SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Aug 8) highlighted three longer-term issues for Singapore, even as the country grapples with present challenges such as terrorism and international trade becoming more insular.
In his National Day message this year, Mr Lee said 52 years on, Singapore continues to be preoccupied with urgent issues, both domestically and externally.
“Terrorism is a major threat, with frequent attacks around the world and closer to home. International trade, a key engine of our growth, is at risk from protectionism,” he said. “We are busy upgrading our economy. Our students and workers are mastering new skills and staying up to date with technology.”
However, as the country deals with these challenges, it must also look beyond the horizon and prepare for the future, and Mr Lee highlighted three such issues: Pre-school, the war on diabetes and the goal of making Singapore a Smart Nation.
PREPARE YOUNG SINGAPOREANS FOR NEW WORLD
For pre-school, the Prime Minister said there is a need to prepare young Singaporeans for the new world, and for every child “to have a good start in life and a bright future”. To this end, he said there have been investments in pre-schools because the “early childhood years make a big difference to children not just academically, but for life”.
He said the Government will create more pre-school places, raise the quality of these schools and upgrade the profession of pre-school teachers.
“More and better pre-schools will also take a major load off parents. Parents will have peace of mind when they are working, knowing that their kids are in good hands,” Mr Lee said in the message. “We want to support them and encourage them to start a family.”
MUST GO ALL OUT TO FIGHT DIABETES
As for the second area of fighting diabetes, the Prime Minister said he wants Singaporeans to live long and stay healthy. While there are good doctors and hospitals here, it is better for people to stay healthy and not go to one at all, he said.
But he pointed out that the elderly here experience an average of eight years of poor health at the end of their lives.
Mr Lee said a “big reason” for ill health in old age is diabetes, with almost a third of those over 60 having the disease. “At first, diabetes is an invisible disease. But over time, its consequences are severe – blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, amputated limbs.”
This is why the country must “go all out” to fight diabetes, he said, adding that it depends crucially on personal choices and lifestyles to prevent it in the first place.
“Each one of us must take responsibility for our own health. Each one of us must make the effort to watch our lifestyle and diet, to exercise regularly, to drink plain water instead of soft drinks. And this must start from young,” Mr Lee said.
“That is the way to reduce the risk of diabetes, stay healthy and live well.”
SMART NATION AIM: “WE NEED TO DO MUCH BETTER”
The Prime Minister’s third point is on the country’s Smart Nation ambitions, as it looks to make full use of IT to create opportunities and jobs here and make Singapore an “outstanding place to live, work and play”.
He pointed out that the country has a natural advantage: It is a highly connected and digitally literate society. “We even have more smartphones than people,” Mr Lee said, but added that it must do much better.
Other countries are using electronic payments to go cashless, building sensor networks to enhance public security and analysing big data to improve public services, he said.
“We must learn from them, catch up and get ahead,” Mr Lee said.
“By using IT for practical applications, big and small, we can improve our lives, and make this a fun and happening place.”
He added that he will speak more on the three issues at the National Day Rally.
The Prime Minister was delivering his message at Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay, and he took the opportunity to confirm that the Government has accepted the recommendation for the Founders’ Memorial to be sited there.