SINGAPORE: The upcoming Budget will include plans to improve the lives of Singaporeans, such as helping households with the cost of living, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his New Year message on Tuesday (Dec 31).
It will also contain measures to help “businesses to raise their productivity and build new capabilities”, he added.
READ: PM Lee says important to stay on top of 'bread and butter issues' but 'intangible ethos' of a society more vital in long run
Workers, especially mid-career PMETs (Professionals, managers, executives and technicians) will get help “to retrain, acquire new skills, find new jobs and stay employable” and social safety nets protecting the poor, elderly, and vulnerable will be improved, said Mr Lee.
“These are all practical measures to improve the lives of Singaporeans,” he said
Mr Lee said the Singapore economy is still growing “but less vigorously than we would like”.
Although Singapore avoided a recession, it has been affected by the global economic slowdown, he said, adding that the current outlook is one “fraught with uncertainty”.
RESISTING THE TEMPTATION TO TURN INWARD
“Serious frictions” have developed between the US and China, he pointed out. And while their recent trade deal has partially relieved tensions, it will not resolve the fundamental differences, Mr Lee added.
He also noted that many societies such as Hong Kong, Chile and France, are also under stress.
“Despite economic growth, their peoples feel anxious, discouraged and upset. They worry about basic needs like housing and jobs. They are angry that the fruits of growth have not been shared equitably, and income gaps are widening,” he said.
“Consequently, large parts of their populations have lost faith in their economic and political systems, and are pessimistic about the future. This is fuelling nativism and chauvinism, and sectarian strife. Everywhere globalisation seems to be in retreat.”
He noted that Singaporeans are also worried about the state of the world, and "have our own domestic concerns".
But Singapore must resist the temptation to turn inwards. Instead, it must stay open and connected to the world instead as globalisation has benefitted Singapore enormously, Mr Lee said.
“A Singapore turned inwards cannot survive.”
SINGAPORE CAN CONTINUE TO SHINE BRIGHTLY IF EVERYONE STANDS TOGETHER
Mr Lee said Singapore is in a better position than most countries.
“For decades we have toiled to improve our people’s lives. And we continue to make steady progress, year after year,” he said.
Highlighting some of the progress being made, Mr Lee said the education system is being reformed and measures such as the changing of the PSLE scoring system to reduce pressure on students has been put in place.
Pre-school fees are being lowered while the quality of pre-school raised to give every child a good start in life.
And there are now more post-secondary education pathways to bring out the best in every student.
For housing, there are enhanced subsidies for first-time buyers to help more young families own their own homes.
And in healthcare, Singapore is also “expanding capacity significantly”.
After much work, he said rail services have “dramatically improved”.
“As before, every step forward will take daring and determination,” said Mr Lee. “But if we stand together and keep making the effort, I am confident Singapore can continue to shine brightly in the world.”