Monday, 19 August 2019

National Day Rally 2019

PM Lee Hsien Loong unveils plans to secure Singapore's future
The Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

* More support for pre-school, tertiary fees

* Moves to raise retirement age, CPF rates

* Steps to defend against climate change



 




PRE-SCHOOL, TERTIARY EDUCATION TO BE MORE AFFORDABLE

Eight in 10 pre-school places will be government-supported in five to six years' time, bringing it to the same ratio as public housing.

The monthly income ceiling to qualify for additional subsidies for pre-school education will be raised from $7,500 to $12,000 next year. The quantum of subsidies will also be increased.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that these are part of the Government's plan to make quality early-years education more affordable and accessible.

He said that in the future, 80 per cent of pre-school places will be government-supported, up from the 50 per cent currently.

With 30,000 more households qualifying for additional subsidies, pre-school expenses should come down to the costs of primary school education.



Touching on tertiary education fees, PM Lee said the Singapore Institute of Technology and the Singapore University of Social Sciences will lower their yearly tuition fees next year - from $8,000 to $7,500 for general degree courses.

Government bursaries for university, polytechnic, Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Lasalle College of the Arts students will also be enhanced.

"Anyone who works hard will have a chance to succeed, regardless of starting point or family background," PM Lee said.







RETIREMENT AGE AND CPF RATES FOR OLDER WORKERS TO GO UP

As Singaporeans are living longer and many want to work longer, the retirement age will be raised gradually from 62 to 65, and the re-employment age will go up from 67 to 70.

The process will start in 2022, and be completed by 2030, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates will also go up for workers aged 55 to 70, so that the full rate of 37 per cent is extended to those aged up to 60 before it tapers off.

This process will start in 2021 and take place gradually over 10 years or so, depending on economic conditions, said PM Lee at the National Day Rally.

He added that these recommendations had been made by a tripartite workgroup, and the Government accepted them, in full.

The Government will take the lead as a major employer to raise retirement and re-employment ages in the public service in 2021, a year ahead of schedule, he said.



Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce a support package to help businesses adjust to these new arrangements in next year's Budget, PM Lee added.

He also stressed that there are no changes to CPF withdrawal policies or withdrawal ages - CPF members can still withdraw some money at age 55 and start their monthly payouts from age 65.


LONG-TERM BATTLE TO SAFEGUARD SINGAPORE FROM RISING SEA LEVELS

It may cost $100 billion or more over the long term to protect low-lying Singapore against rising sea levels, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

There are good engineering solutions to the problem which could include reclaiming offshore islands and connecting them with barrages. But they come at a cost.

"How much will it cost to protect ourselves against rising sea levels? My guess is probably $100 billion over 100 years, quite possibly more.



"If we only have 10 years to solve the problem, we won't have the time or resources to do it," PM Lee said in his National Day Rally speech. "But because this is a 50-to 100-year problem, we can implement a 50-to 100-year solution.

Climate change defences should be treated like the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) - with utmost seriousness, he added.

"Both the SAF and climate change defences are existential for Singapore. These are life and death matters. Everything else must bend at the knee to safeguard the existence of our island nation."


















NDR 2019: Families to get more help with pre-school costs
Income ceiling will be raised for extra subsidies, while quantum of subsidies will also increase
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Pre-school education costs will come down for more families, as the Government raises the monthly income ceiling for additional subsidies from $7,500 to $12,000 and increases the quantum of the subsidies.

This means 30,000 more households will qualify for the subsidies starting next year, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

In the medium term, full-day pre-school expenses should be brought down to around $300 a month - the same as the cost of primary school plus after-school pupil care, as part of the Government's plan to make quality early-years education more affordable.



He referred to a survey done by People's Action Party women MPs which showed that parents were concerned about the affordability of pre-school education, and agreed with their call for a "government-funded option" in the sector.

"For housing, we have HDB. For healthcare, we have restructured hospitals. Similarly, for pre-school, we should have good-quality, government-supported choices available to all Singaporeans," said PM Lee.

In the future, 80 per cent of pre-school places will be government-supported. Today, just over 50 per cent of all places are government-supported, including those offered by Ministry of Education kindergartens, as well as privately run centres which come under the Anchor Operator and Partner Operator schemes and receive government funding to keep their fees low.

PM Lee said the Government invests heavily in education and the starting point used to be Primary 1. But research shows pre-school education can make a big difference to a child's development. That is why the Government made the shift several years ago to raise the quality of pre-school education and make it more accessible and affordable.



Although the Government gives significant subsidies for childcare, with lower-income parents receiving substantially more, for middle-income parents, pre-school fees can take up a large chunk of their household budget, said PM Lee.

He cited the example of Mr and Mrs Low Soon Hon, who have two children, aged five and two. With the higher income ceiling for means-tested subsidies, as well as the increase in the quantum of pre-school subsidies, the Lows will pay $370 per child every month, as opposed to $560 for each child a month.

PM Lee said the Government spends $1 billion a year on early childhood education and this will more than double over the next few years.

He said that the younger ministers have come up with more ideas to support couples in having more children and announcements will be made later. "Meanwhile, I will be counting the number of babies born, and hoping for the number to go up," he said to much laughter.



Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling, who led the survey by women MPs, said she felt relieved for her younger residents, who would benefit from the subsidies.

She also hopes government-backed pre-schools will be in locations easily accessible to young families, near their workplaces or homes.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira noted that the decision to have children depends on more than the cost of pre-schools. "There are other factors at play, like when people get married and their ability to care for children," she said.










NDR 2019: KidStart to benefit 5,000 more disadvantaged kids in next three years
By Goh Yan HanThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

A government pilot programme to help disadvantaged children up to age six will be expanded to benefit another 5,000 in the next three years, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

KidStart, led by the Early Childhood Development Agency, was rolled out in the second half of 2016, targeting children from low-income families in Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai.

The programme provides advice and support to families on such aspects as nutrition, child development and parent-child interaction, to enable their children to have a good start in life.

Research has shown that a child's early years can significantly influence his or her development. About 1,000 children have benefited so far from the $20 million trial.

"We are very happy with the results, and so are the parents," said PM Lee at the National Day Rally. "We still need to follow up a few more years, to assess more exactly its benefits."

After the expansion, "we will take stock again on how to expand KidStart further", he added.

The scheme, announced in 2016, is part of government efforts since 2012 to raise the quality, accessibility and affordability of pre-schools.

Two families who have benefited from KidStart were mentioned in a video shown at the Rally.



Mr Mustakem Mohamed, 46, has two daughters aged five and seven. They have learning needs such as slower speech development. The single parent said he used to struggle with disciplining his children.

"KidStart taught me to be more patient, keep eye contact with them and discipline them by telling them what is right and what is wrong," he added.

For Madam Jenny Ooi, 38, her sons Javier, six, and Kevier, three, could not adjust well in pre-school, often crying and refusing to take part in class activities.

Madam Ooi said KidStart has helped to increase her children's confidence and they are now settling in well in pre-school and attend school regularly.











NDR 2019: Singapore Malays have shaped a unique identity: PM Lee
By Adrian Lim, Political CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Singapore Malays have developed their own unique identity, and one of the defining characteristics is in the way Islam is practised in Singapore's multiracial context.

And Malay/Muslims here are well regarded as a model for other Muslim and minority communities, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

He noted that in this bicentennial year, many community groups have organised activities to look back at Singapore's rich history going back several centuries.



Malays came to Singapore in large numbers after Stamford Raffles arrived, including the Orang Laut, Malays from Johor and Riau, Minang, Bugis, Javanese and Baweanese, and were joined by Arabs from Yemen and some people from India, he noted.

Over time, they became a part of the larger Malay community and of Singapore.

"Your cultural and historical ties with our neighbouring countries enabled Singaporeans to understand and get along with the peoples of these countries.

"At the same time, your influence on Singapore society helped shape our national identity as a multiracial country in South-east Asia," PM Lee said in his Malay speech at the National Day Rally.

In the process, Singapore Malays have become distinct from other Malays in the region and from Muslims elsewhere in the world, and prospered, he noted.

PM Lee also spoke at length on two characteristics that define the Singapore Malay identity: competency, which has seen the community progress through education; and character, shaped through the way Islam is practised here in a spirit of mutual respect, tolerance and inclusiveness.

He cited how Ustaz Zahid Zin exemplifies this, saying religious teachers like him are central to nurturing a progressive Muslim community. Ustaz Zahid recently paid his respects at the wake of a distant relative who was Buddhist, and posted on Facebook how all cultures and beliefs must be respected, and how his attendance at the Buddhist funeral was a teachable moment for his children.

PM Lee said: "It was a teachable moment for all of us, whatever our religion or our age." He noted that Mr Zahid also gets non-Muslims to share their views with young Muslims in his classes.



Senior Minister of State Maliki Osman is leading a committee on enhancing the professionalism of asatizah (religious teachers), and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore is launching a course for those educated abroad to apply what they learn to the local context.

Said PM Lee: "We also hope to explore new approaches and pedagogies in the teaching and learning of Islam. This will help us develop a model of our own Islamic college, which will one day train a new generation of asatizah in Singapore."












NDR 2019: SIT, SUSS to lower fees; MOE to enhance bursaries
More help for needy tertiary students so they can pursue education without money worries
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Singapore's two newest universities, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), will lower their annual tuition fees.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the fees will go down next year from $8,000 to $7,500 for full-time general degree students.

The Ministry of Education will also significantly enhance government bursaries for university, polytechnic, Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) and Lasalle College of the Arts students.


Students from less privileged backgrounds must not be deterred from pursuing a course just because of money, PM Lee said. "This is fundamental to maintaining Singapore as an open meritocracy," he said.

He said the MOE looked at whether the universities can operate more economically and concluded that SIT and SUSS, which emphasise applied learning through industry attachment and internships, can lower their operating costs.

This is especially as they achieve economies of scale as their intakes grow. SIT has grown from 500 students in 2010 to 7,000 currently.


PM Lee also announced that government bursaries for students taking up general degrees at the six universities will increase from up to 50 per cent of fees to up to 75 per cent.

After the bursary enhancement, a student taking up computer science or economics, for example, will pay $2,000 a year instead of $4,000. Full fees are about $8,000 a year.




Bursaries for polytechnic students will go from up to 80 per cent of fees to up to 95 per cent. This means that bursary students will pay only $150 a year. Currently they pay $600 a year. Full fees are around $3,000.

The enhanced bursaries will also apply to diploma and degree students at Nafa, Lasalle and ITE.


PM Lee said six in 10 polytechnic and university students are eligible for government bursaries, so many students from middle-income families will benefit too.




SIT president Tan Thiam Soon, who was in the audience at the National Day Rally, welcomed the increased bursaries.

Revealing that 50 per cent of SIT students receive bursaries, he said: "Education is the engine that powers social mobility... These financial assistance schemes will allow students from the lower-income groups, many of whom are the first in their families to go to university, to attain a degree, without worrying about the costs."


SUSS president Cheong Hee Kiat said the schemes will enable Singaporeans "to chart new pathways and build promising futures".











NDR 2019: Needy medical students in local varsities to pay less in school fees
By Fabian KohThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Aspiring doctors who need financial help for medical school here will soon pay less in school fees.

Government bursaries for medical courses in local universities will be enhanced to make them significantly more than those for other university courses, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally yesterday.

Medicine has the highest course fees among all university courses and the Government wants to encourage more students from lower-income families to study it, he said.




After government subsidies, medical school fees today are almost $29,000 per year at the National University of Singapore, and $35,000 at Nanyang Technological University.

Along with bursaries from the universities, the changes will see lower-income students paying at most $5,000 a year for medical school, which can be covered by student loans with much less difficulty, he said.


He noted: "We should not let the cost of medical school deter good students from studying medicine and becoming doctors. In fact, we want doctors to come from different segments of society, and have diverse educational and family backgrounds."






NDR 2019: Bursary helps to ease law student's financial worries
By Goh Yan HanThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

A few years before she entered university, Ms Quek Lu Yi was worried about how her parents would cope with the fees as they were struggling with their housing loan.

Her older brother was already an undergraduate while her younger brother also wanted to get a degree.

In 2017, she got into the National University of Singapore's law school and received an NUS Merit Scholarship. But the award did not end her financial worries. While it helped to cover part of her fees, money was still needed for law books, a laptop and school trips.


In her second year, she applied for financial aid and received the Kwa Geok Choo Bursary, the 20-year-old, now in her third year, told The Straits Times.

She subsequently sent a thank-you letter, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned in his National Day Rally speech yesterday when he announced bigger government bursaries for university students here.

The bursary she received was named in honour of Mr Lee's late mother, who was a lawyer.

It came as a relief to Ms Quek, as it covers the remaining portion of her fees. "It is a load off my mind, and my parents'," she said.





NDR 2019: More paths for ITE students to upgrade themselves
By Adrian Lim, Political CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

After failing his Primary School Leaving Examination, Mr Mohammad Abdillah Mohamad Sam went to Northlight School.

There, he told his teacher that his ambition was to be a designer, but deep in his heart, he had doubts that he would realise his dream.

Today, the 25-year-old is a motion graphics artist, whose journey was cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday as typifying the large proportion of Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates who go on to upgrade themselves.

Mr Abdillah's teachers at Northlight played a pivotal role in his progress. With their encouragement, he excelled and went on to the ITE to study animation, and later to Nanyang Polytechnic, where he graduated in 2016 with a diploma in motion graphics, recounted PM Lee in his Malay speech at the National Day Rally.

The audience at the rally was shown a visual montage of his work. "Very impressive!" PM Lee declared, as he expressed his confidence that Mr Abdillah would be successful in his profession.

To help more ITE students do better, the Education Ministry will introduce more pathways for them to upgrade themselves, the Prime Minister said, adding that details will be announced soon.



Currently, seven in 10 Nitec graduates improve their skills during their careers. "This is a good statistic, but it would be even better if we can make it 10 out of 10," he added.

It is important they upgrade, because demand for better skills and knowledge is ever rising, he noted.

PM Lee also said the Government would ensure the fees for polytechnics and universities are as affordable as possible, even for the poorest families.

In a speech underlining how the Malay community's emphasis on education has propelled its progress, he said each successive generation of Malays has been better educated, held better jobs and led more fulfilling lives.



PM Lee gave several examples of the community's progress, including the 10-fold increase in 10 years of the number of Anugerah Mendaki (Mendaki Awards) recipients who graduated with first-class honours, from seven in 2007 to 70 last year.

He noted that more Malay parents are sending their children to pre-school, and more are attending the KelasMateMatika@CC parent-child programme, which helps with learning mathematics and encourages family bonding.

It would be even better if more parents send their children to pre-school even earlier, from the ages of three or four, he said.

PM Lee said the quality of pre-schools has improved, and fees are now more affordable. "With government support, the cost of full-day nursery or kindergarten for a needy family can be as low as $3 (a month)," he said, adding that the Government will ensure that pre-school education is more affordable for the middle income as well.





NDR 2019: Not time for economic stimulus measures yet
But if situation worsens, Singapore will 'promptly respond with appropriate interventions' to help workers
By Seow Bei Yi, Business CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Singapore's economic growth may have slowed significantly this year, but the current situation does not warrant stimulus measures just yet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

If the situation gets much worse, however, the Republic will "promptly respond with appropriate interventions to sustain the livelihoods of our workers", he added.

While workers are worried, the slowdown has not caused a big hit on jobs so far, he said in his Chinese speech during the National Day Rally at the Institute of Technical Education in Ang Mo Kio. "We have experienced cyclical downturns like this in the past, and we are confident we can take this one in our stride," PM Lee said, stressing that the Government and union leaders are watching trends closely and are prepared to take action.



He outlined Singapore's economic situation, noting that growth has slowed mainly due to the weakening of global demand and international trade. This has affected the manufacturing sector and trade-related services.

A slump in electronics has impacted overall performance as well, especially in related areas such as precision engineering and wholesale trade. Retail continues to face pressure from online shopping.


But PM Lee said other sectors have not been affected for now, with retrenchments and unemployment rates remaining low.


This is why the current situation does not call for immediate stimulus measures.


Even so, he said Singapore has to start preparing for new realities ahead, given that the external environment is challenging.


Trade tensions between the United States and China are expected to adversely impact the world economy. This is already hurting confidence worldwide, with deeper and broader effects to come.


"Supply chains will be disrupted, investments and research and development will be restricted, people-to-people exchanges will be constrained," said PM Lee.


For example, smartphones today contain components designed and assembled in different countries. But if the US does not allow its firms to use components made in China, or to sell microchips to China, Chinese and US companies will have to make their own components, microchips, phones and telecommunications systems.


Such decoupling of the US and Chinese economies could affect Singaporeans, who may find themselves carrying multiple phones overseas to suit local telecommunications systems, PM Lee said.


If US-China relations continue to worsen, the world will be increasingly polarised, he added.


"Singapore's economic growth will be affected, and our future will be a more troubled one."


Some think that firms which decide not to manufacture in China may come to Singapore, but PM Lee said this is not the case. Firms will likely head to countries with a lower cost base or are nearer to major markets.




In spite of the external environment, PM Lee said Singapore has its strengths - such as an excellent reputation among investors.

"Faced with uncertain future economic prospects, we need to work all the harder to protect this trust that investors have in us," he added.






National Day Rally 2019: Singaporeans must bear in mind the national interest in foreign ties
By Linette LaiThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Singapore is a multicultural, independent and sovereign country with its own position on issues, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as he set out the implications that United States-China tensions have on the country's relations with both powers.

He stressed yesterday that Singaporeans must fully understand the country's national interests and the Government's considerations in adopting its foreign policy positions.

"We must always be principled in our approach, and not be swayed by emotions," PM Lee said in his Chinese speech at the National Day Rally. "When we can agree with either major power, we will do so. When we cannot, we must maintain and explain our stand."

Apart from China, Singapore is the only sovereign country with an ethnic Chinese-majority population, PM Lee noted. Being a Chinese-majority country can put Singapore in a difficult position on the international stage, he said, as its words and actions may be easily misunderstood. "If we support China, the US and other countries may think we do so because we are a majority-Chinese country and therefore accede to China."

But China may misunderstand if Singapore supports the US, he added. "On occasions when Singapore and China have held different views in the past, some of our friends from China have asked us: Since we share a common language, a common ancestry and a common heritage, why does Singapore not share a common view?"



PM Lee stressed that Singapore is good friends with both China and the US, and wants to remain so.

The US is a major security partner, he said, noting that Singapore buys advanced military equipment from the US, trains with its troops and cooperates with it on counter-terrorism. On the economic front, the value and scale of US companies' investments in Singapore outstrip those of any other country.

"We hope the US will continue to remain engaged in the Asia-Pacific, and continue to safeguard regional peace and stability," PM Lee said. "This ensures the security and prosperity of the whole region."



Meanwhile, Singapore's relations with China are unique, he said, adding that having a shared heritage and culture helps foster good ties between the two countries. PM Lee said Singapore and China have also established an "All-Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times". Both governments have cooperated on projects in Suzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing, and China is Singapore's largest export market. Singapore companies have sizeable investments there, as do Chinese companies here.

"But even as we engage and cooperate with each other, we should always remember that we are Singaporean. We have our own history and culture, and also our own perspectives and political stands on current affairs," he added.



PM Lee noted that competition will naturally exist between both powers. The US must recognise that stopping China's rise is neither possible nor wise, and seek constructive bilateral relations with it, including on economic matters, he said.

Meanwhile, as a global power itself, China has to put itself in other countries' shoes and take into account their interests and views. "Only then can China live in peace and harmony with them. Only then can it be viewed as a magnanimous country, a partner willing to work with others for mutual benefit," he said.

China and the US should also strengthen mutual trust and develop appropriate mechanisms to resolve unavoidable frictions that will arise between them.

Regrettably, both countries have yet to find the "magic pill" to manage their differences, he said. "Their tensions will not be resolved in the near term, and this will impact the whole world order."





NDR 2019: Chinese Singaporean identity was forged over 200 years
By Linette LaiThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

It has taken 200 years to forge the Chinese Singaporean identity, from the time immigrants flocked here from China to the present day, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

And it is crucial for Singaporeans to be aware of the history of this gradual transfer of their loyalties to Singapore, in order to understand how the national consciousness has evolved, he added.

In his Chinese speech at the National Day Rally, PM Lee cited turning points at which the Chinese community began to identify as Singaporeans.

These included China's declaration in the 1950s that overseas Chinese who had become citizens elsewhere would no longer be considered Chinese nationals, and most in Singapore did not go back but chose to put down roots here.



Another instance was after independence when the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry raised a significant sum for the National Defence Fund to build up Singapore's military.

"Being aware of Singapore's history over 200 years and more will help us understand how our national consciousness evolved. It will also help our people understand current affairs as well as Singapore's position on international issues," said the Prime Minister.

He described at length how the immigrant Chinese gradually began to see themselves as Singaporean.

About two centuries ago, they had streamed in from provinces such as Guangdong and Fujian, arriving shortly after Stamford Raffles set up Singapore as a free port.

"They had arrived in Nanyang as sojourners, intending to return to China one day," he added. "They were still people of China, and were passionate about their homeland."

When the Japanese invaded China in 1931, local community leaders led efforts to support the mainland Chinese.

In 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established, many young people in South-east Asia were inspired to join anti-colonial struggles.

"By that time, the identity of the overseas Chinese here had become ambiguous. They were here in Nanyang physically, but for some, their hearts were in China," PM Lee noted.



In the 1950s, China began to distinguish between two types of overseas Chinese - those who kept their Chinese nationality and those who had taken up their host country's citizenship.

Members of the Chinese community here had to choose between staying or returning to their motherland. "In the end, the majority chose to remain in Singapore. And together with the other races, they built a multicultural society in an independent, sovereign country," he said.

Since then, Chinese community groups have worked with the Government to develop Singapore's society and economy and build up national defence. "This showed the local Chinese community had by then begun to identify themselves as Singapore citizens, and had transferred their loyalties to Singapore," he added.

PM Lee noted the dedication of Singaporeans' forefathers to their motherland is part of their heritage, and efforts have been made to commemorate their deeds.

During World War II, Singaporeans of all races lost their lives and suffered under Japanese rule. "The tragic experience of the Japanese Occupation crystallised and inspired our collective national consciousness, and made us determined on self rule," he added.

Malay and Indian Singaporeans have similar stories to tell about the evolution of their identities here, he said. Indians were inspired by India's struggle for independence, and Malays by nationalist movements in neighbouring Indonesia and Malaya.

"But like the Chinese, the local Malays, Indians and Eurasians, too, progressively sank their roots here, and together, we developed a Singaporean identity.

"Today, new immigrants have to undergo this process of gradually identifying themselves as Singaporeans, and becoming Singapore citizens," PM Lee said.





















NDR 2019: Higher CPF contribution rates for older workers
These plus rise in employment age will make seniors more financially independent
By Joanna Seow, Assistant Business EditorThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Older workers will get more help to build up their retirement savings as their Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates will be raised over the next 10 years or so.

At the same time, the retirement age will be raised from 62 now, to 63 in 2022, and eventually to 65 by 2030. The re-employment age will also be raised from 67 now, to 68 in 2022 and eventually to 70 by 2030.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that these changes"will support older workers to continue working longer and to be more financially independent". CPF contribution rates now begin to taper down from 37 per cent after workers turn 55.

PM Lee said the rates for those aged 55 to 70 will be raised gradually from 2021 until those aged 60 and below enjoy the full CPF rates. The rates will begin to taper down after 60 and level off after 70. The whole process will take about 10 years or so, "but it will depend on economic conditions", he said at the National Day Rally.

The higher retirement age in 2022 will apply to those born on or after July 1, 1960, and the higher re-employment age will apply to those born on or after July 1, 1955.

Workers cannot be dismissed on the grounds of age before they reach the retirement age. Employers must also offer eligible staff work up to the re-employment age but with the flexibility to adjust contract terms.

These changes come as Singaporeans are healthy for longer and live longer, said PM Lee.

He stressed that there are no changes to CPF withdrawal policies or ages - CPF members can still withdraw some money at age 55 and start their monthly payouts from age 65.

"If you hear anybody tell you something different, please ignore him or her. And if it comes to you on WhatsApp from a friend, please delete it and tell your friend. Don't share it with more friends and confuse people, because that will be fake news."

He also said that businesses will get help to adjust to these new arrangements through a support package which Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce in next year's Budget.



The Government will take the lead as a major employer to raise retirement and re-employment ages in the Public Service in 2021, a year ahead of schedule, said PM Lee. "I encourage private sector companies which can do the same to also do so," he said.

He also said the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, which made the recommendations, told him over lunch last month that they had intense discussions.

They took in the views of older workers, who wanted to be certain of continued employment for longer, and employers, who were worried about business costs and the uncertain economic outlook, and wanted more flexibility. They eventually reached consensus.



Labour MP Heng Chee How, who is deputy secretary-general of the NTUC, welcomed the higher ages as they help workers have the choice to work longer, amid the country's labour constraints.

Singapore Business Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng said the group appreciates that the increases in retirement and re-employment ages and CPF rates are being made incrementally. "We hope the raising of the (ages) can also encourage companies to invest in skills upgrading and job redesign for their older workers."






















NDR 2019: Singaporeans need to keep reskilling as they live longer
By Rei KurohiThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

The number of Singaporeans who are over the age of 100 has more than doubled since 2007, from 500 to 1,300 today, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Singaporeans are now living longer on average and have the world's highest life expectancy at birth of 84.8 years.

This is one reason they have to keep reskilling themselves, PM Lee said at the National Day Rally at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio.

Most seniors do not want to stop working, he added.



"We are healthy for longer and living longer, but we don't want to live in retirement for longer. We want to stay active and engaged, to feel a sense of worth and purpose," he said.

"Also, many of us want to build up bigger nest eggs for when we eventually retire."

But enabling seniors to continue working productively takes a joint effort from both employers and employees, PM Lee said.

Employers have to redesign their training, jobs and careers around older workers.

Although older workers may not be as strong or quick as their younger colleagues, this is not a problem in many jobs that can be redesigned or where technology can be used, PM Lee said.

On their part, employees must have the right mindset and be ready to adapt, learn new things and take on different responsibilities, he said. "We cannot just be satisfied doing our old jobs well, because many jobs will change and some jobs will disappear."

PM Lee said reskilling must start early, when workers are in their 40s and 50s, if not earlier.

This way, they will have useful skills that will be valuable even as they near retirement age and can keep improving in their 60s, he said.















NDR 2019: Sea-level rise poses threat to Singapore
Climate change defences vital to existence of low-lying country
By Chang Ai-Lien, Science EditorThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

While Singapore hopes never to go to war, it cannot avoid taking on another threat to the country's existence: climate change.

Sea levels will rise, posing a grave threat to the low-lying island, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

The only question is when. He estimates it will cost $100 billion or more, over 100 years, to protect the country against rising sea levels.

Like the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), climate change defences are vital to Singapore's existence.

Singapore is already experiencing some of the effects of climate change, including more intense rainfall and prolonged dry spells.

By 2100, it could see a rise in daily mean temperatures by as much as 4.6 deg C, and more extreme and intense weather, which could threaten water, food and energy supply.

PM Lee noted that current projections are that sea levels will rise by up to 1m by the end of the century, but scientists' estimates have been going up.

Professor Benjamin Horton, chair of Nanyang Technological University's Asian School of the Environment, said that to mitigate flood risk from sea level rise, potential solutions must support the long-term resilience and sustainability of communities and the environment.

This, Prof Horton said, requires robust, accurate local projection of sea-level rise. "Singapore must invest in the science of sea-level rise. Science first, responsible, cost-effective adaptation follows."

Much of Singapore lies only 15m above the mean sea level, with about 30 per cent of the island less than 5m above this level.



The Centre for Climate Research Singapore has found that in the rare scenario of high mean sea levels, high tide and high surge occurring at the same time, sea levels could rise by almost 4m above the current mean and overwhelm the island's low-lying coastal areas.



PM Lee said the centre is working with its counterparts in neighbouring countries to study in greater detail how climate change is affecting the region.

"They are finding that Singapore, being near the equator, is more vulnerable to climate change than the global model suggests," he added.

Climate change plans must be kept flexible and implemented progressively, he said.

"But we must start now and sustain the effort, as the Dutch have done over the centuries, and as we have done with the SAF," he added.

"We must make this effort. Otherwise one day, our children and grandchildren will be ashamed of what our generation did not do."














NDR 2019: Major engineering works under consideration to tackle threat
By Audrey Tan, Environment CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Rising sea levels are an existential threat for Singapore, and the Republic is considering major engineering works to tackle this.

Strategies being looked at include carrying out empoldering, a land reclamation technique, along Singapore's eastern coast, as well as reclaiming a series of offshore islands there, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Emphasising that all options will be carefully considered, Mr Lee also highlighted why sea-level rise is an issue that Singapore has to prepare for in earnest.

He said: "We cannot lose a big chunk of our city and expect the rest of Singapore to carry on as usual."

Other than tackling the threat of rising sea levels, the strategies that Mr Lee highlighted could have other benefits for Singapore, such as boosting the nation's water security and increasing land availability.



Reclaiming a series of offshore islands from Marina East to Changi could, for example, help increase Singapore's water resilience, said Mr Lee. "(We could) connect them up with barrages and create a freshwater reservoir, similar to Marina Reservoir. National water agency PUB will like this solution, because it will enhance our water resilience," he said.

Polders built along Singapore's eastern coastline could also protect the Republic from sea-level rise in a way that would allow it to gain more land as well.

Polders refer to tracts of land that lie below sea level. They are constructed by first building a dyke around the area to be reclaimed and then draining water from it. Water levels in the polder are controlled by drains and pumps. "(This is) new land which we can use for housing and other purposes," Mr Lee said.


Similar to how adding ice cubes to a glass of water raises the water level, melting land ice could substantially contribute to sea-level rise as the world warms.

Singapore's Second National Climate Change Study has predicted that the mean sea level is estimated to rise by up to 1m by 2100.

But Mr Lee cautioned that scientists' estimates for this timeline have been going up. "Sea levels may quite possibly rise higher and faster than that," he said.

Already, PUB has planned for a second pump house at Marina Barrage, the dam enclosing the Marina Reservoir, he said. The existing pump house has seven pumps which help to pump water out of the reservoir and into the sea when it rains heavily during high tide. This protects the city from flooding, as the falling rain can then drain into the reservoir.

"When sea levels rise, the pump house will not be enough. We will need to build a second pump house on the opposite end of the Barrage," Mr Lee said. He added that while engineering solutions are available, they will come at an estimated price tag of $100 billion or more.









NDR 2019: Three-pronged approach to tackling climate change
By Cheryl TehThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Singapore can do three things to tackle climate change: understand the issue, take measures to mitigate it, and adapt to it, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

It is also a challenge for young Singaporeans, as the Republic needs more problem-solvers, innovators, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to deal with this global threat, said PM Lee in his National Day Rally speech where he touched on how Singapore might tackle climate change.

Finding solutions begins with understanding what climate change means specifically for Singapore, said PM Lee. Playing an important role in this process is the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS), where a team of scientists and meteorologists use super-computers to model the weather and do research.

The CCRS also cooperates with its counterparts in neighbouring countries to study in more detail the impact of climate change on the region, and it is finding that Singapore, being near the Equator, is more vulnerable to climate change than the global model suggests, said PM Lee.

Singapore must also do its part to mitigate climate change, specifically, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, PM Lee said.

"We have joined international efforts to reduce emissions. We are part of the Paris climate agreement, and have committed to slow down and ultimately cap our CO2 emissions by around 2030," he noted.

One of the ways that will help Singapore achieve this reduction in emissions is the carbon tax, which was introduced last year, on industrial facilities with emissions beyond a threshold level. The carbon tax will help Singapore fulfil its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

"Although Singapore may not be able to stop climate change by ourselves, we can contribute to solutions, and we must do our fair share. Then we can be credible asking others to reduce their emissions too, and work towards a global solution to climate change," said PM Lee.

"Unfortunately, such a global solution is still very far off, so we must work for the best, but be prepared for the worst."

The third thing Singapore must do is work towards adapting to climate change, particularly rising sea levels. For instance, critical infrastructure like Changi Airport Terminal 5 and Tuas Port will be built on higher platforms, at least 5m above sea level.










National Day Rally 2019: HDB flats among 9,000 homes planned for Keppel Club site
Mega waterfront development to include private and public housing, office space and recreation options
By Rachel Au-Yong, Housing CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

About 9,000 housing units - both public and private - will be built on the site of Keppel Club as part of the future Greater Southern Waterfront, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

There will be private and public housing elsewhere too, he added during his National Day Rally speech, confirming for the first time that the mega waterfront development will have HDB flats.

In sketching out what the Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW) will look like, PM Lee said the entire area will be double the size of Punggol town.

"Think of it as Punggol by the Bay," he quipped.

First announced in 2013, the GSW comprises 30km of coastline stretching from the Gardens by the Bay East area to Pasir Panjang.

It contains 2,000ha of land - six times the size of Marina Bay and twice the size of Punggol.



PM Lee noted that prime land will be freed up for redevelopment after PSA moves its city terminals in Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Pulau Brani to Tuas by 2027, as well as Pasir Panjang terminal by 2040. The moves will "be an opportunity to reshape the GSW into a new place to live, work and play", he said.

As for housing, Keppel Club will become one of the first developments in the zone, he said, showing an artist's impression of what the area would look like, though he added in jest that the homes would not pop up "quite so fast".

The private golf club, whose lease expires in two years and which sits on a 44ha plot, is between two MRT stations and near Labrador Nature Reserve.

The waterfront will be a commercial node, said PM Lee, noting that several big companies have offices near Labrador Park, for example, Google, Cisco and Unilever.

"We will develop more office space in the GSW... which will bring in more jobs," he said.

"People can work near where they live, and live near where they work. This will create life and activity during the day and at night."

PM Lee also highlighted the recreation options that will come into the area, starting with the redevelopment of two old power stations in Pasir Panjang.

The authorities launched a competition earlier this year calling for ideas; winning proposals will be showcased at the end of the year.

After Brani Terminal moves out, the authorities will build new attractions on the island, including, possibly, a new labour movement-led resort.

Furthermore, Sentosa's beach areas will be revitalised while its nature and heritage trails will be expanded.



The GSW will be linked up to surrounding green areas, such as from West Coast Park to East Coast Park, and connecting the Rail Corridor and Sentosa.

"With a new green heart in the centre, Singapore will be even more of a City in a Garden," PM Lee said.






NDR 2019: 'Downtown South' resort likely to be built on Pulau Brani
By Rachel Au-Yong, Housing CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

A "Downtown South" resort is likely to be built on Pulau Brani in future, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Recounting how these plans came about, he said that during a Cabinet meeting, labour chief Ng Chee Meng had asked: "NTUC is very grateful to the Government for Downtown East. How about a Downtown South?"

Mr Ng was referring to the labour movement-run lifestyle hub in Pasir Ris that hosts, among other things, a resort, amusement park, event spaces and shops.

"I said, OK, we will do that," PM Lee said at the National Day Rally.

To that end, the authorities will set aside land for the National Trades Union Congress to build a resort, "probably on Pulau Brani", he said.



The island is between the main island of Singapore and Sentosa, near Keppel Harbour. A large part of the island makes up the current Brani Terminal, which is among the PSA city terminals that will move to the Tuas mega port by 2027.

"We will make this gesture, to thank our workers for all their contributions to the nation, because Singapore is for all of us," said PM Lee.

In a Facebook post, Mr Ng said the new resort will allow workers to take their families to quality and affordable recreational amenities.

"It is indeed a strong signal of appreciation from the Government to our workers - Every Worker Matters!" he wrote.

In his speech, PM Lee said that after Brani Terminal moves out, the island can be developed together with Sentosa.

"We will build new attractions on Brani, just like we have Universal Studios on Sentosa," he said.

Meanwhile, Sentosa's beach areas will be revitalised, and its nature and heritage trails expanded, "to keep its island character".

These additions are part of the future Greater Southern Waterfront, a mega waterfront development in the southern part of Singapore.

The new district, twice the size of Punggol, will boast public and private homes, offices and recreation options. Development of the area is expected to start in five to 10 years.










National Day Rally 2019 commentary: Identity and an island nation's vulnerability
PM Lee highlights need to stay united as Singapore tackles challenges ahead, including climate change
By Zakir Hussain, News EditorThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

The Bicentennial Experience at Fort Canning takes the visitor through 700 years of Singapore's history in an hour, and tells the story of how this island flourished and languished over the centuries.

The exhibition, along with a host of activities by community, grassroots and other organisations this year, showcases how disparate groups of immigrants and sojourners settled here, made fortunes, raised families, gave back to society, worked together and helped shape a sense of common identity that, largely, still holds today.

Singapore has thrived in no small part due to its safe harbour, open port and connectivity. That has been the case for years. But there is a clear and present danger ahead which puts the country's long-term future at risk: rising sea levels.

So it is fitting that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong devoted portions of his National Day Rally speech to these two issues - that of national identity, which remains critical if Singaporeans are to tackle looming challenges together, and climate change.

PM Lee described climate change in the strongest words possible: a matter of life and death; and that defences against it should be treated with utmost seriousness, just as the country treats the Singapore Armed Forces.

"Everything else must bend at the knee to safeguard the existence of our island nation," he said.

Singapore is feeling the heat from global warming: Temperatures have risen considerably. It is also feeling the impact of global tensions that could, if prolonged, chip away at Singapore's common identity.

These are topics that haven't always received the public attention they deserve, partly because they can seem abstract, even far away.

But they are existential and demand the same resolve and resourcefulness that the pioneers had in tackling the challenges and crises facing a newly independent Singapore.

In an unusual break from past rallies, PM Lee's speeches in all three languages - Malay, Chinese and English - touched on how looking back in a bicentennial year showed how major communities here had evolved in unique ways in a multiracial society, strengthening the sense of unity in the country.

Greater awareness of Singapore's history over 200 years, and going back even earlier, will help Singaporeans understand how a national consciousness evolved.

This is increasingly important as Singapore comes under pressure from external forces that seek to use and appeal to ethnic or religious sentiments to gain support in cases of international disputes, or to fuel hot-button issues.

Recent tensions between the United States and China have placed many countries around the world in a dilemma, with both powers wanting smaller nations to choose sides.

As the only sovereign country in the world with a majority ethnic Chinese population, Singapore can be put in a tough spot, PM Lee noted. If it supports China in some areas, the US and others might think that is because it has a Chinese-majority population.

If Singapore supports the US, China may wonder why, given the common language and heritage.

The reality, however, is that Chinese Singaporeans have formed their own unique identity over the past 200 years, as have Malay, Indian and Eurasian Singaporeans.

Singaporeans' cultural and historical ties with various motherlands have helped them understand and get along with these countries and their peoples.

But today, as a sovereign nation, Singapore has to take a principled view on matters like foreign policy to be trusted and taken seriously.

A similar evolution in thinking and long-term planning is essential to deal with climate change, a global issue some now describe as a "climate crisis".

Singapore is seriously studying options to protect its eastern coast, including polders, and reclaiming a series of islands from Marina East to Changi. This could cost $100 billion or more over decades.

But as PM Lee put it: "We must make this effort. Otherwise, one day, our children and grandchildren will be ashamed of what our generation did not do."

Few are equipped to deal with climate change. The Economist, in its latest issue, said the menace of rising sea levels is beyond most people's time horizons, but for governments, "inaction is a dereliction of duty to future generations".

Dismayed at the global inability to plan for this, the publication called on the authorities to stop pretending entire coastlines can be defended. "Unless you are Monaco or Singapore, they cannot," it said, citing the challenges facing places like Bangladesh.

Singapore's ability to plan and prepare for the long term has shown results - from developments in Changi to Tuas Port and plans for the Greater Southern Waterfront.

But its ability to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels is not a given, and pressures on spending could chip away at whether the country can sustain investments to avert the looming climate crisis.

The Bicentennial Experience has a segment that reminds visitors of how changes in weather played a key role in the rise and fall of cities in South-east Asia over the centuries.

There is still much work ahead to ensure Singapore does not become another victim.










National Day Rally 2019: Singapore, a city of layers built by multiple generations: PM Lee
Successive generations will have space to fill their hopes and dreams
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political CorrespondentThe Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

Hundreds of years ago, an ancient earth wall, a defensive line, used to stand where Stamford Road now runs, from Fort Canning all the way to the Padang. Alongside the wall was a stream that became the Stamford Canal of today.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited these faint traces of ancient Singapore to show that the country today comprises multiple layers and imprints of different eras, with each generation building on the work of their predecessors.

The Greater Southern Waterfront, comprising 30km of coastline from Gardens by the Bay East to Pasir Panjang, will add yet more layers to the city, he said, as he pledged to pass on a better Singapore to future generations.

In a National Day Rally speech yesterday delving deep into history in Singapore's bicentennial year, PM Lee recounted how the different communities here had come from different lands over centuries, bringing with them their identities, cultures and beliefs, and their hopes, passions and aspirations.

Touching on the topic first in his Malay speech and later in his Chinese and English speeches, he said 1819 was a turning point in Singapore's history.

After Sir Stamford Raffles arrived that year to establish a free port here, immigrants from South-east Asia, India and China followed to seek their fortunes here, he added.

The Malays, for instance, came in large numbers from around the region while Arabs came from Yemen and others arrived from India. He said their cultural and historical ties had helped to foster understanding with neighbouring countries, while their influence on society helped shape Singapore's national identity as a multiracial country.

In the process, he added, Malays have developed their own unique identity. The story is similar for the Chinese, Indians and Eurasians, who had come here as sojourners but eventually sank roots and developed their own distinct identities, he said.

"Slowly, we wove these strands together to become Singaporeans and to build today's Singapore," he added. "And the layout and the architecture of our city reflect this richness and complexity."

For instance, parts of the civic and central business districts are laid out in line with the first town plan drawn up some 200 years ago.

Noting that many colonial buildings from that time have been restored and re-purposed, PM Lee said it is through this process of building and rebuilding that each new generation will leave their mark on Singapore as their predecessors have done.

The new downtown in Marina Bay, for instance, has created a distinctive city skyline, while Jewel at Changi Airport has given Singapore a new gateway to the world.

"What we talk about, this Government, we will deliver," he said to applause.

Meanwhile, he added, the planned move of Tanjong Pagar port to Tuas will once again provide a "blank slate" for a new generation to build part of their vision for Singapore.

He listed other major projects unveiled at National Day Rallies over the years, which he said were progressively taking shape but "will not be done in a decade, or even in one generation".


These include the Punggol Digital District, Jurong Lake District, Changi Terminal 5, redevelopment of Paya Lebar Air Base, Tuas Port and the Greater Southern Waterfront. "There will be space for successive generations to fill with their hopes and dreams," he said.

Tracing some of the key developments across 200 years in all three of his speeches, PM Lee also noted that many have marked the Bicentennial in their own ways. These events include the Eurasian Festival to mark 100 years of the Eurasian Association, events in heartland areas like Jalan Kayu, the National Day Parade and The Bicentennial Experience show at Fort Canning.

The exhibition, originally slated to close after the September school holidays, will be extended to the end of the year, PM Lee said.

"All these activities help us trace our long history and appreciate the broader context that has shaped and created modern Singapore."

Wrapping up his speech, PM Lee said that Singapore's progress depends on Singaporeans remaining united and having an honest and capable government "working together with you, for you, for Singapore".

"The next few years will be demanding. We have to hand over smoothly to a new generation of leaders and continue to strive to realise our ambitions," he added.

Calling on Singaporeans to work together with his team, he said: "My team will work with you to build this jewel of a nation, so that Singapore will always be a vibrant, thriving city where opportunities are open to all, and our children and their children will have a bright future. Let us strive together to create this future. Let us unite as one nation to build tomorrow's Singapore."
























National Day Rally 2019: Singapore's challenges in navigating US-China turbulence
Fleshing out a theme of his speech in Mandarin at the National Day Rally yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discusses the impact of US-China tensions on Singapore.
The Straits Times, 19 Aug 2019

BICENTENNIAL AND THE FORGING OF A SINGAPORE IDENTITY

We are commemorating Singapore's Bicentennial. The year 1819 was a turning point in our history. That year, Raffles landed in Singapore and established a free port here. This attracted migrants from South-east Asia, India and China, who came to seek their fortunes.

Many Chinese came from Guangdong, Chaoshan and Fujian. Some came from nearer places like Penang, Malacca and the Riau Islands.

Many started as labourers - "coolies" - barely able to make ends meet. They strove hard to eke out a living. Some started small businesses. The more educated ones took up professions like teaching and journalism. Others developed plantations, set up banks or went into trading. Ultimately, many settled down and built their lives here.

They were our "Founding Generation" who contributed much to Singapore. The leaders among them set up clan and trade associations to help their fellow countrymen integrate and establish themselves. These "towkays" rallied the Chinese community to build hospitals, schools and temples.



Most of our forefathers maintained close links with their motherland. They arrived here in Nanyang as sojourners, intending to return to China one day. They still saw themselves as people of China and were passionate about their homeland. Many participated in the political movements and revolutions in China, and some gave their lives.

Over 100 years ago, Sun Yat Sen set up the Tongmenghui (United League of China, the predecessor of the Kuomintang) to overthrow China's Qing Dynasty. Tongmenghui's South-east Asian headquarters was established in Singapore, at Wanqingyuan (today's Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall), where the revolutionaries planned several uprisings in China.

In the 1930s, after Japan invaded China, the Singapore Chinese were once again roused to arms. An eminent community leader, Tan Kah Kee, led the efforts to raise funds and organise volunteers to support China. These included the Nanqiao Jigong (Nanyang Transport Volunteers), who returned to China to fight the Japanese. This was one reason the Japanese carried out the Sook Ching Operation here after they captured Singapore in World War II, massacring tens of thousands of Chinese people here.

After World War II, the Chinese Communist Party defeated the Kuomintang in the civil war and founded the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. This made a deep impression on many passionate, idealistic young Chinese in South-east Asia, inspiring them to join local anti-colonial struggles.

But the identity of the Chinese in South-east Asia was ambiguous. The influence that the new PRC had over the hearts and minds of these young people engendered distrust of their motives, and of China, among South-east Asian countries.

HAIWAI HUAQIAO AND HUAREN

It was in this context that China in the 1950s started to distinguish between overseas Chinese who were "haiwai huaqiao" and those who were "huaren".

Haiwai huaqiao referred to overseas Chinese nationals who retained their Chinese nationality, while huaren referred to overseas ethnic Chinese who had taken up their host country's citizenship. None other than then-Premier Zhou Enlai stated clearly that once huaren took up citizenship in their country of residence, they could no longer be considered Chinese nationals and should be loyal to their new home country.

Our forebears had to make a critical life decision: to remain in Singapore or to return to the motherland. In the end, the majority chose to remain in Singapore. And together with the other races, they went on to build a multicultural society and country here.

In the 1960s, as Singapore progressed towards independence, Chinese community groups worked with the Government to support Singapore's social and economic progress, and our national defence.

When we introduced national service in 1967, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) presented the first two batches of enlistees with medallions engraved with the words "National Service" and "" (dedication and loyalty to the country).

And in the following year, when the Government created the National Defence Fund with a target of raising $10 million, the SCCCI raised more than $1 million for the fund. As these examples show, the Chinese population had by then transferred their loyalty to Singapore and had started identifying themselves as Singapore citizens.

The Chinese Singaporean identity formed gradually over the last 200 years. We honour and commemorate our forefathers' dedication to their motherland, as China was then. This was part of our journey to becoming Singaporeans. Thus we made Wanqingyuan a national monument and also erected a memorial there to the Nanyang Transport Volunteers.

Similarly, every year on Feb 15, Singaporeans of all races and faiths attend a solemn ceremony at the Civilian War Memorial to remember and honour those who perished in World War II. The Japanese Occupation was a tragic experience for all in Singapore. But it was also a bonding experience, for it crystallised and aroused a national consciousness among the different races here and made us determined to become masters of our own fate.

The Malay and Indian communities have similar stories to tell about the evolution of their own identities here. They, too, came to Singapore as sojourners. During the anti-colonial struggle, many Indians here were inspired by India's own struggle for independence, and the Malays by the nationalist movements in Indonesia and Malaya. Indeed, our own battle cry then - Merdeka! - was originally the slogan of the Indonesian and Malayan independence struggles.

Just like the Chinese, the local Malays, Indians and Eurasians progressively sank their roots here.

We may have first been politically awakened by world-stirring events in different, distant lands. But we all came to see this island-nation as the country where our loyalty and our future lay.

This historical arc - in the words of the Bicentennial Experience, "From Singapore, To Singaporean" - is what makes us uniquely us. Even today, new immigrants have to go through this process, before gradually integrating themselves into Singapore society and becoming fully Singaporean.

Now, as the world enters troubled times, Singapore faces new and daunting challenges. Being aware of our history, of how we became Singaporean, will help us understand the development of our national consciousness. This in turn will lend us a perspective as we navigate the turbulent voyage ahead.

US-CHINA TENSIONS

We are all worried about the growing tensions between the United States and China. Their disputes have placed other countries in a dilemma. No country wants to take sides and Singapore is no exception. This is why, tonight, I want to discuss US-China tensions and their impact on us.

Since its reform and opening up, China has developed rapidly to become the world's second-largest economy. This has significantly benefited both China and the world, in many ways. It has also reshaped the world order.

As the world's pre-eminent power today, the US has to accommodate an increasingly powerful and influential China. This is by no means an easy adjustment for the US. But the US needs to accept that China's rise is inevitable, and that it is neither possible nor wise to prevent it. Instead, the US should seek to build constructive bilateral relations, including economic cooperation, with China.

At the same time, as a rising global power, China needs to put itself in other countries' shoes and take greater account of their interests and viewpoints. By doing so, it will enhance prospects for peaceful and harmonious relations with other countries. It is also more likely to be viewed as a magnanimous country, and a partner willing to work for mutual benefit.

Naturally, the US and China will compete for influence and power in the world. But amid this competition, both parties also need to strengthen mutual trust and develop appropriate mechanisms to manage the inevitable frictions between them.

Regrettably, both the US and China have yet to find a way to manage their differences. Their tensions will persist for some time and this will impact the whole world.



IMPLICATIONS FOR SINGAPORE - EXTERNAL RELATIONS

There are two major implications for Singapore. First, on the external front, in our relations with the US and China. And second, on the domestic front, the impact on our economy.

Singapore is a good friend of both the US and China, and we want to remain so.

The US is our major security partner. We buy advanced military equipment from them, including fighter aircraft and missiles. Our troops train extensively with US forces. We also cooperate closely on counter-terrorism.

We hope the US will continue to remain engaged in the Asia-Pacific. The US' presence in the region has helped to underwrite regional peace and stability since World War II, and we hope it will continue to remain a presence in the region.

The US is also our important economic partner. The size and scale of US investments in Singapore far outstrip any other country's. These investments create many quality jobs for Singaporeans. We also have many collaborative endeavours with US institutions, companies and experts, in the fields of innovation, research and development.

With China, Singapore has established an "All-Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times". We have extensive economic cooperation with China, including three government-to-government initiatives, in Suzhou, Tianjin, and now in Chongqing. China is also our largest export market. Singapore companies have sizeable investments there, as do Chinese companies in Singapore.

ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES OF A COMMON HERITAGE

Our relations with China are unique. Apart from China itself, Singapore is the only sovereign country in the world with a majority ethnic Chinese population. This shared cultural heritage is an advantage, for it helps us deepen people-to-people ties and strengthen cultural exchanges with China. All this helps to build good relations between our two countries, promoting understanding and partnerships between our peoples, companies and institutions.

But we must always remember to engage and cooperate with China as Singaporeans. We have our own history and culture. Hence, we have our own perspectives on various issues and must take our own stand.

Being a Chinese-majority country presents its own challenges for us in foreign affairs because it makes it easy for other countries to misunderstand us.

This is especially so when the US and China are at odds. If we support China, the US and other countries may think we do so because we are a majority-Chinese country, and therefore automatically defer to China. And if we support the US, China may misunderstand our motivations.

Sometimes, when Singapore and China take different positions on some issue or other, our PRC friends ask us: Since we share a common heritage, a common ancestry and a common language, why does Singapore not share our common view?

PRINCIPLES, NOT SENTIMENT

Our position is this: On any issue, our views and actions will always be based on principles, and not sentiment. Regardless of whom our audience is, whether it is in Singapore, Washington or Beijing, we always express the same views. When we can agree, we will do so. When we cannot, we must maintain our principled position and explain our stand.

We hope other countries will understand that Singapore is a multiracial, independent and sovereign country, with our own position on issues. And of course, Singaporeans ourselves must fully understand this as well.

We must be clear-eyed about our own national interests and understand the Government's considerations when we adopt principled positions on bilateral, regional or international issues.

IMPLICATIONS FOR SINGAPORE - ECONOMY

Aside from international relations, US-China tensions will also adversely impact the global economy. Supply chains will be disrupted; investments and R&D restricted; and people-to-people exchanges constrained.

Let me give you an example. The smartphones in your hands contain many components designed, produced and assembled in many different countries. It is so for Apple phones and Huawei phones alike.

However, if the US does not allow Chinese companies like Huawei to use American microchips, and US companies to use components manufactured in China, and if China does likewise, then, Chinese and American companies will each have to develop their own microchips, smartphones and telecommunication systems.

When we go overseas, we may have to carry multiple phones, just as we did years ago when we visited Japan, because Japan used the CDMA system while Singapore used GSM.

Notwithstanding such a bifurcated world, we still hope we can communicate with all our friends conveniently. So, the big headache for us is this: Which telecommunication system should we install in Singapore?

Singapore is a small, open economy that has benefited greatly from globalisation. If US-China relations continue to worsen, the world will continue to bifurcate. This augurs a more troubled future for us. Our growth will be affected. Singapore companies that export to China, and those that export to the US from factories in China, will be hit.

Some hope that manufacturers that decide not to set up in China may come to Singapore. A few may come, but most will not, given the nature of the industries and their primary considerations of cost and proximity to markets.

For example, clothing manufacturers will likely move their factories to Vietnam or Bangladesh; electronics to Mexico; furniture manufacturers to the Philippines. These companies will not prefer to locate in Singapore. Overall, deteriorating US-China relations is bad news for the world economy, and a definite minus for Singapore.

US-China tensions have already hurt confidence worldwide. But the deeper and wider structural effects I have described will only be felt over time. Nevertheless, we must begin preparing for these consequences, and adapt ourselves quickly to the new international realities.



CURRENT ECONOMIC SITUATION

This year, our economy has slowed down significantly. This is primarily due to weakening global demand and international trade, which have impacted our manufacturing sector and trade-related services. A cyclical downswing in electronics has affected our broader economic performance, especially in related sectors such as precision engineering and wholesale trade. The retail sector also continues to be under pressure from online shopping.

Thankfully, other sectors have so far not been very much affected. Retrenchment and unemployment rates remain low. Recently, I discussed these issues with NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, and with union leaders. They reported that while workers are worried, the slowdown has so far not significantly affected jobs.

Thus, the current situation does not warrant immediate stimulus measures. But if the situation worsens significantly, we will intervene promptly and appropriately to sustain our economy and the livelihoods of our workers. The Government and union leaders are watching trends closely and are fully prepared. We have experienced cyclical downturns like this in the past, and we are confident we can take this in our stride.

IMPORTANCE OF TRUST

Though the external environment may be adverse, we do have important strengths. This year, we attracted several major investments. One of these is by Finnish energy company Neste, which is investing more than $2 billion to expand its renewable energy plant here. This is a huge project which will create quality jobs for Singaporeans.

Neste's CEO, Mr Peter Vanacker, explained that his company chose Singapore because of our technological capabilities, our excellent business environment including infrastructure and logistics, and our extensive trade relations. And more importantly, they were looking for the best workforce in the world.

Neste also had high praise for the Economic Development Board (EDB). In sum, they chose us because they trusted EDB, our workers and Singapore.

As the Neste CEO said: "The most valuable resource in the world is trust. But to find trust, one must earn it first. And to keep trust, one must continue to earn it. And here in Singapore, we have found the right people."

This shows Singapore's high reputation among investors. Facing economic uncertainties as we do, it is all the more crucial to work hard to protect this trust that investors have in us.

SUPPORTING BUSINESSES AND WORKERS

Meanwhile, we must keep on strengthening our economic fundamentals to secure our longer-term competitiveness. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and the younger ministers are leading our economic transformation efforts. Their efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

With the support of the Government, our companies are innovating, digitalising their operations, expanding in overseas markets and training their employees.

The Jumbo Group is a good example. Well known for their chilli crabs, Jumbo started in 1987 and is now a listed company that has expanded internationally.

Jumbo's success is in large part due to its emphasis on training and development. This has helped it to retain Singaporean staff, in an industry that typically has a high turnover rate. By tailoring training to employees' individual potential and providing good mentorship, Jumbo has enabled its staff to upskill and grow with the company. Like 31-year-old Ng Zi Yang, who became an executive chef overseeing a cluster of restaurants today, only 10 years after entering the industry as a complete greenhorn.

Jumbo has joined Enterprise Singapore's Scale-up SG programme. This new programme helps promising local companies grow rapidly and stand out in their fields. Jumbo's CEO, Mr Ang Kiam Meng, himself recently attended a leadership programme in the US. The participants were all from the pioneer batch of 25 companies on Scale-Up SG. They are a diverse group, ranging from F&B to education, from furniture and maintenance to hospital and dental. If they came together, they could provide comprehensive services for an HDB township. On the course they made friends, shared experiences and discovered potential opportunities to collaborate.

I mention Jumbo for several reasons. Firstly, to remind employees to upskill and retrain, to remain relevant and employable. Secondly, to encourage companies in their transformation efforts. And thirdly, to assure both employers and employees of the Government's full support in their upskilling and upgrading journey. There are many government support schemes to help local enterprises develop and expand their businesses. This means more good jobs for Singaporeans.



CONCLUSION

I have spent some time tonight tracing our history and sharing my thoughts about international affairs and our economic situation. The Government is paying close attention to how the international situation is impacting us externally and domestically.

The high trust that other countries and investors have in Singapore is a vital advantage, and our precious asset. We must uphold this trust, so that we can pass it on to future generations. Then Singapore can continue to prosper, and our livelihoods can be assured.

I worry greatly that the coming decade will be more troubled than the last. Like the weather that is ever-changing - sweltering one minute, pouring rain the next - we will be buffeted by unexpected developments. We must prepare for this future, and with the same intrepid spirit and drive of our forebears, work together to overcome the difficulties ahead.

I firmly believe that if the Government and people are united, Singaporeans can continue to enjoy ever better lives, and Singapore will continue to shine in the world.









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