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LIVE Blog: PM Lee's National Day Rally Speech in English

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is outlining the Singapore Government's policies and priorities in his National Day Rally speech at the ITE College Central. Follow this thread for updates.

CLICK HERE TO READ UPDATES FROM THE MALAY AND CHINESE SPEECHES

8.02pm: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong kicks off the English portion of his National Day Rally speech by paying tribute to the Pioneer Generation, in particular President Yusof Ishak. He repeats the announcement in his Malay speech that Singapore's first President will be honoured in three ways: Having a new mosque in Woodlands named after him, Masjid Yusof Ishak; having the Institute of South East Asian Studies renamed ISEAS - The Yusof Ishak Institute; and creating a Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences in NUS. 


YUSOF ISHAK AND THE PIONEER GENERATION

8.03pm: Mr Yusof was not just a national leader; he was someone you could get to know on a personal level. I first met him when I was seven, and used to play with his son, Imran, who taught me how to ride a bicycle, on his bike. Several years later, when I won the President's Scholarship, I was very honoured to receive it from Mr Yusof.

8.06pm: We are grateful to pioneers like Mr Yusof, who sacrificed to build Singapore. Last year, I promised to make a meaningful gesture to thank every living member of the Pioneer Generation. We designed the PG Package; the Pioneer Generation Card was launched at PA HQ two weeks ago, along with many other PG events all over Singapore. Tonight, I have invited 50 PG seniors to represent the 450,000 PG Singaporeans.


8.07pm: Our Pioneers were ordinary people who worked together to do extraordinary things - overcoming difficult, dangerous situations to build an independent country, transforming Singapore from Third World to First. That's why we are commemorating SG50 next year: To celebrate the Spirit of the Pioneers and commit ourselves to their enduring values.

SINGAPORE AT A TURNING POINT

8.09pm: The world is in flux. Conflicts far away could affect us. In Ukraine, it was sheer luck that no Singaporeans were on the flight, but it could easily have been very different. Nearer home, there are tensions in the South China Sea - every foreign leader I meet asks me about the South China Sea. There are new leaders in Indonesia and India. How their countries fare will affect the entire region. I look forward to working with them.

8.10pm: Singapore is changing, too. There's a new generation with new aspirations; an ageing population with new social needs. Singaporeans are asking: What happens to me when I get old? Where will Singapore be in the future?

8.10pm: Hence we are taking a New Way Forward, with each of us giving of our best, and Government and community doing more to support individual efforts - together, creating a brighter future for all of us.

8.11pm: We have made steady progress. We've stabilised the housing market and cleared the HDB waiting queue. We've settled details of MediShield Life. We've opened up Primary 1 admissions. We've expanded our public transport network with the Bus Service Enhancement Programme and the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line.

8.11pm: This year, we will talk about three topics: Giving Singaporeans full opportunities to achieve their potential; providing Singaporeans more assurance in retirement; and making Singapore a home for all ages

ACHIEVING OUR POTENTIAL

8.12pm: Our Pioneers showed we can do anything, provided we set our minds to it. We must build on their legacy, giving every Singaporean the confidence to shoot for the stars. Education is an important part of this, and this year, I will focus on ITE and polytechnic students.

8.14pm: Our polytechnics and ITEs are world-class. Foreign visitors are amazed by the facilities - better than many universities - and investors are impressed by the quality of the graduates: Well-trained, can-do, productive. Our students are also great examples of resolve, strength and character.

8.15pm: Our students, having done well, naturally hope to climb even higher. We want to help them create a brighter future for themselves, by many routes - not just the academic route, but also by getting good jobs, mastering deep skills, gaining relevant qualifications along the way.

PM: Mr Lee cites the example of Keppel Offshore and Marine's shipyard at Tuas, and shares the stories of two staff: Dorothy Han, who joined Keppel FELS 25 years ago and now supervises 62 people, and Abu Bakar, a Singapore Polytechnic graduate who is now CEO of Nakilat-Keppel Offshore and Marine, a joint venture shipyard in Qatar.


(Photo: Dorothy Han from Keppel FELS)(Photo: Abu Bakar from Keppel Offshore and Marine)

8.22pm: Dorothy and Abu Bakar can advance because Keppel O&M values every worker. The tone is set from the top over many years, and illustrates that you can progress by acquiring deep skills and knowledge throughout your career. Look for the best ways to learn. Learn what is relevant, and apply that. Don't go for a paper chase for qualifications or degrees. Pathways to upgrade remain open throughout your career.

8.23pm: At the same time, employers must value your staff, and develop them to take on higher responsibilities. With the right support at work, whether or not you are a graduate, you can advance in your careers. This is the culture shift we need.

ASPIRE COMMITTEE

8.24pm: I set up the ASPIRE Committee, chaired by Indranee Rajah, to create this work and study path. It will announce its recommendations soon. Broadly, it will help students make better education and career decisions; help polytechnic and ITE graduates get into jobs they were trained for; help individuals progress and upgrade after they've graduated and started work; and develop structured career paths for them.

8.25pm: Implementing this on a national scale is not easy, and involves multiple stakeholders, including Government agencies; companies, who have to develop and value every worker; and unions. The natural agency to take the lead is an expanded Workforce Development Agency. DPM Tharman will lead a tripartite committee to drive this. It will develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression for all Singaporeans, and promote industry support and social recognition for individuals to advance based on skills.

8.27pm: The Public Service will do its part. The PA has a single scheme of service for both grads and diploma holders. Recent enhancements to pay and careers will help nurses upgrade and progress. The SAF recognises leadership and abilities, not just academic qualifications.

8.28pm: The Public Service can and will do more. More weight will be put on job performance and relevant skills, rather than starting qualifications. More graduate and non-graduate schemes will be merged to give everyone the same opportunities on the same career track. Non-graduates will be promoted more quickly to what used to be considered graduate-level jobs.

8.29pm: Two strategic factors are needed to help everyone achieve their potential. One, economic growth, to create opportunities for workers to rise. We must have growth - we must be hard-headed in order to be good-hearted. Two, cultural change is needed. It is fundamentally about our values and how we value people. Singapore must always be a place where everyone can feel proud of what they do, is respected for their contributions and character, and can improve his life if he works hard.

ASSURANCE IN RETIREMENT

8.32pm: Besides creating hope for the future, we must also give assurance to those in need, especially seniors. Most are doing well, by and large. Many have savings, investments, and others are getting good support from their children. To provide assurance in retirement, CPF and home ownership are the twin pillars of retirement adequacy.

8.33pm: The Government has helped Singaporeans to own their homes, a valuable nest egg when you retire. Many Singaporeans have significant savings in their flats: The typical retiree household in a 3-room flat has S$300,000 savings in his flat, or S$400,000 for a 4-room flat. These are valuable savings to draw on if needed.

8.34pm: CPF has also served us well. There is personal responsibility - the more you work, the more you save, the more you have in retirement; it is fair - your CPF savings are for you, not someone else; it is for life - CPF Life will pay you a stream of income as long as you live.

8.34pm: CPF has been in the news recently. Some say they want all their CPF money back.

8.37pm: The three keys in the CPF logo represents workers, employers, Government. Together, we help you save for retirement. For what purpose? Not so you can take out the whole amount in one lump sum, but so you get a steady stream of income in old age.

8.40pm: Mr Lee polls the audience, who say that the family of a hypothetical Mr Tan, approaching 55, will need S$2,000 a month when he retires at 65.

8.45pm: If you need S$2,000 a month, you can't depend on CPF alone. You must find other sources of income. Some options include continuing to work, as in 10 years' time we will most likely have raised the re-employment age beyond 65; your children may help support you; you can draw on your personal savings; or you can get some money out of your house. You do this by renting out a room or the whole flat, or right-sizing your flat and collecting the Silver Housing Bonus. 

8.46pm: I would advise seniors against selling your flats. I have seen too many sad cases of seniors who have cashed out unwisely, got cheated of all their money, or even got turfed out by their own children. Better to keep your property - it is yours and you can fall back on it in case anything happens.

LEASE BUYBACK SCHEME

8.48pm: Many seniors living in larger flats (the scheme currently only applies to 3-room flats) have asked for Lease Buyback, wanting to age in the comfort of their own homes. HDB has studied this carefully and we will extend the Lease Buyback Scheme to 4-room flats. This will cover more than half of all flat owners in Singapore.

8.50pm: Even if your circumstances differ from the Tans', the general conclusion is still valid. First, the CPF and your house go hand-in-hand in providing for your retirement. Second, the current Minimum Sum of S$155,000 is not too much. Third, if you own a house, you only need to set aside half the Minimum Sum, currently S$77,500. Finally, you have many options to get money from your house.


IMPROVING THE CPF SCHEME

8.52pm: The CPF scheme is good but can be improved. It works well for most Singaporeans, but not quite for all, especially the lower-income. Also, it is not flexible enough. We can improve it further.

8.53pm: First, to help the lower-income. A minority (10-20%) may not accumulate enough CPF during their working lives, and do not have an HDB flat or family support to fall back on. In these cases, their individual efforts are not enough; Government and society must do more to help them in retirement.

8.55pm: Second, to increase flexibility. While the core purpose of the CPF should be providing a steady stream of income in old age, I appreciate why some CPF members want to take more money out. They have been saving up over a lifetime of work. I have decided to change our policy.

8.56pm: We should allow people the option to take out part of their CPF savings in a lump sum, when they need to, subject to limits. The amount withdrawn cannot be excessive - eg up to 20% of the total. It should only be during retirement, after 65. And the member must understand the trade-off - monthly CPF  payments will be smaller.

RAISING THE MINIMUM SUM

8.58pm: The old Minimum Sum was too low, and has taken over 10 years to be raised to the current S$155,000. There will be one final instalment this year, to S$161,000 for those turning 55 from July 1, 2015. With a property pledge, you will need only half of that in cash - S$80,500.

8.59pm: Beyond that, I do not see the need for any more major increases in the Minimum Sum, though we may still need to adjust it from time to time, as income and basic spending needs increase, and as we live longer and have to provide more for a longer retirement.

8.59pm: The Manpower Ministry has worked out some possibilities, but CPF changes are very complex. MOM will announce details of an advisory panel to be set up to study these issues.

9.00pm: CPF and home ownership are good schemes that work well for the majority of Singaporeans. But we are improving them further, to better support lower-income elderly who need more help, and to make the schemes more flexible for all Singaporeans. You will have greater assurance and more options in retirement.

A HOME FOR ALL AGES

9.01pm: We want Singapore to be the best place to live, work and play. An outstanding city: Well-planned, well-run, offering high quality of life, full of buzz and vibrancy. A cherished home, where we grow our roots, build emotional bonds and form fond memories. A special red dot for all Singaporeans.

9.02pm: One area where we can do better: Getting different agencies to work more closely together, especially when responsibilities are split. For example, snakes: Which agency you call used to depend on where exactly the snake is found and which direction it is moving to. Now AVA (Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority) is in charge of all animal issues. We have made some progress, especially after vivid examples are highlighted, but we have not arrived yet.

9.05pm: We can and must do better to bridge these inter-agency boundaries and serve the public in an integrated way. Some cities have ops centres to report and monitor municipal issues. We need to get there too.

9.06pm: We will set up a Municipal Services Office, a single authority to coordinate all the agencies – LTA, PUB, NEA, NParks, HDB, AVA, Police - and single-mindedly focus on service delivery. It will be in MND. I will appoint Minister Grace Fu to oversee the Municipal Services Office, working with Minister Khaw Boon Wan. More details on the MSO will be announced later.

TRANSFORMING JURONG

9.08pm: Making Singapore our best home goes beyond running our city better or using technology more. It is about making every corner of Singapore an outstanding living environment. Last year spoke about our plans to develop Changi, Paya Lebar, Tanjong Pagar and Tuas; these will happen over 20 or more years, and are acts of faith in our future.

9.10pm: Jurong used to be swamps. We've upgraded Jurong over the years, most recently as Jurong Lake District in 2008. There are two parts to the Jurong Lake District: Jurong Gateway and Lakeside.

9.12pm: Ng Teng Fong General Hospital was supposed to be completed by December, but unfortunately construction delays will push back its opening by about six months.

9.13pm: But there is more to Jurong than shopping malls and industries. Jurong also includes the beautiful Lakeside, and the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. But they are dated and under-utilised. I felt we could do much more with the Gardens. I asked the planners to consider bringing it all together, and doing a more ambitious transformation of whole area.

9.13pm: Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden and Jurong Lake Park on the west side of the lake can be integrated to create one beautiful set of gardens in the heartlands: Jurong Lake Gardens.

9.16pm: Let's make it a people’s garden: Bigger and perhaps even better than Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. NParks will invite design ideas next year. Jurong Lake Gardens will also be connected to the Islandwide Park connector network and ABC waters programme – Jurong River.

9.19pm: The Lake Gardens will be the crown of the Jurong Lake District; we will place one jewel in this crown. The Science Centre has entertained and educated generations of Singaporeans for almost 40 years. It is still popular, but we can do much better. We will build a new Science Centre on a beautiful site on the north shore, near the Chinese Garden MRT station. It will be a “Jewel” in Jurong, and is estimated to be completed around 2020.

BELIEVING IN SINGAPORE

9.21pm: What matters most is not what we build, but the power of our human spirit: Showing determination and resolve, like our pioneers; aiming high and pushing ahead, as our young should; contributing in big ways and small to Singapore, no matter what our station in life.

9.22pm: Mr Lee talks about an email from Mr Mohamed Zulkifli, whose father, Mr Rahmat Yusak, had worked with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He drove him all to constituencies all over Singapore to rally the ground in the battle against communists in the early 1960s. Mr Rahmat, aged 95, was very ill and passed away shortly afterwards. Mr Zulkilfli wrote: “My father was only a driver, but I hope people like him will not be forgotten when Singapore honours its Pioneer Generation."


(Photo: Mr Rahmat Yusak and Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew)

9.23pm: I remember Mr Rahmat, because I used to follow my father on the visits. I think you can just see me in this picture. Mr Lee Kuan Yew also remembered Mr Rahmat, and paid tribute to Mr Rahmat on the 20th Anniversary of the People’s Association.

9.24pm: I say to Mr Zulkifli: We will never forget your father, Mr Rahmat Yusak, nor the many pioneers who built Singapore, including Encik Yusof Ishak, our first President. They boldly wrote the opening chapters of the Singapore Story, and paved the way for their children to do better. Now it’s our turn to give the next generation full opportunities to chase their dreams.

9.25pm: We have all contributed to the Singapore Story. At the heart of this story is our belief in Singapore; belief that we can turn vulnerability and despair into confidence and hope; belief that from the trauma of Separation we could build a modern metropolis and a beautiful home; belief that whatever the challenges of this uncertain world, we can thrive and prosper as one united people.

9.26pm: Let this belief and spirit burn bright in each one of us, and guide us forward for another 50 years and more. Together, let us be the pioneers of our generation. Together, let us create a better future for all Singaporeans.

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