- POSTED: 30 Jan 2014 06:04
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The Lunar New Year period is a time to strengthen family bonds. And this should be a focus for all Singaporeans in the year ahead as the country seeks to build a brighter future.
SINGAPORE: The Lunar New Year period is a time to strengthen family bonds. And this should be a focus for all Singaporeans in the year ahead as the country seeks to build a brighter future.
This was the thrust of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's annual Lunar New Year message this year.
Mr Lee said this applied to both our own families, as well as the larger Singapore family.
And that we should look out for the less fortunate, especially the elderly, during the festive season.
The less fortunate, the elderly, and Singaporeans of different races are members of what Mr Lee calls the larger Singapore family.
He said this unit has to be strengthened. This means looking out for others and nurturing ties with one another.
Mr Lee said Singaporeans sometimes take the country's peace and harmony for granted.
But in our multi-racial, secular society, there is a need to "live and let live", and be willing to compromise for the common good.
Part of efforts to strengthen families involve respecting and taking care of our elders.
Mr Lee said much of Singapore's early success is down to its Pioneer Generation.
This group of elders saw Singapore through difficult times, and helped the country grow from Third World to First.
In recognition of this, Mr Lee said efforts are underway to help them age happily.
Beside promoting healthy living and lifelong learning, the government is also taking care of their retirement and healthcare needs.
This includes increasing medical subsidies, building more hospitals and nursing homes, and expanding home care services.
Some of this will come in the form of a Pioneer Generation Package.
This package was announced at the People's Action Party (PAP) Convention in December last year and is expected to focus on medical needs.
Details will be announced during the Budget next month.
Mr Lee said a special event will be held at the Istana on February 9 to honour members of the Pioneer Generation.
Even as the country honours its seniors, Mr Lee said more needs to be done to encourage Singaporeans to have more children.
He noted that birth figures are still too low despite the government's best efforts to promote marriage and parenthood.
Singapore's Total Fertility Rate (TFR) at 1.19 last year, still far below the replacement rate of 2.1. The TFR for Chinese Singaporeans was even lower at 1.06.
One important factor is whether good childcare is available.
Mr Lee said 20,000 new childcare places are on track to be delivered by 2017.
A third of this figure was achieved last year.
The Ministry of Education currently runs five kindergartens, with the number set to go up to 15 over the next few years.
Three more pre-school anchor operators have also been identified, taking the total number to five. And this will hopefully help to create a more pro-family environment.
Mr Lee is optimistic that the Year of the Horse will see some improvement in this area.
Already, 200 couples are set to get married on February 14, which is both Valentine's Day and the 15th day of Lunar New Year, making it especially auspicious.
Mr Lee also noted that Singapore will celebrate its 50th birthday next year.
And it will be apt to celebrate the country's achievements, as well as reaffirm the commitment to building a better Singapore.
He encouraged more to join the SG50 campaign, a movement to let Singaporeans have a say in how the nation commemorates its Golden Jubilee.