Wednesday, 26 October 2016

PM Lee Hsien Loong seeks to rally youth amid slowing economy

Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) Ministerial Forum: Dialogue with SITizens 2016

Singapore is pursuing right strategies and creating opportunities for its people, says PM Lee
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2016

The world economy is struggling but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is confident that Singapore will do well in the long term.

He said the country has every reason to be optimistic: It is highly connected and has a reputation as an outstanding place to do business.

Also, it is creating many new jobs and continues to invest in its people through education.

"If any city in the world is in a position to do well in the new world economy, Singapore should be that place," he said yesterday.

"We are feeling the pains of restructuring, but not yet seeing the dividends of our hard work. But we are pursuing all the right strategies, and I am confident that, given time, they will work," he added.

But how well the nation does, and the society it will be in the next 30 years, depends on the next generation, Mr Lee said in a speech to 500 students and staff at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), whom he sought to assure of the country's prospects, adding that the future was theirs to shape and determine.

"As young Singaporeans, the world is your oyster. You have many opportunities, many more than your parents had," he said.

"But you have to seize them, make the most of them, and create further opportunities for yourself."

Singapore's future will also depend on whether today's young are resilient in the face of uncertainty and change, and whether their generation works together as one united people, Mr Lee added.

The Government, he said, is opening up avenues for students to earn good certificates, acquire know-how to find good jobs and achieve their aspirations.

Singapore, he added, was spared the problem of youth unemployment, which is a serious issue for some societies with many graduates. And it is creating opportunities by connecting to the world, he said.

Singaporeans, too, need to adapt to new conditions. "We're not candy floss... or the strawberry generation. These are durians, very tough," he quipped to laughter.

They also need to take downturns in their stride and soldier on, he said. For instance, taxi drivers worry about competition from Uber and Grab, but driverless cars are already on the way.

Nobody can predict what more changes lie ahead, but Mr Lee said "the scaffolding is in place to support you" in the form of SkillsFuture schemes. He urged Singaporeans to tap them to prepare to switch jobs or industries as the economy shifts - "to learn, unlearn and relearn things all your life".

He also said Singapore's success will continue to hinge on how united its people are. He urged the audience not to take unity for granted.

Unions, companies and the Government also work together and adopt "give-and-take" on various issues, he said, adding: "Unity is more than a warm feeling - it is the bedrock of our society."

Mr Lee said that amid today's economic gloom, Singaporeans need to stay hopeful about the future.

"If you press on through the storms and rain, the skies will eventually clear, and then, if you have worked hard to get to the right place, you will find your rainbow.

"So be confident, aim high and do well. And a generation from now, you will have built Singapore into something much better, something beyond what our imagination can dream of today," he added.

Mr Lee also fielded questions on SIT, the rise of extremist politicians in the West, and Singapore's future.

SIT has a role to play in future economy: PM Lee
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2016

Applied universities like the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) have a role to play in the future economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

And although some employers may value an SIT degree less than one from more established universities here, he is confident its graduates can hold their own against other local graduates.

"We have a happy problem. We have universities that have good reputations, so when we build a new university, it is hard for it to beat the reputation of existing universities straight away," he said.

"But if you work hard, you can establish yourself, and soon you will find yourself in demand," he added at a dialogue at SIT.

Mr Lee was replying to an engineering student who said some of her peers were thinking of transferring to the National University of Singapore (NUS) or Nanyang Technological University (NTU), as they felt employers valued those degrees more. He cited how Singapore Management University had the same problems when it started, but its students have since done "very well".

SIT was established in 2009 and is Singapore's fifth and newest autonomous university.

A faculty member asked Mr Lee why SIT was not getting as much research funding as NTU or NUS.

Mr Lee said SIT's role was to prepare students for jobs of today as well as tomorrow, and there was a role for universities like SIT to have such specialised functions within the education system.

He added that its close links with industry, through programmes like the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) where students spend a year on internship - will help SIT judge what skills employers want from their students.

In his speech before the dialogue, Mr Lee noted how SIT was also giving students "different pathways" to develop themselves.

He cited occupational therapist Adelene Teck, 43, who was back in school to upgrade her skills after working for 20 years.

He also cited engineering student Tengku Muhammad Khalaf who is on the IWSP with transport operator SMRT, and helping the company study train faults. Said the 27-year-old: "I am hoping to do well, leave a lasting impression and hopefully get a job with SMRT."

Mr Lee added that SIT's training will help graduates find good jobs in such fields as cyber security, engineering and health sciences.

Its students are also getting opportunities abroad, he said, citing a Sunday Times report that featured four SIT graduates on a one-year attachment at software security company Kaspersky Lab's global HQ in Moscow, Russia. "It's an example of how we are creating opportunities, exposing you to the world, developing your resilience," he said.

And the Government is continuing to invest in SIT, whose new campus in Punggol will be "integrated" with the surrounding industrial space and public park, which will "enhance the applied learning curriculum of the university".

"SIT Punggol will strengthen your identity, give you a mothership, to learn new skills, or to contribute and give back," he added.

Singapore watching events in Europe, US with concern: PM Lee
We have to ask how we can prevent ourselves from going in that direction, says PM Lee
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2016

Singapore is watching with concern the political developments in the West, such as the rise of extreme politicians in Europe and Mr Donald Trump in the United States.

Said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night at a dialogue with Singapore Institute of Technology students: "We have to ask how we can prevent ourselves from going in that direction."

He added: "For 50 years, we've been very lucky we haven't gone in that direction. We are still united, still proud of the country, still moving forward.

"But another 50 years, can you be sure that somewhere along the way on that road the driver will not fall asleep and go off the road into trouble?"

Mr Lee was responding to a student who had asked for his thoughts on the developments, and their implications on Singapore as it moves to SG100.

Noting the emergence of such politicians as Mr Nigel Farage in Britain or groups like far-left Podemos in Spain, he said: "These are not actually groups with solutions. These are groups which are really protesting (and) saying: 'I'm letting you know I'm unhappy, please do something about it'. "

Mr Lee, in his first comments on the Republican presidential candidate, added: "Trump reflects the same sort of view in America.

"His focus is not to provide an analytical solution to a complicated problem. His focus is to make a simple message that will resonate with the ground, which is already very angry, and work them up so they vote for him and, hopefully, he becomes president."

The strategy could be risky. "If everybody takes that approach in a democracy, the president who is elected may or may not have a solution to the problems, and may or may not have the mandate to do the things that are necessary to do."

Mr Lee said extreme parties are partly a response to problems that have not gone away, which some quarters thought would happen with the end of the Cold War. As a result, some citizens "lose confidence in their traditional political leaders and parties, and vote for the extreme left, extreme right".

One way Singapore can prevent this is by having an elected president with custodial powers, so that "even if the Government turns out to be unwise, the president is there and can prevent some bad things from happening", he said.

Mr Lee was asked a range of questions, including whether women should do national service and ways to deal with the paper chase.

One student asked if Singapore would one day accept the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community.

Mr Lee said attitudes are more accepting, and the gay community is more open now than 30 years ago. But, he added, it is best to let the issue evolve gradually.

Noting the "strong pushback" from religious and conservative groups in countries with gay rights, he said: "If a society changes too fast, there is bound to be a reaction and resistance, and a sharpening of the conflict, which will make things worse.

"We are not in a bad spot, let us not push the issue and try to force rights or entitlements which I think the society is not ready for."

No comments:

Post a Comment