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Singapore Parliament

On Wednesday (Nov 5), ministers gave replies to MPs' questions on postal rates, music in public places, hawker food prices and mental illness, among other issues. The House also passed the Animals & Birds (Amendment) Bill. During the 3-day sitting, Parliament debated and passed a total of 10 Bills.

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PM Lee on building a fair and inclusive society in Singapore

The Government will work towards goal by helping to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to fulfil his or her aspirations, said the Prime Minister.

SINGAPORE: In his response to the President's Address in Parliament on Wednesday (May 28), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore must be a place where the economy prospers and the human spirit thrives.

Mr Lee outlined how the Government plans to execute its vision of a "fair and inclusive society, where every citizen has a rightful place and the opportunity to fulfill his or her aspirations".

This will be done in four ways: by sharing the fruits of progress and strengthening social safety nets; by keeping pathways upwards open to all; by firing up the human spirit; and by getting Singapore's politics right.

On sharing the fruits of Singapore's progress, Mr Lee said this has been done for many years, even before he became Prime Minister, whether in education, healthcare or housing.

One major safety net is MediShield-Life. Mr Lee described it as a complex undertaking, and said the government will help Singaporeans with MediShield-Life, adding that he is confident employers will do so too. The MediShield-Life Committee will summit its report soon, and Mr Lee said Parliament is expected to debate the report in July.

On retirement adequacy, Mr Lee said the National Development Ministry is studying how to improve schemes such as the Silver Housing Bonus and Lease Buyback Scheme which allow Singaporeans to unlock the value of their property.

He  said CPF and CPF-LIFE will be improved, adding that CPF-LIFE will be enhanced so that payouts will keep pace with the cost of living. Mr Lee is expected to address these issues again at the National Day Rally in August.

While strengthening Singapore's social safety nets is the right thing to do, this should also be done carefully, Mr Lee said. There have been many examples of how social policies with good intentions have gone awry, he noted. Australia, for example, found itself in chronic deficits, after surpluses used to pay for these policies disappeared.

The best way to improve lives, Mr Lee said, is to give every child a good education and to give every Singaporean opportunities to do well in life. The Government will continue to keep pathways open to give students the opportunity to fulfill their potential, he said, and to give Singaporeans opportunities to pick up new skills even after they join the workforce.

Keeping pathways open also means upholding an ethos of openness and informality in society, Mr Lee said. He said while it is not possible to be a completely classless society, Singapore must not have rigid hierarchies or class distinctions, and people must be able to interact up and down the social ladder.