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Govt will continue to strengthen social safety nets: Tony Tan

Singaporeans will get more options to unlock the value of their homes, in their retirement years. President Tony Tan Keng Yam hinted at this in his address during the re-opening of Parliament on Friday evening.

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans will get more options to unlock the value of their homes, in their retirement years. President Tony Tan Keng Yam hinted at this in his address during the re-opening of Parliament on Friday evening.

One of the government's main agenda items as it enters its second term is to strengthen social safety nets.

Attention will be paid to vulnerable Singaporeans, including low-wage workers and the elderly.

Dr Tan said: "To ensure that they have enough for their financial needs in their golden years, we will improve the existing CPF savings and CPF Life annuity schemes, and develop more options for Singaporeans to unlock the value of their homes in their retirement."

Home ownership will remain a key strategy.

Dr Tan said: "Home ownership has made an enormous contribution to levelling up our society. It has enabled Singaporeans, especially the lower-income, to build up significant assets, and have a tangible stake in Singapore's progress. No other country in the world has done this."

Dr Tan said the government will continue to keep housing affordable.

In line with another goal to support strong families and communities, there will be new housing options to encourage extended families to live closer together so as to strengthen family bonds and ties of kinship.

There will also be new strategies as the government moves beyond home-ownership and Workfare to enhance social safety nets.

Healthcare needs are already being addressed through initiatives like the enhanced Community Health Assist Scheme, expanded use of Medisave, and increased subsidies for outpatient care.

On the upcoming Medishield Life scheme, Dr Tan reiterated that the government will ensure that premiums will be affordable for all.

In the area of education, he said there will be different pathways to success.

Acknowledging the intense competition in schools, he said no single point in the country's education system will determine the future of children here.

And recognising a changing environment where skills become obsolete more quickly, Dr Tan said the government will continue to invest in life-long learning.

He said: "We will focus not only on low-income workers, but middle-income Singaporeans and professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) too."

Two new training institutes have been built to support this -- the Devan Nair Institute in Jurong, and the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.

Dr Tan said that government spending will go up over the next decade and beyond. The task is to ensure that social spending can be sustained.

He said government spending itself does not create a wealthier, better or happier society; and stressed that it must be matched by individual and community effort and initiatives.

"Active community involvement engages the human spirit, provides personal fulfilment and strengthens our collective well-being. This is how we will build a nation for tomorrow, a home where we feel a sense of responsibility for one another, and not just a sense of entitlement to the benefits of citizenship," he said.

In line with this spirit, Dr Tan said citizens will be given the means to help themselves because personal responsibility and effort are essential to their dignity and self-worth.

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