SINGAPORE: Amid an uncertain external environment, Singapore must press on with plans to restructure its economy and invest in its infrastructure in 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his New Year message on Sunday (Dec 31).
This includes continuing to implement Industry Transformation Maps, and using SkillsFuture to inculcate lifelong learning and help workers to adapt and grow in new jobs, Mr Lee said.
Healthcare facilities are also being expanded to prepare for an ageing population, and more pre-schools being built to give children a strong start in life, he added.
As for infrastructure, the Government is working on improving rail reliability and growing the MRT network, Mr Lee said. Major infrastructure projects in the pipeline include Changi Airport’s Terminal 5, the Tuas Megaport and the high-speed rail link to Kuala Lumpur.
“All these are essential investments in our future. They require time and resources, and will stretch way beyond this term of Government. We have to plan well ahead for them,” he said.
“This is how we have built today’s Singapore – each generation working and saving for the future, building on what it inherited and passing on something better to the next generation. This was the creed that drove the Pioneer Generation of Singaporeans, and it must animate our generation too.”
HIGHER WAGES, IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY
Mr Lee noted that Singapore is ending 2017 stronger than it started, with economic growth for the year at 3.5 per cent – more than double the Government’s initial forecast. Wages have also gone up across the board, especially for low- and middle-income earners, he said.
“We have benefitted from the global economic upswing. But more fundamentally, our productivity has grown,” he said. “Singaporeans are upgrading and learning new skills, while businesses are innovating and adopting new technology. That is how we will stay competitive and ready for the future.”
Singaporeans are also striving to become more resilient and cohesive, with the SGSecure movement making people more aware of the terrorist threat, and community and religious leaders working together to strengthen social cohesion, the Prime Minister said.
“One significant step to strengthen our racial harmony, now and well into the future, was amending the Constitution to put in place reserved Presidential Elections. President Halimah Yacob, our first Malay President in almost 50 years, is a visible symbol of our national unity and our commitment to multiracialism."
The Singapore Government has much to do next year, Mr Lee added.
After the Budget sitting, Parliament will prorogue for a mid-term break. When the new Parliamentary session opens in May, Mdm Halimah will deliver her inaugural President’s Address, which will lay out the Government’s agenda for the rest of the term, he said.
“This will bear the imprint of the fourth-generation leadership, who are taking on greater responsibilities, and putting forth their ideas for Singapore,” he said.
The year after next – 2019 – will be Singapore’s bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ landing in 1819, Mr Lee noted.
Raffles’ landing was a key turning point in Singapore’s history and set the country on a different trajectory, bringing it to where it is today, he said.
"Had Raffles not landed, Singapore might not have become a unique spot in Southeast Asia, quite different from the islands in the archipelago around us, or the states in the Malayan Peninsula. But because of Raffles, Singapore became a British colony, a free port, and a modern city."
Singapore's progress was not a “straight line upwards” and it experienced dislocations and disruptions, including war and economic depressions. “But ultimately we came through, and became an independent nation,” Mr Lee said.
Just as it marked the 150th anniversary of Raffles’ landing in 1969, Singapore should commemorate this bicentennial appropriately, Mr Lee said.
“It is an important milestone for Singapore; an occasion for us to reflect on how our nation came into being, how we have come this far since, and how we can go forward together.”