean sound by injecting new elements into traditional culture, he added.

Charting the many ways the Chinese community has played a role in nation-building, from Singapore's early years to today, he praised entrepreneurs of businesses big and small for their contributions.

Since the colonial years, many have seized opportunities to build businesses and create jobs, driving economic progress in the country. They also built schools, set up clan associations and helped the poor.

Today, they are still active in donating to schools and supporting clan associations, said Mr Lee.

"They also help other ethnic groups, and help to strengthen social cohesion," he added.

He cited the 15-year-old Chinese Community Liaison Group for helping to foster closer bonds in the community. Led by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, the group has come up with a slew of new ideas for engaging citizens.

Among other things, it is working with the Chinese media on programmes like an eight-episode talk show, called Ministerial Coffee Talk, produced by Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese Media Group.

The media, too, has played a role, both in explaining government policies to non-English speakers, and in "keeping the language alive" through the years.

Mr Lee pledged that the Government will help the various ethnic communities preserve their respective cultural roots.

Thanking the Chinese community for its enthusiastic response to the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, which will be completed next year, he said it will ensure that Chinese culture will be passed on to future generations.

Adventure learning to go on despite Sabah quake tragedy
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

The Sabah earthquake in June which claimed the lives of 10 people from Singapore, mainly pupils from Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS), is a tragedy that will take a long time for Singapore to get over.

But adventure learning programmes will still go on with the necessary safety precautions, as they help to "bring up a generation who will grow up tough and able to work closely together", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech yesterday.

Schools encourage students to play sports, and organise adventure learning and character education programmes as they help toughen the character of students and teach them about working with others, he said.

His father, the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, had also exhorted the importance of being a "rugged society", said PM Lee.

"We don't use that term quite so often any more, but our people must still be robust and tough, able to take hard knocks, always striving to be better.

"But a rugged society doesn't mean every man for himself. We are strong even though we are small, because we are strong together."

On June 5, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Mount Kinabalu and killed 18 people.

Ten of them were from Singapore - seven pupils and two teachers from TKPS, as well as an adventure camp guide attached to the school.

Eight teachers and 29 pupils from TKPS had gone on its annual Omega Challenge - a seven-year- old programme where pupil leaders scale Mount Kinabalu with the help of their teachers and adventure camp guides.

The programme had been successful, said PM Lee, adding that former pupils who had gone on similar trips had spoken about how much they benefited from it.

"Tragically, on their most recent expedition to climb Mount Kinabalu, the Omega Challenge group was caught in an earthquake," he said.

"We all mourned them and grieved with their families. We held a national day of remembrance. It will take us a long time to get over this tragedy. But life goes on and it's important that we move on.

"And I know that the other TKPS (pupils) and teachers who were on this trip are courageously doing so," said PM Lee.


Singapore must 'be alive' to outside environment
It has to be vigilant over external events or risk being overwhelmed by them, says PM
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Singapore needs to "be alive" to its external environment even as it attends to domestic concerns - or the country's survival will be at risk, stressed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

It was a point he made in both English and Mandarin speeches at the National Day Rally yesterday, saying he had "spoken too little" about the issue in recent rallies because of the focus on affairs at home.

Today, Singapore enjoys good relations with its neighbours, said Mr Lee, but he cautioned that this may not always be the case. "Even in the next 10 years, we cannot be sure. Certainly, in the next 50 years, nobody can rule out instability, tension, or even war in Asia."

He said Singapore needs to be vigilant over external events and stay on top of developments, or risk being overwhelmed by them. And that is a "fundamental reality for a 'little red dot'".

Instability in its closest neighbour Malaysia, for instance, will affect Singapore, which is closely watching developments there.

Among Malaysia's worries is the threat of terrorism, noted Mr Lee. The authorities have arrested nearly 100 Malaysians suspected of having links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorist group. Even some members of Malaysia's armed forces have gone to the Middle East to join the fight, he said.

Incidents like the recent riot in Low Yat Plaza between Chinese and Malays have also raised concerns about racial tensions, which could spill over into Singapore.

Money politics is another worry, said Mr Lee, with Malaysian Premier Najib Razak having just set up a national panel to develop laws on "political funding with integrity".

"These are Malaysia's problems. Fortunately, we are a different country, having separated from them 50 years ago," said Mr Lee.

"But our two societies and our two economies remain very closely intertwined, so their problems can easily become our problems.

"If Malaysia is troubled, unstable or divided, it will affect our economy, our society and our security too. And the closer we work with them, the more we are concerned that things go well for them."

Relations with Indonesia, the largest country in South-east Asia, also bear watching, and Mr Lee said he looks forward to continuing good relations with Indonesia under President Joko Widodo.

However, he noted a common Indonesian view about Singapore: "that we are a small neighbour that is enjoying undeserved success at their expense".

He gave the example of a senior politician who told an Indonesian publication that he would consider apologising for the haze only if Singapore and Malaysia are thankful for the oxygen they enjoy from Indonesian forests 11 months a year.

Another example, which Mr Lee cited in his Mandarin speech, was of an Indonesian official's view that Singapore must know its place and meet the demands of "big brother" Indonesia - just as minority Chinese Indonesians do for the majority.

Mr Lee said such comments may not reflect the Indonesian government's view, but Singapore has to take note of them. "It's a deep-seated mindset - that a little red dot should know its place in the world - and this mindset will not disappear for a long time."

Singapore also has to watch its relations with the major powers - the United States, China and Japan - all of which the Republic is friends with.

"People are amazed and asked how this is possible." The answer: adroit diplomacy and that the three have been at peace with one another.

But, Mr Lee asked, what if relations among the powers sour and Singapore is pressed to take sides? "Countries will press us to take sides... You are either with us, or against us. Which are you?

"These are imponderables and risks which we have to be aware of, and which Mr Lee Kuan Yew was very concerned that Singaporeans may not be adequately aware of, and wanted to speak about even into his extreme old age," he said.

The Prime Minister said Singapore must maintain the advantages that enabled it to maintain its security and standing in the world. These include: a strong Singapore Armed Forces, a successful economy, and good diplomats and leaders who can defend Singapore's interests abroad.

Good ministers advance Singapore's interests abroad
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Having good ministers has helped advance Singapore's interests abroad, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made special mention of two office-holders who helped showcase the country's worth internationally.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say lifted the mood of participants at an International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conference dinner earlier this year.

Ministers at the event shared the problems their countries faced, such as slow job growth, youth unemployment, stagnating wages and widening income gaps.

"It was a very miserable dinner," PM Lee said to laughter from the audience. "Swee Say, never one for a miserable dinner, decided to turn the discussion around to focus on solutions and not problems. He did it in the way only Swee Say knows how."

Mr Lim, who attends the Geneva gathering every year - previously as labour chief - told them about the three "D" challenges: Jobs Deficit, Skill Deficit and Quality Deficit.

By the time Mr Lim finished talking about three "F" opportunities that countries wanted - Jobs of the Future, Skills of the Future and Careers of the Future - everyone at the dinner was smiling.

Solving the problems, though, required strengthening the partnership between the three "P"s - partners Government, unions and employers, Mr Lim said, as he explained this unique Singapore approach. "When Swee Say finished, the mood in the room had lifted. Everyone was discussing solutions," said PM Lee. "The Director-General rounded up the discussion and proposed 'three cheers for Singapore'."

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan too had Singapore playing a key role at last year's United Nations climate change conference in Lima, Peru. In doing so, he contributed to securing a positive deal to combat climate change at the gathering.

Dr Balakrishnan was not just the Singapore delegation chief, but also had the role of "Friend of the Chair". That meant being an honest broker working behind the scenes to bridge gaps between different countries in the complex negotiation.

PM Lee said Dr Balakrishnan was effective because he was competent and had mastered a very complicated brief. He also had a strong team of officials working across ministries and adopting a national perspective.

And in the process of reaching a good outcome at the conference, he and the officials also protected and advanced Singapore's interests.

"That was Team Singapore at work," PM Lee said.

Measures in place to ease woes of higher living costs
But good policies cannot alleviate the costs that come with changing lifestyle habits
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Good policies are in place to help ease the burden of the rising costs of living for Singaporeans, but these cannot mitigate the costs owing to changing lifestyle habits, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

"As Singapore progresses, lifestyle habits and consumption patterns change. People, too, now have higher aspirations," he said in his Mandarin speech at the National Day Rally yesterday.

Suggesting reasons for some Singaporeans feeling the pinch, he noted that more households are using air-conditioners and other electrical appliances.

"In the past, only one or two in 10 households owned an air-conditioner. Now, it is seven or eight in 10. As they use a lot of electricity, utility bills are going up."

Another example he gave is the prevalence of smartphones. In the past, when each household owned only one phone, the monthly bill was about $7.50. "But now, everyone in a household may own a smartphone, which can result in quite a sizeable sum."

Mr Lee raised the issue of growing costs of living as it was a concern of a listener of a Chinese radio talk show that the Prime Minister had participated in.

He said the Government has in place measures that alleviate the costs of basic necessities such as food, transport, healthcare and housing.

Businesses are encouraged to keep the costs of daily necessities and groceries affordable.

Citing the FairPrice chain of supermarkets, he said it sells as many as 30 brands of rice, of which 10 are house brands.

Offering consumers choices - including house brands of good quality - is a good way to help people cut their expenses, he said.

With many eating out often, he said the Government is not only building more hawker centres, but also adopting different operating models to keep costs affordable.

Some will be managed by cooperatives or social enterprises, he said, citing the new centre at Ci Yuan Community Club in Hougang Avenue 4, which has seen long queues.

Its stalls sell at least two food items at $2.80 or less. And of the 40 cooked food stalls, 10 operate round the clock.

Another 19 hawker centres will be built in the next 12 years, adding as many as 800 stalls.

In transport, Mr Lee noted the 1.6 million commuters who qualify for concession cards. They include polytechnic students who got on the scheme last year.

To celebrate SG50, the Government is giving people aged 60 and older $50 for public transport.

But he noted that pay rises have outpaced transport fare increases in the past 10 years. "So, objectively speaking, this burden has not increased for the majority of commuters."

In healthcare, measures such as the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life are being rolled out to help reduce costs.

The Pioneer Generation Card has helped the elderly save money, from "tens of dollars to see a doctor in the past, to a few dollars now". Some trips to the dentist are also free.

"Some have yet to use the card, but because they have it, they have peace of mind," he said.

Meanwhile, housing prices have stabilised in recent years owing to cooling measures and an increased supply of homes.

"More grants and subsidies have also enabled almost every family to own a Housing Board flat," said PM Lee, adding that schemes are to be introduced to let households earning below $1,000 own a flat .

"These examples show the Government has rolled out measures and policies to reduce the burden on citizens," he said. "But these only solve half the problem."

It is reasonable for people to want better and more comfortable lives, PM Lee said, but they must accept that this will inevitably result in higher expenses.

"Not all cost factors can be resolved through good policies," he said.


New Punggol campus for SIT
Singapore Institute of Technology's intake to rise to 3,500 over the next five years
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), set up for polytechnic graduates, will become Singapore's university in the north-east and be integrated with the creative industry cluster that will rise up there.

SIT, which now runs its courses at its satellite campuses in the five polytechnics, will have a centralised campus in Punggol, announced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night. Residents there will get to use SIT's facilities, including classrooms, workshops and a multi-purpose hall.

"We have Punggol 21 Plus. With SIT, it will be Punggol 21 A-Plus," he said, drawing laughter from the audience gathered at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio to listen to his National Day Rally address. Punggol 21 Plus refers to the plan to transform the former fishing village into a model town for 21st century living.

Mr Lee also announced that SIT's yearly intake will rise to 3,500 over the next five years, up from this year's intake of 2,000 students in over 30 courses. This is in line with the Government's promise to enable 40 per cent of each age group to study for full-time degrees in the six local universities.

Mr Lee did not say when the Punggol campus will be ready, but said it will be linked by bridges to the creative industry cluster that will be built by developer JTC across the road.

"Students can easily go from classroom to workplace and apply what they learn, and companies can go to SIT to get help if they need some new idea or some problems solved," said Mr Lee, highlighting SIT's distinctive education model which integrates work with study.

SIT aims to nurture "best-in-class specialists" - graduates with deep knowledge and skills in a particular field - and requires students to spend eight months to a year on a work-study programme designed to be more in-depth and structured than traditional attachments.

Mr Lee said SIT's focus on applied learning is in line with the Government's SkillsFuture initiative to build deep skills and expertise in Singaporean workers.

He cited SIT graduate Chen Zhangkai, 27, who went from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to polytechnic and then SIT, as a prime example.

Earlier this year, the Government announced several schemes under the initiative, including the Earn and Learn Programme where ITE and polytechnic graduates can further their qualifications while working.

"SkillsFuture will produce more success stories like Zhangkai," said Mr Lee, but quoted a Chinese proverb to stress that it is a long-term endeavour. "We are planting for the long term, planting seeds now to bear fruit many years from now."

Two Punggol residents interviewed welcomed SIT's move there, saying higher education institutions are now mainly in the west.

The National University of Singapore, SIM University and Nanyang Technological University have their campuses in the western and north-western parts of the island; while SMU has a campus in Bras Basah. The Singapore University of Technology and Design opened its campus in Changi in May.

Said Mr S. Suppiah, 35, a manager, who lives in Punggol and has two children in primary school: "It is good that the Government is spreading the higher-education institutions around."

When contacted, SIT president Tan Thiam Soon said the university is extremely grateful for the land.

He said: "SIT's Punggol campus will be borderless and integrated with the surrounding community and industry, providing a vibrant learning environment which underpins the applied learning pedagogy that we are developing.

"We will work closely with all the relevant agencies as well as community groups to ensure that the campus becomes a beacon for industry, adding vibrancy to Punggol and turning it into a true university town."

At the National Day Rally, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced that SIT will have a new main campus in Punggol.The new campus...
Posted by Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) on Sunday, August 23, 2015

From playing truant to creating 3D animation for TV
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

He had always enjoyed doodling in his younger days, but Mr Chen Zhangkai, 27, never thought of it as a viable career option.

"Drawing was one of those things that would make people say, 'Oh, you can't earn money from that'," he said.

It did not help that his studies did not excite him.

Then a Normal (Technical) student in Loyang Secondary School, Mr Chen frequently got into trouble for fighting and playing truant.

He eventually entered the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), where he enrolled in a digital animation course, a move that turned his life around for the better.

"I remember reading about the course in a brochure and thinking to myself that it sounded interesting," said Mr Chen.

"It was in ITE that I realised there's so much more to drawing and so many options I could explore. That was the first time I felt I was doing something I enjoyed and I was able to do it well."

He obtained good grades and was accepted into Nanyang Polytechnic. Later, he went on to the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), the country's first university for polytechnic graduates.

Mr Chen graduated last year with a digital art and animation degree from the DigiPen Institute of Technology, which collaborates with SIT.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared Mr Chen's story in his National Day Rally speech to illustrate how the Government is creating more opportunities and pathways for different groups of students to excel.

"(The SkillsFuture initiative) will produce more success stories like Zhangkai's. There are always opportunities, no matter where you are, to upgrade and do better," he said.

He also announced SIT's plan to expand its annual student intake to 3,500 in 2020, up from the current 2,000.

The university has a strong focus on applied learning, which works well for students who prefer hands-on learning, and work attachment programmes to help them gain skills relevant to the workplace.

Mr Chengot an internship when his final-year project impressed the director of an animation studio.

He continued working in the firm for about eight months after graduating from SIT, before moving to another animation production firm.

He now creates 3D animation for a TV series for children.

The oldest of three sons of supermarket workers said: "This is my dream job. I really don't know where I'd be if I weren't given all these opportunities."

Madrasahs to get boost for secular subjects
Teaching of such subjects to be enhanced; awards for students who shine in these areas
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Singapore's madrasahs, or Islamic religious schools, will get a boost in their teaching of secular subjects such as mathematics and science.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday pledged the Government will work with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to strengthen the teaching of these subjects.

It will also give financial aid to improve the skills of these teachers, and fund awards for students who do well in them.

"It's important for our religious scholars and leaders to have a good grounding in non-religious subjects," Mr Lee said in his Malay speech. "It prepares them to guide Singapore's Muslims to live in a modern, technological society."

While the Government will help with secular subjects, it will leave religious education in the hands of Muis and the community.

Mr Lee said he was happy to see that standards have improved.

The Government's support in strengthening the madrasah sector was welcomed by Mr Razak Lazim, Muis' senior director of madrasahs.

He said that while madrasahs have played a key role in nurturing leaders and teachers who understand the multi-religious and multiracial context, they have also turned out students who have succeeded in fields like medicine.

This, said Mr Razak, is a testament to the fact that the schools produce students with a strong grounding in secular subjects too, and who are ready "to contribute to the modern economy".

Later, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said the madrasah is an important institution to the community and is part of Singapore's secular society.

Proficiency in secular subjects is an important requisite for its graduands "to operate in our secular environment'', he added.

He also sees the community welcoming the Government's help for madrasah teachers, whose proficiency especially in the teaching of secular subjects has been a longstanding concern.

"We don't have the resources of the Ministry of Education," he said.

Mr Lee, in underscoring the Government's support for Islam's vital role in the community, said the community needs religious leaders who have grown up here and understand the society.

Also, they have to be familiar with Singapore's history and multi- religious context and appreciate the importance of tolerance and "give-and-take" among the different communities here, he added.

This will help shape a Singapore Muslim identity. Mr Lee said: "Because of the presence of such religious leaders in Singapore, we have protected ourselves from the threat of violent extremism.

"The Government will continue to work with and support the Malay/Muslim community in these efforts, and all the other communities should support them too," he added.

He thanked the Religious Rehabilitation Group, which counsels terrorist detainees, and the community for taking a united stand against violent extremism.

A decade ago, when the Jemaah Islamiah plot to bomb key installations in Singapore was discovered, "we handled it as one people", he said."We did not divide into Muslims and non-Muslims."

While race and religion are always sensitive matters in Singapore, he said they are in some ways more complex and difficult to handle now, with increasing religiosity and the virulent spread of extremist ideology.

"As a multiracial and multi-religious society, we are always at risk of deep fault lines opening up," he said, "and must never take our present happy state of affairs for granted."


Next team must be 'ready in the wings'
PM Lee credits achievements to cooperation between Govt and people, calls on S'poreans to back his team
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday held up what was effectively a report card on what the Government had promised, and delivered, over the past 10 years.

The targets were met and he credited the achievement to the cooperation between the Government and the people, saying: "We did this together. We had a vision, we believed in it, and together, we realised our dreams."

He also called on Singaporeans to continue to back him and his team, and urged them to help determine the next generation of ministers who will lead Singapore into its next 50 years.

Speaking at his 12th National Day Rally, PM Lee harked back to the promises made at previous National Day Rallies and cited examples to show that the Government made good on them.

Singapore has built more beautiful, affordable homes, strengthened social safety nets, created more pathways for children to achieve success, and transformed the city and Marina Bay, he said.

He listed examples such as the development of Punggol in the Punggol 21 project, the introduction of schemes such as universal health insurance MediShield Life and Workfare Income Supplement, the building of more universities and specialised schools, and the upcoming upgrade of Changi Airport.

"In the last 10 years, we have written another chapter of the Singapore story," he added.

"We put brick on brick, we climbed step by step, we kept Singapore special, delivered results for Singaporeans."

PM Lee said this was achieved by building on what the country inherited from its earlier leaders.

He noted how Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March, worked with his team of pioneer generation leaders to plan beyond their terms and even beyond their lifetimes.

They nurtured the next generation of leaders and Singaporeans, and also taught their successors to do the same, said PM Lee.

He said his team had likewise been planning for leadership succession over the past 10 years, adding: "My team and I take very seriously our responsibility to make sure that Singapore lasts beyond us."

While the current governing team has served Singaporeans "to the best of our ability", and Singaporeans have got to know the team well, PM Lee said its core members are already in their late 50s and 60s and will not be around forever.

This is why the next team must be "ready in the wings", he added.

He said the nucleus of Singapore's future Cabinet has already been drafted over previous elections.

The ministers making up this group have taken charge of important programmes such as the year-long Our Singapore Conversation consultation exercise and the SG50 celebrations, and have also served in different ministries, including difficult ones, he said.

He also said they have connected with Singaporeans of all ages, and have participated in major decisions that the Government has made.

But he urged Singaporeans to continue to support him and his team.

Last night he said that he would call an election "soon", to help complete the next-generation leadership team.

"We need to reinforce them, to round out the team, to give Singapore the best possible chance of succeeding into the future. And that's what I need to do in the next election," he said.

The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government has delivered on its promises in the last 10 years, including:


• Transforming Punggol 21 into the model town for 21st-century living with a man-made waterway and new housing estates.


• Introducing Workfare income supplement for low-income workers, Silver Support for the elderly poor, and ComCare for needy Singaporeans.

• Building new hospitals such as the Ng Teng Fong Hospital that opened in June.

• Making healthcare more accessible through the Community Health Assist Scheme that subsidises visits to the doctor, and the upcoming MediShield Life universal health insurance.


• Opening Northlight and Assumption Pathway specialised schools that take in those who failed the Primary School Leaving Examination.

• Starting the School of The Arts, Singapore Sports School and School of Science and Technology to cater to varied talents.

• Building new universities such as the Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore Institute of Technology, and UniSIM.


• Building park connectors and waterways in the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programmes by the Public Utilities Board.

• Upgrading Changi Airport with a mixed-use Jewel complex as well as Terminals 4 and 5.

• Transforming Marina Bay with developments such as Gardens by the Bay.

Mourning for Mr Lee 'defined Singapore spirit'
By Rachel Chang Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

The Singapore spirit shone the brightest when founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew died in March, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Speaking at the Golden Jubilee Rally, PM Lee recounted how the historic week of shared mourning and celebration of Mr Lee's life, after his death at age 91, "brought out so much in us".

As the screen behind him flashed scenes of half a million people queueing for up to 10 hours to file past Mr Lee's casket, PM Lee noted how patient and generous Singaporeans were during the long wait.

"People queued patiently and let children and seniors through. Businesses provided free chairs and refreshments to those queueing up. Volunteers helped out, distributing umbrellas, food, drinks."

"For all of us, this was a historic moment, shared as one Singapore family," he said. "We were mourning Mr Lee's passing, but also affirming what he stood for, and celebrating what he had achieved."

The week of mourning was a prime example of how the Singapore spirit, after 50 years, is no longer undefined and amorphous, but shines with a sense of faith, purpose and togetherness, said PM Lee. And nowhere was this clearer than on the day of Mr Lee's funeral.

"That day, something changed in us," said PM Lee, recalling the thousands of people lining the streets in the pouring rain to witness his cortege pass and how "teardrops and raindrops fell together".

"Our shared moment of sorrow bonded us," PM Lee said. "Now we don't have to struggle to find words to define the Singapore spirit or what being a Singaporean means. Now we know that we are Singaporean."

In the most sentimental moments of the Rally, he described how the Singapore spirit has ignited during times of celebration and sorrow, success and crisis.

It shone as local athletes made Singapore proud at this year's SEA Games, like when sprinter Shanti Pereira won Singapore's first 200m sprint gold in 42 years, or when marathon runner Ashley Liew slowed down to help his competitors find the correct route.

It shone when people came forward to distribute masks to the needy during severe haze in 2013; when people rushed forward to jointly lift a truck pinning a man down; when Singaporeans living in Bangkok contacted the embassy to offer help after a bomb went off last week.

Later in the speech, as PM Lee brought his Rally to a close, he returned again to Mr Lee.

At the National Day Parade (NDP) earlier this month, Mr Lee's chair stood empty, with a sprig of the orchid named for him placed on the seat.

At the parade and especially during the video segment that paid tribute to Mr Lee, "we could sense Mr Lee's spirit with us, and in us", said PM Lee, adding that Mr Lee would have been proud of what he had built, if he had seen the NDP.

"Now he is no longer here with us, we are on our own, but we are ready," said PM Lee.

"Our resolve to defend ourselves is unquestioned. Our spirit and confidence is robust. Our unity and identity as a people has never been stronger."

Two moments from this year's parade were especially memorable for him, PM Lee said.

One was singer Kit Chan's performance of the classic Home, during which the entire crowd sang together so loudly that "we could hear ourselves".

The second moment came after one of the performances, a segment titled "Onwards" featuring primary school pupils.

PM Lee said that he went down to the Padang afterwards to meet the young performers, whose faces "shone with excitement and hope". "I thought to myself, these are the faces of tomorrow's Singapore," he said.

He expressed the hope that at Singapore's centennial - SG100 - they would be back at the Padang, aged about 60 years old.

He hoped they would remember SG50, and congratulate one another on how much they had done, and how far they had come.

And they would be looking at the young, radiant faces of their children and grandchildren - shining with excitement and hope - and singing Majulah Singapura.

Entering post-LKY era stronger and with confidence
By Lydia Lim Associate, Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

"We are on our own, but we are ready," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong near the end of his speech, in words that summed up what SG50 has been about - a year of bidding farewell to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew while, at the same time, taking stock and celebrating the Singapore that exists today.

Those nine words mirror the message the elder Mr Lee had to give a shaken populace during the "moment of anguish" on Aug 9, 1965 - that ready or not, Singapore was out of Malaysia and on its own.

Almost every Singaporean has seen the video clip that shows him breaking down as he mourns the failure of the merger he had worked for all his adult life until that point.

But at that same press conference, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had gone on to assure Singaporeans of all races, in words the Prime Minister reiterated last night in his speech in Malay: "We are going to be a multiracial nation in Singapore. We will set an example. This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion."

That was the starting point for a newly independent Singapore 50 years ago. Indeed, that determination to be a multiracial society is one of three factors that have made possible today's Singapore, PM Lee told his audience at ITE College Central

last night. The other two are a culture of self-reliance and mutual support, and a political system in which the Government keeps faith with the people.

Singapore has put words into action, acting decisively to enshrine multiracialism through language, education and housing policies, and through electoral measures such as group representation constituencies to ensure minorities will always be represented in Parliament.

It has created an ethos where if a person works hard, he should do well and if he does, he is expected to help others.

Its Government has a track record of being honest and doing right by the people. In return, Singaporeans "expect the Government to perform, trust the Government to have their interests at heart, support the Government and its decisions, and even in tough times, therefore, we can act decisively together".

In his assessment, Singapore - unlike many other countries - has succeeded in getting it right in all three areas.

That is a contentious claim, to be sure, and, in this current political climate, is sure to draw criticism from some quarters.

But as befits the leader of the political party that has governed Singapore continuously since 1959, PM Lee believes that success in the next 50 years will be as much about continuity as about change. It will rest on applying old principles in new contexts to meet fresh challenges.

Issues involving race and religion, for example, are in some ways more complex and difficult to handle today than 20 years ago because people in many societies, including Singapore, are taking religion more seriously.

More are also exposed and vulnerable to extremist ideologies, he said.

Of course, these three founding principles are inextricably tied to the choices made by the Old Guard ministers and the pioneer generation of Singaporeans who worked with them to build the nation in its early years.

Of the three ministers of that generation who are alive today, only one - Mr Othman Wok - was able to attend last night's Rally, the first since the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March. It was Mr Lee who had delivered the very first National Day Rally speech in August 1966 and made the address an annual event.

So much of Singapore's first half-century has been marked by questions about whether this nation, which the elder Mr Lee led and shaped with such passion and precision, would survive him. Foreign and local critics alike once revelled in predicting doom after he departed the scene or, at the very least, a radical overhaul of its political system.

Last night, PM Lee staked his stand against such doubters and shakers of the status quo.

"Those people who feel daunted and think Singapore's best days are behind us - they are wrong!" he said. On the contrary, Singapore enters the post-Lee Kuan Yew era with confidence and stronger than ever before.

"He is no longer here with us, we are on our own, but we are ready," he said. "Our resolve to defend ourselves is unquestioned. Our spirit and confidence is robust. Our unity and identity as a people has never been stronger".

At the end of his speech, PM Lee recalled what to him were the two highlights of the Golden Jubilee National Day Parade held at the Padang.

The first was when the whole crowd joined Kit Chan in singing the hit national song Home.

The second was when he met the children involved in one of the performances and saw their faces shining with excitement and hope. They are the ones who will be around for SG100 when Singapore marks 100 years of independence, and PM Lee said he hoped "they will be back at the Padang celebrating again, remembering SG50, congratulating each other on how much they have done and how far they have come."

To the Singaporeans alive then, Mr Lee Kuan Yew may be but a distant memory. But if an independent Singapore still exists, one that is multiracial, self-reliant and well governed, they will know him by his legacy.

Not just an SG50 Rally, an election rallying call too
By Chua Mui Hoong Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

This was billed as an SG50 National Day Rally, an evening of celebration by a nation and the Government that has led it, in a steadfast relationship for 50 years.

It was a rally in the sense of rally as a verb: to get people to come together.

But it was hard not to think of it also as a rally in the sense of a noun: a political event where people get together to support or oppose something. Like, you know, an election rally.

This Rally speech will thus be viewed as both a speech to unify, and one that prepares the ground for an election.

To be sure, there were many unifying moments in this Rally speech. Kit Chan singing the much-loved National Day classic song, Home. The recollection of milestones in the year: founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death, aged 91, on March 23 and the week of National Mourning; the Sabah quake that killed seven Singapore students, two teachers and a guide; SEA Games triumphs.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Malay speech lauded the achievements of two Malay pilots, one a helicopter pilot and the other a fighter jet pilot. The television camera trained on one of them in the audience, beaming with pride. In one short anecdote, he put paid to an old grouse about Malays in sensitive combat positions in the armed forces.

In his English speech, I was moved when PM Lee spoke about dinner with a rabbi, a Muslim leader and a Sikh leader. Each was served a meal according to the dietary restrictions of his faith - but they sat at the same table and shared fellowship.

I loved the photo of the Jubilee twins Charlotte and Colette. And that there were 129 babies born on Aug 9, Singapore's 50th National Day. (If that pace kept up through the year, that would be 47,085 babies born this year, up from the 33,000 born last year.)

It was a moving Rally and PM Lee's energetic delivery, with many photographs to go with his anecdotes, would have engaged the audience watching the live broadcast on television at home.

He framed the story of Singapore's "exhilarating journey" from Third World to First well.

What does SG50 celebrate? First, the resolve to survive. Second, turning vulnerability into strength. Third, staying united as a country, bringing different cultures together, building self-reliance and mutual support, and keeping faith between people and government.

Mr Lee spent more time than usual on the external environment, reminding Singaporeans that the country remains a small city-state in a volatile region in South-east Asia, with neighbours who don't always play nice.

This might have been because it's election season, of course. The People's Action Party knows what its core strengths and appeal lie in: the hard issues of defence, foreign relations, and maintaining law and order. Not even ardent opposition supporters necessarily want these handed over to untested hands.

He also praised two ministers for their work in international diplomacy: Mr Lim Swee Say for his work with the International Labour Organisation and Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan for his influence in a recent United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Subtext: Singapore needs quality ministers who can defend Singapore's interests and keep the flag flying high overseas. Only the PAP has such talent, and they deserve your support.

Perhaps mindful of the need to shore up support from its traditional base of older voters, to balance the influx of young voters, Mr Lee thanked the pioneer generation several times for their efforts in building a nation.

He also tried to soothe an old hurt - those who had lost their homes or land when the Government used the Land Acquisition Act to buy over land at below-market rates after Independence.

He acknowledged their financial and other loss, explained the moves were necessary so Singapore could house its population and thanked them for their sacrifice for the common good.

Subtext: We appreciate you, seniors, all of you. You sacrificed for the nation and we are grateful.

PM Lee also recounted promises he had made and fulfilled and ticked them off one by one, in the areas of housing; increased social support; education; and a transformed cityscape including Marina Bay. He told Singaporeans:

"We did this together! We had a vision, we believed in it, and together, we realised our dreams. In the last 10 years we built on what we inherited. We put brick on brick, we climbed step by step, we kept Singapore special, delivered results for Singaporeans."

He then switched to election rallying mode, and appealed to the nation to give him the mandate to bring in a new team of leaders.

Singapore was at a turning point and the coming election is critical, he said. "You will be deciding who's governing Singapore for the next five years; but much more than that, you will be choosing the team who will be working with you for the next 15-20 years. You will be setting the direction for Singapore for the next 50 years.

"If you are proud of what we have achieved together, if you support... the future that we are building, then please support me, please support my team, because my team and I cannot do anything just by ourselves.

"We have to do it with you in order to do it for you... so that we can keep Singapore special for many years to come, another 50 years."

The Rally will disappoint those hoping for election-season handouts. An extra week of paternity leave, a more generous Baby Bonus and housing grants, and a rise in income cap for subsidised housing, will be welcomed by many. But there was no mass handout like the Progress Package of yore, when the Government gave up to $800 per citizen close to election time.

Having prepared for this election since the last one ended, the Government has little need for last-minute handouts or sudden overhaul of policies.

Just an appeal to the good sense of voters: Judge us by what we have done and are doing and want to do. And vote in a team that can lead the nation into the next decades.

If that sounded like a speech on the eve of an election, perhaps it was. In 1991, Mr Goh Chok Tong delivered his first Rally speech as PM on Aug 11. Parliament was dissolved on Aug 14, and polls set for Aug 31.

This time round again, it might be a mere matter of days before the writ of election is issued, and the General Election (GE) is called. If so, then the SG50 Rally will become the first GE2015 rally.

Kit Chan sings Home in tribute to Mr Lee
By Goh Yan Han, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Kit Chan paid tribute to the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the National Day Rally last night, as she became the first local singer to perform at the annual address.

Chan, 42, sang Home - the song she has become synonymous with - just before the start of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's English speech.

In brief remarks before her performance, she said she was happy to have been involved in the nation's Golden Jubilee celebrations, and added she was thankful for the opportunity to do something she had not been able to do in the earlier part of the year.

Referring to the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March, she said it "left all of us (Singaporeans) quite shocked and bereaved".

"As a singer, I felt compelled to pay a tribute to the late Mr Lee, through something I do best, which is through a song."

She said: "I hope that we can all continue to sing this song for many years to come and that it will always serve to remind us that no matter what our differences, we'll always be united by the fact that we call Singapore our home."

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