Tuesday, 23 August 2022

National Day Rally 2022

Singapore must be ready for sudden shifts in region: PM Lee Hsien Loong
By Hariz Baharudin, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

Singapore's neighbourhood has enjoyed peace for so long it is hard to imagine things being different. But anyone who thinks that war cannot break out in the region needs to get real, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Touching on the state of global security in his English National Day Rally speech, PM Lee on Sunday (Aug 21) called on Singaporeans to be mentally ready for disruptions to the region's stability.

Singapore's external environment has become very troubled amid worsening United States-China ties and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, said PM Lee.

Speaking at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Headquarters at Ang Mo Kio, PM Lee said that the relationship between the US and China, which sets the tone for global affairs, is worsening.

The two powers are divided over many issues, he warned. This includes their rival ideologies and systems of government, China's growing influence in the world, as well as many specific problems, including trade disputes, cyber espionage, the South China Sea and Hong Kong.

Most recently and worryingly, there have been sharply escalating tensions over Taiwan, added PM Lee.

Yet the two superpowers need to work together on many pressing global issues, including climate change, pandemics, and nuclear proliferation, said PM Lee.

"Their tense relationship is making this almost impossible," he said. "And this is bad news for the world."

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently held a video call and made plans to meet in November, their first in-person meeting since Mr Biden took office last January. But neither side expects relations to improve any time soon, said PM Lee.

"Furthermore, we must all hope that there are no miscalculations or mishaps, which can make things much worse very quickly," he added.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine also has profound implications for the world and for Singapore, said PM Lee.

The invasion violates the United Nations (UN) Charter and fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, which are particularly important to Singapore given that its existence and security relies on countries upholding these principles, he said.

This is why Singapore cannot legitimise Russia's wrongful actions, he added. In March, Singapore strongly condemned Russia's actions, and imposed sanctions on focusing on the exports of military and technological goods, as well as financial measures.

"Russia claims that what it calls a 'special military operation' in Ukraine is justified by 'historical errors and crazy decisions'. If we accept this logic, what happens if one day others use this same argument against us?" asked PM Lee.

The war has also created deep hostility between Russia and other states, especially the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), a military alliance of 30 countries in Europe and North America.

With nuclear powers on both sides and relations having completely broken down, it is hard to imagine any satisfactory end to the conflict, said PM Lee.

The war in Ukraine also affects security in the Asia-Pacific as it has complicated already-strained US-China relations, as well as relations between China and America's partners in Asia, like Australia and Japan.

Singaporeans should expect more geopolitical contestation in the Asia-Pacific, said PM Lee.

"Our region has enjoyed peace for so long that it is hard for us to imagine things being different. But look at how things have gone wrong in Europe, how suddenly and quickly," said PM Lee.

"And can you be sure that things cannot go wrong like that in our region too? So we must get real, and we must get ourselves prepared psychologically.”

On how Singapore can respond to these external dangers, PM Lee said that it must stand firm on fundamental principles of international law and work with other countries to uphold a rules-based order.

This can be done by speaking up at the UN. Conversely, taking cover and keeping quiet will hurt Singapore in the long-term, he said.

There is also a need to take national service seriously, and keep the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team strong and credible. "If we do not defend ourselves, no one is going to defend us on our behalf," stressed PM Lee.

But the bottomline is that Singaporeans must stay together as one united people and never allow themselves to be divided, whether by race, religion, income, social differences or place of birth, he said.

This is especially pertinent in the face of foreign actors looking to exploit Singapore's vulnerabilities and influence its people for their own interests.

"If we are taken in and we are divided, we will stand no chance. But united, we can deal with any problems that come our way," he said.

PM Lee had similarly highlighted the importance of Singapore’s resilience and unity in the face of an increasingly uncertain and complex world in his earlier Malay and Chinese speeches.

A united Singapore, a high-quality leadership and high trust between people and their leaders are essential for the nation to respond creatively and resiliently to challenges it faces, year after year, he said.

“We may have the best laid schemes, but without these three fundamentals, they will come to nothing.”

8 highlights from NDR 2022: Masks optional in most indoor settings, Section 377A to be repealed
By Goh Yan Han, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

An easing of indoor mask-wearing restrictions and a repeal of a long-contested law criminalising gay sex are among the key announcements in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 21).

Here are eight highlights from his speech:

1. Masks off in most indoor settings

Singaporeans will soon be able to take their masks off in most indoor settings, returning to almost pre-Covid-19 normality.

PM Lee said that with the country's situation stabilising, the Government will reduce mask requirements further to prevent fatigue from setting in.

Masks will be required only on public transport, where people are in prolonged close contact in a crowded space, and in healthcare settings such as clinics, hospitals, residential and nursing homes, where there are vulnerable persons, said PM Lee.

He said schools in particular should not require students to wear masks in class. Children need to see the facial expressions of their teachers and of one another, as this is crucial for their learning and development.

More details will come from the multi-ministry task force handling the pandemic.

2. Section 377A to be repealed

Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, will be repealed, said PM Lee.

Sentiments have shifted over the years as more Singaporeans accept that sex in private between consenting men should not be a criminal offence, he said.

But most Singaporeans do not want the repeal to trigger a drastic shift in societal norms across the board, including how marriage is defined and what is taught to children in schools, he noted.

In consultations held by the Government on this topic, the main worry among those with reservations is what they feel Section 377A stands for, and that repealing it may encourage more aggressive and divisive activism on all sides.

Even as Singapore repeals Section 377A, it will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage, said PM Lee. Only marriage between a man and a woman is recognised in Singapore, he said, adding that many national policies such as public housing and adoption rules rely on this definition.

The Government does not intend to change these policies or the definition of marriage.

He added that currently, the definition of marriage could be challenged in the courts, like Section 377A has been. If such a challenge succeeds, it could cause same-sex marriage to become recognised.

Hence, to protect the definition of marriage from being challenged in the courts, the Government will amend the Constitution.

This will help Singapore repeal Section 377A in a controlled, carefully considered way, said PM Lee.

3. Be prepared for external dangers

The external environment has become very troubled, as United States-China relations - which set the tone for global affairs - are worsening, said PM Lee.

Both powers are divided over many issues, from trade to the South China Sea to Taiwan. But they also need to work together on pressing global problems like climate change, pandemics and nuclear proliferation.

Their tense relationship is making this almost impossible, which is bad news for the world, he said.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has violated the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, which are particularly important to Singapore.

The war has also created deep hostility between Russia and other states, and affected security in the Asia-Pacific by complicating already strained US-China relations, and between China and America's partners in Asia like Australia and Japan, said PM Lee.

Pointing to how things have gone wrong in Europe, he asked: "Can you be sure things cannot go wrong like that in our region too? So we must get real and we must get ourselves prepared psychologically."

To do so, Singapore must stand firm on fundamental principles of international law, take national service seriously and keep the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team strong and credible, and stay as one united people, he said.

4. Brace for economic challenges

Cost of living is at the top of everyone's minds, acknowledged PM Lee. While most sectors are recovering from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine has clouded the country's outlook.

Inflation was already becoming a problem pre-war and the war made things worse by pushing up energy prices worldwide and causing shortages and price spikes in grain globally.

The Government is doing everything necessary to support Singaporeans, in particular the middle- and lower-income families, and will do more if the situation worsens, said PM Lee.

But the basic reality is that international economic conditions have fundamentally changed. The era of globalisation is over. China's growth and exports are slowing and countries are relooking their own supply chains to prioritise resilience and self-sufficiency.

Singapore has little influence over the global inflation picture, said PM Lee.

To become better off, the country has to press on with economic upgrading and restructuring, redouble transformation efforts and encourage workers to upskill.

5. New homes to be built in Paya Lebar

An estimated 150,000 new homes - public and private housing - can be built where the Paya Lebar Air Base is located, said PM Lee. This is roughly the number of homes in Punggol and Sengkang today.

The relocation of the airbase will start in the 2030s. The airbase and its surrounding industrial areas will yield a space five times the size of Toa Payoh.

The new town will have amenities and recreational areas as well as commercial and industrial developments to bring jobs closer to homes.

Once the airbase moves out, some building height restrictions around it in towns like Hougang, Marine Parade and Punggol can be lifted, said PM Lee.

This means the town can be redeveloped to make better use of the space there.

6. Developing Terminal 5 and Tuas Port

After a two-year pause brought on by the pandemic, work on Terminal 5 at Changi Airport will restart, said PM Lee. The new terminal will serve about 50 million passengers a year, more than T1 and T3 put together.

The design of the terminal will draw on lessons learnt from the pandemic and allow spaces to be converted for testing or the segregation of high-risk passengers.

Autonomous vehicles could be deployed to support baggage and cargo transport. T5 will also be greener and more energy-efficient, said PM Lee.

Next to it, the Government will develop the Changi East Urban District, a new business and lifestyle destination.

The mega Tuas Port began operations last December, with two berths opened. Three more will start operations by December this year.

When fully operational, the port will have 66 berths spanning 26km and be capable of handling the largest container ships.

Because Singapore had planned ahead, its port was able to handle extra volumes during the pandemic while ports in other countries experienced closures, severe congestions and long delays, said PM Lee.

Phase 1 of Tuas Port has just been completed, with three more phases to come before it is fully completed in about 20 years from now. It will be the world's largest fully automated port.

Then, it will handle 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units - a cargo capacity measurement - which is almost double today's volumes, he added.

7. Need to attract top talent from around the world

The ministries of manpower and trade and industry and economic agencies will soon be announcing new initiatives to attract and retain top talent from around the world, said PM Lee.

Singapore has attracted the interest of many talented individuals and international companies, thanks to its trusted brand of quality, reliability and efficiency and its track record in tackling Covid-19.

The country must seize the opportunity to secure its place in the post-Covid-19 world, he said.

It needs to do more, especially in sectors with good potential, to get people to come here, said PM Lee.

If Singapore can get the people it wants to come, it will help the country shine brightly as a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth.

It will also make Singapore's own talent want to stay here, to participate in building a dynamic and outstanding nation, he said.

8. Getting three fundamentals right

PM Lee said that to tackle the challenges facing Singapore, the country must get three fundamentals right: a united people, a high-quality leadership team and high trust between the people and their leaders.

"We may have the best laid schemes, but without these three fundamentals, they will come to nothing."

He singled out good leadership as non-negotiable. Pointing to countries with unstable governments and where policies never make it through political gridlock, he said: "Often, it is not just the leaders who disappoint, but the whole system that has failed."

The result is the loss of faith not just in individual politicians or parties but in the whole political system and political class.

He said Singapore's very survival depends on having the right leaders, and leadership succession is therefore of paramount importance.

With the younger ministers having chosen Finance Minister Lawrence Wong to be their leader, PM Lee said that he was happy that his succession plans, which had been put on hold when Covid-19 hit, are back on track.

"I am also glad that from everything I see, Singaporeans are supportive of Lawrence and his leadership of the team."

NDR 2022: Govt will repeal Section 377A, but also amend Constitution to protect marriage from legal challenges
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

Singapore will repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Aug 21), confirming months of speculation that the Government might move on the law criminalising sex between men.

But to guard against the move triggering a drastic shift in societal norms, the Government will also amend the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage as one between a man and a woman to stave off future legal challenges, he added.

Explaining the rationale for repeal, he noted that there is a significant risk of the law being struck down by judges in future legal challenges, and it would be unwise to ignore this and do nothing.

Societal attitudes towards gay people have also "shifted appreciably" and it is timely to consider again whether sex between men in private should be a criminal offence, he added.

"We need to find the right way to reconcile and accommodate both the traditional mores of our society, and the aspiration of gay Singaporeans to be respected and accepted," he said.

"I believe (repeal) is the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept. This will bring the law into line with current social mores, and I hope, provide some relief to gay Singaporeans."

His announcement at the National Day Rally comes months after the Court of Appeal ruled in February this year that Section 377A of the Penal Code was unenforceable in its entirety. Following the judgment, Cabinet ministers held extensive consultations with religious leaders, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups as well as regular Singaporeans on the best way to deal with the law.

The court, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, ruled that Section 377A would remain on the books, but cannot be used to criminalise gay sex - going further than the Government's earlier promises that the law would not be proactively enforced on consensual sex between men.

On Sunday, PM Lee said that following this judgment, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam and Attorney-General Lucien Wong have advised the Government that in a future court challenge, there is a significant risk of the law being struck down on the grounds that it breaches Article 12 of the Constitution - the Equal Protection provision.

When the House debated amendments to the Penal Code in 2007, then Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong had filed a citizen's petition to repeal Section 377A, sparking a passionate debate on the topic with fierce arguments from both sides.

PM Lee had argued then that it was better to accept the legal untidiness and ambiguity of keeping the law on the books, while not proactively enforcing it to "maintain a balance, to uphold a stable society with traditional heterosexual family values, but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and to contribute to the society".

It would have been too divisive to force the issue then, he said on Sunday.

PM Lee noted that Section 377A was originally introduced in the 1930s by the British colonial government, and reflects moral attitudes and social norms that prevailed back then.

He said that over time, homosexuality has become better understood scientifically and medically, resulting in greater acceptance of gay people for who they are instead of being shunned and stigmatised. This has been so in Singapore and many other societies, he added.

Many countries with similar laws have since repealed them, including several Asian countries, PM Lee added.

"It is timely to ask ourselves again the fundamental question: Should sex between men in private be a criminal offence?" he said, adding that it is a sensitive issue that needs to be resolved.

"Like every human society, we also have gay people in our midst. They are our fellow Singaporeans. They are our colleagues, our friends, our family members. They, too, want to live their own lives, participate in our community and contribute fully to Singapore," he added.

PM Lee acknowledged that Singaporeans still have differing views on whether homosexuality is right or wrong, but said most people accept that a person's sexual orientation and behaviour is a private and personal matter, and that sex between men should not be a criminal offence.

Even among those who want to retain Section 377A, most do not want to see it being actively enforced, he said. From the national point of view, private sexual behaviour between consenting adults also does not raise any law-and-order issue, he added.

"There is no justification to prosecute people for it, nor to make it a crime."

The months-long government review on what to do with the law had attracted pushback from religious groups and conservative Singaporeans, who have raised concerns that it could pave the way for LGBT activists to push for marriage equality.

Acknowledging these concerns, PM Lee said it had come through clearly over several months of engagement on the issue that while some feel strongly about keeping Section 377A itself, many of those who had reservations about the law being abolished worry about what repeal could lead to.

They want to preserve the status quo on how marriage is defined, what children are taught in schools, what is shown on television and in cinemas, and even what is generally acceptable in public, said PM Lee, adding that the Government, too, does not want the repeal to trigger wholesale changes in society.

Therefore, it will also move to amend the Constitution in tandem to protect the definition of marriage from being challenged constitutionally in the courts, he said.

"This will help us to repeal S377A in a controlled and carefully considered way. It will limit this change to what I believe most Singaporeans will accept, which is to decriminalise sexual relations between consenting men in private," he said.

"But it will also keep what I believe most Singaporeans still want, and that is to retain the basic family structure of marriage between a man and a woman, within which we have and raise our children," he added to applause from the audience at the Institute of Technical Education headquarters in Ang Mo Kio.

Marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman in the Interpretation Act and the Women's Charter, and many national policies rely upon this definition, including public housing, education, adoption rules, advertising standards and film classification, he added.

PM Lee said the Government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or these policies.

However, as the law stands, marriage as it is now defined can be challenged on constitutional grounds in the courts, just like Section 377A has been challenged, he added.

For same-sex marriages to become recognised here like that would not be ideal, as Parliament may not be able to restore the status quo ante even if the majority of MPs opposed the changes, since changing the Constitution would require a two-thirds majority, he added.

Ultimately, judges are trained and appointed to interpret and apply the law, and have neither the expertise nor the mandate to rule on social norms and values, he said. "These are fundamentally not legal problems, but political issues."

PM Lee said this has been wisely acknowledged by the courts in their judgments dealing with such cases.

If those seeking change try to force the pace through litigation, which is by nature adversarial, it would highlight differences, inflame tensions and polarise society, he added.

He called on all sides to avoid aggressive and divisive activism, noting that if one side pushes too hard, the other side will push back even harder.

In some Western societies, this has resulted in culture wars, contempt for opposing views, cancel culture and bitter feuds splitting society into warring tribes, and Singapore should not go in this direction, he cautioned, adding that there are already some signs of such developments here.

He urged all groups to exercise restraint and work hard to keep society harmonious so Singapore can move forward together.

"What we seek is a political accommodation that balances different legitimate views and aspirations among Singaporeans," he added.

"For some, this will be too modest a step. For others, it will be a step taken only with great reluctance, even regret. But in a society where diverse groups have strongly held opposing views, everyone has to accept that no group can have things all their way."

He said: "I hope the new balance will enable Singapore to remain a tolerant and inclusive society for many years to come."

NDR 2022: Good leadership non-negotiable for Singapore, says PM Lee in calling for full support for successor Lawrence Wong
By Kok Yufeng, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

As a small country, Singapore's continued success and survival depends on having the right leaders, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as he called on Singaporeans to back his successor - Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.

In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 21), PM Lee said good leadership is non-negotiable if the Republic is to deal with the geopolitical dangers and economic uncertainties ahead, and build for the long term.

"Look at countries where governments are unstable and politics messy, swinging wildly from one election to another.

"Whenever things do not work, leaders are forced out, or they resign en masse. But even after changing teams, things fail to improve," he said.

In these countries, policies and laws are either stuck in political gridlock or they are made by one government only to be reversed by the next, PM Lee added.

"Often, it is not just the leaders who disappoint, but the whole system that has failed. And the result is a devastating loss of faith - not just in individual politicians or parties, but the whole political system and the whole political class. And there is no way forward from there."

PM Lee said: "A small country like Singapore has zero margin for error. Not just Singapore’s continued success, but our very survival, depends on us having the right leaders."

This is why the Republic needs leaders with integrity, dedication and competence; leaders with the conviction to make the tough calls and do the right thing, even if it may cost them some votes; and leaders whom people can trust.

“We cannot afford any compromise on this,” said PM Lee, adding that the country needs to keep working hard to find the right people to serve the nation, and to help these people do their best for Singapore.

He added that for the 57 years since independence, Singapore has had leaders who have earned the people's trust, delivered on sound policies and improved lives here.

Urging Singaporeans not to take this for granted, PM Lee said the country needs to keep working hard to find the right people to serve the nation, and to help these people do their best for Singapore.

"It is our duty to extend our success formula into the next generation and beyond."

It was in this light that the Prime Minister said he was happy that the issue of his succession is settled, and his leadership transition plans are moving forward again.

He did not elaborate on the timeline of succession, but urged Singaporeans to lend their full support to DPM Wong, who is also Finance Minister, and the People's Action Party's (PAP) fourth generation of political leaders.

"From everything I see, Singaporeans are supportive of Lawrence and his leadership of the team," he added.

PM Lee had previously said he hopes to step down by the time he turns 70, a milestone he reached in February this year.

But after Covid-19 struck in 2020, he said he would see the Republic through the crisis and "hand over Singapore, intact and in working order, into good hands".

He led the PAP to victory in the 2020 General Election with 61.2 per cent of the votes.

But the party's leadership transition hit a snag when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, 61, bowed out as PM Lee's successor in April last year, citing his age and the need for the next prime minister to have a longer runway.

It took a year before Mr Wong, 49, was endorsed by his peers as the leader of the PAP's fourth-generation team, paving the way for him to eventually succeed PM Lee.

In June, Mr Wong was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister, further cementing his position as Singapore's next prime minister.

In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this month, Mr Wong sketched out two possible scenarios for when the leadership transition could take place.

In the first, he could take over as prime minister before the next general election, which must be held by November 2025.

In the second scenario, PM Lee could continue to lead the party in the election and then relinquish the position to him if the PAP wins.

"These are the options, but we have still yet to make a decision on the actual timing," Mr Wong had said in the interview.

On Sunday, PM Lee highlighted two other factors besides high quality leadership that are fundamental to Singapore's success - a united people and high trust between the people and their leaders.

"These are vital if we are to respond creatively and resiliently to challenges, year after year. We may have the best laid schemes, but without these three fundamentals, they will come to nothing," he said.

Concluding his speech, PM Lee said the next few decades will be bracing but exhilarating for Singapore.

"With your trust, we can come through whatever difficulties await.

"With your support, we can turn hopes and dreams into reality.

"And united as one people, we can secure a brighter future in this uncertain world, not just for now, not just for ourselves, but for every Singaporean child, for many generations to come."

NDR 2022: Be wary of social media messages on Ukraine war with ulterior aims, says PM Lee
By Lim Min Zhang, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

Singaporeans should be vigilant about messages that are shared on social media and actively guard against hostile foreign influence, regardless of where they originate from, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking during the Mandarin portion of his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 21), PM Lee said information that is shared on social media, such as Facebook and WeChat, as well as messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram, may be perceived as true and credible.

But some of these messages have an ulterior aim of persuading Singaporeans to take sides, or to erode their trust in the Government, he said.

Citing examples, he said there were messages in Chinese and English related to the Ukraine war that try to stir up strong anti-American sentiments.

Others aim to discredit Russia and China, and seek to persuade people to side with the West, he added.

"We need to ask ourselves: Where do these messages come from, and what are their intentions? And are we sure we should share such messages with our friends?

"So please check the facts and do not accept all the information as truths. We must actively guard against hostile foreign influence operations, regardless of where they originate," said PM Lee.

Only then can Singapore's sovereignty and independence be safeguarded, he added.

PM Lee, who was speaking at the Institute of Technical Education headquarters in Ang Mo Kio, said he was heartened that most Singaporeans support the Government's position on the Ukraine war, including Chinese Singaporeans who are active on Chinese-language social media.

The first part of his Mandarin speech was devoted to geopolitical challenges, as the international environment has become more unstable.

He cited the deepening division between the United States and China, and the hostility created between Russia and other countries as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. These have profound implications for Singapore, PM Lee said.

Greater geopolitical rivalry and tension among the major powers in Asia-Pacific could happen, and the possibility of the region experiencing similar conflicts to that of Europe cannot be ruled out, he said.

"Hence, we need to be psychologically prepared and stay united."

He reiterated why Singapore had to take a strong stance against Russia's invasion of Ukraine which started on Feb 24.

Most Singaporeans understood the Government's position, he said, but some have questioned the need to offend Russia, to side with the US, or for Singapore to stick its neck out.

PM Lee said Singapore was not siding with the US and neither was the Republic against Russia.

"But we have to be firm in our position and defend fundamental principles robustly. We cannot be ambiguous about where we stand. We believe the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, big or small, must be respected.

"These principles are existential for all nations, but especially so for a small nation like Singapore," he said.

Singapore has consistently opposed the approach of "might is right", said PM Lee.

"If we do not stand firm and take a clear stand on the Ukraine crisis, should Singapore be invaded one day, no one will speak up for us," he said.

PM Lee outlined how countries such as India, China, Vietnam and Laos abstained when the United Nations voted in March on a resolution deploring Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

While the remaining Asean members voted for the resolution, they did not name Russia in their statements.

As the smallest nation in Asean, Singapore's interests and considerations are naturally different from the others, said PM Lee.

"This is why we have not only explicitly condemned Russia's invasion, but also gone further to impose our own targeted sanctions on Russia," he said.

As for Singapore's Chinese community, it is clear about the country's national interests because of a deeper sense of national and cultural identity, said PM Lee.

The strong sense of local identity can be seen in the way home-grown artists infuse local flavours in their works, he said.

PM Lee cited the example of the recent musical Shadow Moon, presented by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, which incorporated xinyao, a genre of Singapore Mandarin songs.

The centre also plans to set up a dedicated unit this year to conduct research on the evolution of Singapore Chinese culture - a move which the Government supports, he added.

NDR 2022: Changes in global economic conditions have led to new era of rising costs, says PM Lee
By Choo Yun Ting, Business Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

International economic conditions have fundamentally changed and the end of an exceptional period has meant rising costs and inflation globally - a situation which Singapore has little influence over, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally (NDR) speech on Sunday (Aug 21).

But it is also within Singapore's power to become more productive and competitive so that workers can earn more, and more than make up for the higher prices of food, fuel and other imports.

"That way, we can all become better off, in real terms," said PM Lee at the Institute of Technical Education headquarters in Ang Mo Kio, where the NDR was held.

In his speech, PM Lee touched on the economic challenges Singapore faces in the current global environment, including the disruption of imported supplies such as food into the Republic.

Aside from the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, new realities such as rising protectionism between trade partners, China's slowing growth and exports, countries relooking their supply chains, and companies changing their production strategies have contributed to higher inflation everywhere.

PM Lee noted that in recent decades, globalisation was in full swing, international trade grew rapidly and China had exported more goods at highly competitive prices. This brought down the cost of many products, and kept prices worldwide very stable, he added.

“This era is now over,” he said.

For Singapore and its people to be better off in real terms, efforts must be made on several fronts, PM Lee said.

"This requires us to press on with economic upgrading and restructuring, redouble our transformation efforts, and encourage workers to upgrade their skills at every opportunity. And indeed, that is exactly what we have been doing," he added.

Besides prices rising, the flow of physical supplies into Singapore has also been disrupted in recent times, PM Lee said, citing Malaysia's export ban on chickens, Indonesia's palm oil export halt and India's ban on wheat exports.

"Under pressure, faced with food shortages and rising prices, governments will put their domestic needs first, and so we must expect more arbitrary actions like these, which will impact us," he warned.

This is because Singapore, being a small and open economy, is heavily dependent on imports, including that of essential goods.

Yet, the Republic is not helpless, PM Lee said, highlighting how it has been actively diversifying its import sources.

This has been through means such as building up adequate stockpiles of food and medical essentials, investing in agri-tech to make local farms more efficient and productive, and pushing ahead with efforts to produce about a third of the country's nutritional needs locally by 2030.

"Buying from diversified sources means that we don't just buy from the cheapest or the most convenient producer, and maintaining stockpiles requires space and incurs costs... But we must think of it as paying for insurance," he said.

He recounted an incident early in the Covid-19 pandemic when Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level from yellow to orange on the same evening he was hosting his annual Chap Goh Mei dinner at the Istana.

The raising of the alert level had triggered “a small scramble” and panic-buying.

PM Lee reassured his guests, who were receiving and sharing pictures of empty supermarket shelves, that then-Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing was on top of the situation: “I promise you, you won’t have to eat combat rations!”

This faith was underpinned by the fact that Singapore had enough stocks in warehouses and logistics centres, and was able to restock the supermarkets quickly and restore confidence, he said.

PM Lee also cited the period when live chickens stopped arriving from Malaysia following an export ban in June as an example of how Singapore's efforts to make its food supplies more resilient has paid off.

"We didn't flap. We could draw on our ample stocks of frozen chicken from Brazil, the (United States), and other places. And we soon brought in more chilled chicken from Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, and now Indonesia."

As a result, "the chicken rice stalls are back in business again", he added.

People take Singapore's resilience for granted, but a lot of work goes behind the scenes to ensure that it is prepared when issues arise, PM Lee said.

"Nothing happens by itself, not even in Singapore. It is only possible because we always plan forward, to give ourselves options and solutions during crises, and that's how we must continue to prepare ourselves for the future."

NDR 2022: Changi Airport T5 to be more pandemic-proof, able to operate as smaller sub-terminals when needed
By Clement Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

The new Changi Airport Terminal 5 will be designed so that it can be split and operated as smaller sub-terminals when needed, with spaces that can be converted into quarantine or testing facilities during pandemic times.

Passenger touchpoints will also be contactless, and there will be ventilation systems that can be activated to increase fresh air or minimise the mixing of air when there is a threat of airborne disease, said the Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Sunday (Aug 21).

Drawing from the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic, the features will make the airport more resilient and able to handle future pandemics more nimbly, MOT said.

The construction of T5, which was halted because of the pandemic, will start in about two years.

Details of the design were unveiled in tandem with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 21).

In his speech, which gave updates on T5, PM Lee said the new terminal will be able to scale operations up and down more easily, and isolate passengers from different flights to limit cross-infection when future pandemics hit.

It will also be greener and more energy efficient.

With borders reopening and people travelling again, the future of aviation remains bright, PM Lee added.

"When completed in the mid-2030s, T5 will show the world what sort of place Singapore is," he said.

"Our decisions to press on with Changi T5 and Tuas Port send a strong and clear signal to the world that Singapore is emerging stronger from the pandemic and charging full steam ahead."

PM Lee first spoke about Singapore's plans for a fifth terminal 10 years ago - in 2013 - and planning for it began a year later.

A mega terminal that should serve 50 million passengers a year, T5 is bigger than T1 and T3 put together, and is expected to open in the mid-2030s to meet a doubling of travel volume in the region then.

In its statement, MOT said T5 is designed with the flexibility to be built in two phases, in line with traffic growth.

On Sunday, MOT said the terminal will be ready for viable alternative fuels, including greener sustainable aviation fuel made from used feedstock which the industry believes must be widely used by aircraft for air travel to meet its emissions target of net zero by 2050.

T5 is located within the 1,080ha Changi East development, which is Changi Airport's largest expansion project to date and also includes the Changi East Urban District, a business and lifestyle destination next to the terminal.

MOT said the development of this will be done in consultation with the Ministry of National Development, Urban Redevelopment Authority and other agencies when the time comes.

PM Lee added: "Passenger traffic has already exceeded half of pre-Covid-19 levels. In the longer term, air travel will keep growing because of a fast-expanding middle class in our region.

"T5 will be a place that all Singaporeans can take pride in."

NDR 2022: 3 more berths to open in Tuas by year-end as operations increase at mega port
By Clement Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

Three more berths at Tuas Port will start operations by year-end, bringing the total number of berths open there to five as the authorities gradually increase operations at the mega port.

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Sunday (Aug 21) made the announcement together with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally, where he said Singapore's decision to press on with its transport infrastructure projects - Changi Airport and Tuas Port - sends a clear signal to the world that the country is charging ahead after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The berths that will open are in Tuas Port Phase 1, which has 21 deep-water berths that can altogether handle 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), a unit of measurement for containers.

Their opening is part of the authorities' ongoing efforts to increasingly operationalise Tuas Port, which will be fully completed in the 2040s.

Over the years, container port operator PSA is expected to move all its operations at Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani terminals to Tuas by 2027, and from Pasir Panjang Terminal by the 2040s, freeing up prime waterfront land.

By then, Tuas Port will have a full capacity of 65 million TEUs a year, 1.5 times Singapore's current capacity.

PM Lee, in his speech, said Tuas Port is "up and running", and that the move to Tuas has already started, with all container operations in Tanjong Pagar already moved.

He said this forward thinking allows Singapore to better tackle the pandemic. The empty container yards in Tanjong Pagar meant isolation and recovery facilities for Covid-19 patients could be put up there during the outbreak.

When needed, berths can also be opened at Tuas Port to help Singapore cope with increased container volumes. The first two berths there were opened in December last year during the supply chain crisis, when delays and closures at other ports caused more containers to be stuck here, and more storage space was needed.

"While ports in other countries experienced closures, severe congestion and long delays, our port remained opened 24/7 throughout... In fact, last year, Singapore handled a record high of 37.5 million TEUs. We kept our position as the world's busiest transshipment hub," he said.

"When fully completed around 20 years from now... we will have the world's largest fully automated port, and that should make us a leading global player in the maritime space."

Tuas Port will be fully automated and digitalised, using automated guided vehicles and artificial intelligence to coordinate operations, manage vessels and clear ports.

It should also achieve net zero emissions by 2050, MOT has said.

By electrifying vehicles, carbon emissions can be cut by about half.

The Tuas Maintenance Base Administrative Building has also been certified as super low-energy, using 58 per cent less energy than similar-sized buildings and generating enough solar energy to offset its electricity consumption.

Land reclamation works for Tuas Port Phase 2 are in progress and planning for Tuas Port Phase 3 has begun. There are four phases in all, costing a total of $20 billion.

NDR 2022: Singapore to attract and retain top talent with new initiatives
By Sue-Ann Tan, Business Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

New initiatives to attract and retain top talent will be rolled out to secure Singapore's success in a post-Covid-19 world, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 21).

"We want to make top talent everywhere sit up, pay attention, and think seriously about coming to Singapore," he said, adding that the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Trade and Industry and economic agencies will soon announce new measures to achieve this.

While Singapore already has schemes in place to draw top talent, such as in the technology industry, it still needs to do more, especially in sectors with good potential, PM Lee said.

Singapore must build a world-class talent pool because this is an age where talent makes all the difference to a nation's success, he said.

Singapore does its utmost to develop its own talent and help every citizen reach their fullest potential, he added, "but when it comes to top talent, we can never have enough".

Hence, "we need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent, in the same way we focus on attracting and retaining investments", PM Lee said.

Other countries are also making a special effort to court top international talent, such as Germany, as well as Britain, which recently introduced a special visa for graduates from top universities globally.

"In this global contest for talent, Singapore cannot afford to be creamed off or left behind," he said.

In fact, Singapore has a window of opportunity to draw the best talent now, with its track record of tackling Covid-19 helping it to stand out even more.

"Our trusted Singapore brand of quality, reliability and efficiency... gives us a competitive edge," PM Lee said.

"Those with special talents and skills are looking for places to move to, where they and their families feel safe and welcome, and where they can make an impact," he noted.

Meanwhile, "businesses want to invest in places where the talent is... where the politics and policies are stable, and where the system works", he said.

Singapore has been successful in attracting the interest of talented people and international firms.

"That is why even during the pandemic, the Economic Development Board continued to bring in many good projects, and even now, we have a very strong investment pipeline of potential projects which we have a good chance of getting," PM Lee said.

He acknowledged the concerns of Singaporeans about the impact of large numbers of non-residents living and working here.

The Government is following up to tackle the problems and ease these concerns. "But while we manage the overall population of foreign professionals here, we must not stop seeking out top talent who can contribute to our Singapore Story," PM Lee said.

For example, the biomedical sciences grew in Singapore because top names in the field - the "whales" - were attracted to move here, after Singapore decided to make a big push for the sector in the 1990s. They then nurtured local talents - "the guppies" - who were new to the field at the time, but now have grown into "whales".

One key figure who played a role in persuading top biomedical science talent to move here is Mr Philip Yeo, who was chairman of the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB), which then became the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Today, Singapore's biomedical sector employs 25,000 workers and contributes almost a fifth of Singapore's manufacturing gross domestic product, PM Lee said.

Home-grown scientists are also now doing cutting-edge research and development, with some who have become principal researchers and others who have founded start-ups.

During the pandemic, researchers here made significant contributions like helping to secure vaccines early and developing test kits. Singapore has also attracted major projects, including from Sanofi and BioNTech, which are the leading firms for vaccine-manufacturing facilities.

In fact, PM Lee said he was told that BioNTech was investing in Singapore when he met former chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel before she retired last year.

"They take note. It is significant. It means something to them. It means a lot to us," he said.

He added: "Had we not sought out top talent 30 years ago, then continued to build up our biomedical research teams and activities, and develop home-grown talent, all this would never have happened.

"This is the difference that top talent can make."

It is also why Singapore must seize the opportunities now.

"If we can get the people we want to come here, it will really help Singapore to shine brightly as a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth," he said.

"It will also make our own talent want to stay in Singapore, to participate in building a dynamic and outstanding nation, and every Singaporean will benefit from our progress and success."

An MOM spokesman said the ministry will be making an announcement soon on the policy changes to enhance and clarify the work pass framework to better support Singapore’s need for talent.

NDR 2022: Stronger national identity, staying open and connected among Singapore's 'enduring imperatives', says PM Lee
By Anjali Raguraman, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

As Singaporeans are exposed to persuasion, propaganda and misinformation, strengthening the country's national identity and understanding where our national interests lie are imperative, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Taking pride in being Singaporeans and having a stronger sense of national identity was among three "enduring imperatives" that PM Lee highlighted in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 21).

"Singaporeans are being exposed to all sorts of persuasion and propaganda, misinformation and agitation, not least on social media and messaging apps, more so in a world riven by rivalries and tensions, with countries coming under pressure to support one side or the other," noted PM Lee, echoing what he said in his Mandarin speech.

"We need a strong sense of national identity to hold us together and give meaning to our nation building."

He hopes this will be one of the outcomes of the ongoing Forward Singapore exercise.

Launched by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on June 28, the nationwide exercise will engage citizens on shaping and strengthening Singapore's social compact for its next phase.

Spanning a year, it will conclude with the publication of a report in mid-2023 which will set out policy recommendations and highlight how different segments of society can contribute towards these shared goals.

While it will be led by DPM Wong , the exercise will have six pillars headed by his fellow fourth-generation leaders in areas such as jobs, housing and health.

Building a world-class talent pool in Singapore was also highlighted by PM Lee.

"We need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent, in the same way we focus on attracting and retaining investments," he said.

He also said Singapore needs to remain open and connected to the world despite waning globalisation and countries turning inwards and protectionist in their policies.

"It is impossible for us to grow or make everything we need ourselves, nor can we consume everything we produce, whether computer chips or pharmaceuticals or petrochemicals," he said.

"To make a living, we will always require foreign investments, overseas markets, and excellent transport and communications links with all parts of the world."

He added that while international tensions and uncertainties make remaining open and connected harder, countries will still need to conduct business with each other; multinational corporations will still look for places to sink their investments; and hubs for finance, communication and transport will still be needed by the world.

"If we are nimble and enterprising, we will get our share of these and more," he said.

NDR 2022: PM Lee says GST increase needed for healthcare, social spending
By Chin Soo Fang, Senior Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

The impending goods and services tax (GST) increase is necessary as Singapore's population is ageing rapidly, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his Mandarin speech at the National Day Rally at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio on Sunday (Aug 21).

Singapore must be prepared to take better care of the elderly, including providing more medication subsidies to reduce the burden of healthcare costs for older Singaporeans and their families.

More hospitals, polyclinics and other facilities also have to be built so that they can access medical services. All these mean that Singapore's healthcare and social spending is increasing sharply, he said.

"Not raising the GST would be a politically expedient move. However, it would be irresponsible," he said.

"While the people worry about not having enough money to spend, the Government also worries about not having enough money," he said. He added that it is concerned about not having enough resources to take care of low-income families and the heathcare needs of the elderly.

One in six Singaporeans is aged 65 and above. By 2030, this number will increase to one in four, with mature estates seeing their population grey earlier.

PM Lee said many of his Teck Ghee residents were young married couples when he was first elected as an MP in the 1980s. More and more of them now need walking sticks and wheelchairs.

"While I am happy that they continue attending community activities, I am also worried for them, as their healthcare needs will definitely increase over the years," he said.

"Therefore, we must be prepared to take better care of the elderly."

Turning to Covid-19, he said Singapore has been able to cope with the pandemic better than some other countries because of prudent financial management and having sufficient reserves.

The Republic should continue to save for a rainy day and plan for the future, he added.

The planned GST increase will take place in two stages - from 7 per cent to 8 per cent on Jan 1, 2023, and from 8 per cent to 9 per cent on Jan 1, 2024.

Acknowledging that many are worried about the rising cost of living, PM Lee assured Singaporeans that the Government has taken steps to help, and will provide more support if necessary.

For instance, the Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers that have been distributed not only help households defray some daily expenses, but also support heartland shops and hawkers, he said.

To date, more than 18,000 heartland merchants, hawkers and coffeeshop stalls have joined the scheme. Most households have also utilised their CDC vouchers, with close to $180 million spent so far.

Other forms of support have also been given progressively, PM Lee said.

He cited the example of a married couple with two children living in a three-room HDB flat. They will receive support almost every month, amounting to $3,700 over 12 months that includes:

- Cash payouts of $1,400 this month

- About $190 in U-Save and S&CC rebates in October to help pay for utilities and service and conservancy charges.

- $200 of CDC vouchers next January, on top of the $100 of vouchers that were distributed in May.

- $300 to be credited into their MediSave accounts in February 2023.

"There's no support in November, because the God of Fortune is taking a break to watch the World Cup," PM Lee said, to laughter from the audience. "But he will be back to work in December."

PM Lee said everyone will receive some support, but the amount each family receives will depend on its income level and housing type.

For instance, a middle-income family with two young children living in a four-room HDB flat can expect an additional $2,200 in support in this fiscal year, compared with the $3,700 the lower-income household living in a three-room flat will receive, he said in his English speech.

Next year, the Assurance Package - a $6.6 billion package where every Singaporean aged 21 and above will get cash payouts ranging from $700 to $1,600 over five years - will help offset the increase in GST.

These will be spread over five years, with the first payout made in December this year.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has also tightened Singapore’s exchange rate policy. A stronger Singapore dollar makes travelling overseas more affordable and imported goods cheaper. However, PM Lee cautioned that there is a limit to this.

“A stronger Singdollar also makes our exports more expensive, and we lose competitiveness against other countries,” he said.

The Workers' Party said in a statement following the Rally that it continues to oppose the GST hike, as it comes at a time that adds to inflation and is "wholly unnecessary".

It also reiterated suggestions that its MPs have made in Parliament, such as to further strengthen the Singapore dollar to make imports cheaper and to sell long bonds to dampen speculative investment.

"In addition, we have to keep a lid on asset prices; spend to support those among us who are hurting most for a temporary period; and finance this by rebating any windfall tax gains," it said.

NDR 2022: Strong, resilient Malay/Muslim community makes for stronger Singapore, says PM Lee
By Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2022

A strong and resilient Malay/Muslim community makes for a stronger and more resilient Singapore, as it navigates an increasingly uncertain and complex world.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that the community has forged a distinctive and confident Singaporean Malay/Muslim identity, which has integrated deeply into the Republic's multiracial society.

Speaking in Malay during his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 21) at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio, he said: "The contributions of the Malay/Muslim community during the pandemic are testament to our society's progress and success, reflecting how integrated we all are in Singapore's multiracial, multi-religious society."

He noted the steady progress the community has made on socio-economic issues over the decades, and lauded the strong network of community organisations committed to the development of the Malay community.

PM Lee described the self-help group Mendaki as a "prime example of how the community comes together to help one another", adding that a number of individuals who have done well are contributing back to the community.

He said Mendaki, which is marking its 40th anniversary in October, had since its inception helped the community focus on education as the key to socio-economic progress.

The group's efforts have paid off. Over the past decade, almost 500 people have received the Mendaki Excellence awards, which are given to those who attain degrees with first class honours, said PM Lee, adding that only a handful of the awards were given in Mendaki's first 10 years.

"The results of Mendaki's effort speak for themselves," he said. "Better academic performance has led to better jobs, with more Malay/Muslims in professional roles, higher incomes, and having better lives," he added.

PM Lee said the success and self-confidence of a community depends not only on its socio-economic progress, but also intangible cultural and spiritual factors.

"In this journey, the Malay/Muslim community has benefited from strong religious leadership," he said.

Practical guidance by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and asatizah (religious teachers) here have helped the community adapt its religious practices to Singapore's "constantly changing and complex circumstances".

He said these include adjusting Friday prayer arrangements and deferring the Haj pilgrimage for two years in a row because of Covid-19, which helped keep pilgrims safe.

PM Lee also pointed to the contributions of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), which has worked to rehabilitate radicalised individuals and guide the community on the correct interpretation and practice of Islam.

"They not only protected our Muslim community from extremist ideologies, but helped to maintain trust and confidence towards our multiracial, multi-religious society," he added.

PM Lee thanked asatizah who had served in the RRG - which will be marking its 20th anniversary next year - singling out co-chairmen Ustaz Hasbi Hassan and Ustaz Ali Mohamed for showing "strong leadership, courage, and commitment".

Ustaz Ali will be retiring as the RRG's co-chairman at the end of this month and will serve as the group's emeritus president, he said.

PM Lee noted that as a multiracial society, Singapore needs to deal with sensitive issues in a way that preserves society's racial and religious harmony.

He said the decision to allow Muslim nurses in public hospitals to wear the headscarf with their uniforms was years in the making.

It took a lot of quiet engagement, dialogue, preparation and understanding from all parties, and not just the Malay/Muslim community, added PM Lee.

The Prime Minister said that from time to time, there will be other sensitive issues but they must be addressed in the same manner.

"This requires mutual understanding across all groups, and the willingness to give and take, and work together.

"Only then can every group have the space to maintain its religious and cultural practices, and get on harmoniously together," said PM Lee.

He pointed to Section 377A of the Penal Code - legislation inherited from the British penal system which criminalises sex between men - as one such sensitive issue.

He said that in handling the contentious issue, the Government will continue to uphold families as the basic building blocks of society.

"We will keep our policies on family and marriage unchanged, and maintain the prevailing norms and social values of our society," he added.

Noting that there are strong views on both sides, PM Lee said the issue must not be allowed to divide Singaporeans.

"Every group must accept that it cannot get everything it wants, because that is simply not possible.

"And we must maintain the mutual respect and trust that we have painstakingly built up over the years, and stay united as one people," he added.

National Day Rally speech on 21 August 2022

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