SINGAPORE: The “significant headway” made in leadership succession in 2018 bodes well for the future as it gives Singaporeans and foreigners alike “confidence that Singapore will be in good hands over the long term”.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this in his New Year message on Monday (Dec 31), as he reiterated the need for “steady and capable leaders who can rally Singaporeans to progress and prosper together” through various bold plans and investments for the country.
Mr Lee pointed to strides made on that front, noting that younger political office holders are being exposed to different responsibilities and working together as a team. They also settled on Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as their leader and supported his pick of Mr Chan Chun Sing, the Minister for Trade and Industry, as his deputy.
“This is a good outcome. It gives Singaporeans and foreigners alike confidence that Singapore will be in good hands over the long term, beyond the working lives of me and my senior colleagues,” the prime minister said.
“The older ministers and I will do our utmost to help the new team take over the reins from us, and to succeed in their responsibility to lead Singapore and secure its future.”
He added: "Singaporeans have a vital part to play in this succession. I ask you to work with the younger political leaders, to form the best team for Singapore."
2018 REPORT CARD
Mr Lee also gave an update on Singapore’s economy, saying it grew steadily at 3.3 per cent this year, close to 2017’s figure and “above expectations”.
For the coming year, the economy is expected to grow by 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, he said. But he cautioned that there are “major uncertainties” in the global economy with growing trade conflicts, nervous financial markets and signs of slowing growth.
Domestically, he said while Singapore is exposed to pressures seen in other countries such as stagnating wages, malfunctioning political systems and lives not improving, it has coped better than most because “we have worked closely together to improve the lives of all Singaporeans”.
“We have created good jobs, and prepared people for them through education and SkillsFuture,” Mr Lee said.
“Crucially, the Government is focused on people’s concerns, and working with citizens to create a better tomorrow for all.”
He cited improvements to healthcare and education, housing and public transport as examples.
For healthcare, upcoming improvements to the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) and CareShield Life will enhance support to those with chronic conditions and disabilities, while the Merdeka Generation born in the 1950s can look forward to receiving their benefits package soon too, the prime minister said.
Meanwhile, work on the public transport system is paying off as bus and train services are less crowded and more reliable, he pointed out.
New trains for the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line have been delivered in time for the opening of the first stage of that line in Woodlands next year, while public consultations for the long-term land transport master plan for 2040 are ongoing, he added.
“With long-term policies in place and a strong team in charge, we have reason to be confident about our future. Despite the uncertain external environment and economic outlook, we are entering our Bicentennial Year with renewed vigour and purpose,” the prime minister said.
“We are ready to tackle the challenges ahead and make further progress in building a secure, harmonious, and prosperous nation,” Mr Lee added as he wished Singaporeans a happy New Year.