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Overview: PM Lee's National Day Rally Speech

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has highlighted the need for economic growth and a cultural change to help all Singaporeans achieve their potential.

SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has highlighted the need for economic growth and a cultural change to help all Singaporeans achieve their potential. Speaking at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 17) evening, Mr Lee outlined how Singaporeans can attain success through different routes, regardless of their academic qualifications. To help the older generation of Singaporeans, Mr Lee also announced policy enhancements to the national savings scheme.

A consistent theme through Mr Lee's rally speech was a call to celebrate the spirit and contributions of Singapore's pioneer generation, as the nation turns 50 next year. The prime minister also built on the themes of his speech last year, including the need to provide opportunities for all Singaporeans to achieve success. A key element of this is ensuring that companies are able to prosper, and that the country remains attractive for investments.

Mr Lee said: "We must have growth in order to help our people well. So we have to be hard-headed in order to be good-hearted and just as importantly, we need a cultural change because fundamentally this is about our values, about how we value people. And Singapore must always be a place where everyone can feel proud of what they do, where you are respected for your contributions and your character, and anyone can improve his life if he works hard, everyone can hope for a better future."

To achieve this, Mr Lee said a cultural shift is needed, and efforts have already kicked off to create a work and study path to enable all Singaporeans to advance in their careers. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will lead a tripartite committee to develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression for all Singaporeans. The panel will also promote industry support and social recognition for individuals to advance based on skills.

Mr Lee said the Public Service will lead the way in offering more opportunities for non-graduates. He said: "We'll put more weight on job performance and relevant skills rather than starting qualifications. We'll merge more graduate and non-graduate schemes to give everyone the same opportunities on the same career track, and we'll promote non-graduates more quickly to what used to be considered graduate level jobs, once they prove that they can do it."

Mr Lee also gave more assurance that older Singaporeans would be provided for after they are retired. He said the national savings scheme - the Central Provident Fund (CPF) - has served Singaporeans well. "It works well for most Singaporeans, but not quite for all, especially the lower income. Also it is not quite flexible enough, and I think we can and should improve the scheme further," Mr Lee said.

A new scheme for low-income elderly Singaporeans called Silver Support will be introduced. Low-income seniors will receive an annual bonus from the Government, starting from age 65, to help with living expenses.

Singaporeans could soon also have the option to take out part of their CPF savings in a lump sum when they need to, subject to limits. Mr Lee also said the CPF Minimum Sum will be raised to S$161,000 next year, but added that he did not see the need for further major increases in the Minimum Sum beyond that.

In the last 49 years, Mr Lee pointed out that Singapore's physical transformation has been remarkable. One ambitious future transformation being planned is at the Jurong Lake District, which will bring together the Jurong Lake Park, and the Chinese and Japanese Gardens.

In all Mr Lee's National Day Rally speeches on Sunday - in Malay, Mandarin and English - he paid tribute to the country's pioneers who have contributed much to the development of Singapore. He said they wrote the opening chapters of the Singapore Story, and at the heart of this story is a common belief in Singapore - "Belief that we can turn vulnerability and despair into confidence and hope. Belief that out of 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."

In closing, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to be the pioneers of their own generation in the next 50 years and beyond.