SINGAPORE: It is the responsibility of the new generation of Singaporeans to renew the country and create fresh possibilities and frontiers, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (May 1) at the annual May Day Rally.
This comes even as Singapore's economy performed better than expected last year, with Mr Lee expressing hopes for "another good year" in spite of challenges from the external environment.
"What is the responsibility of the new generation of Singaporeans?" Mr Lee said during his speech, in which he also praised the Pioneer Generation for building the nation from scratch.
"It is to renew Singapore to open a new chapter, to create new possibilities and frontiers for our country," he added.
But even as they do this, Mr Lee said, they must hold fast to the values that have made Singapore successful.
"The instinct to plan ahead, the drive to do better, the sense of mission that we are building something special together in Singapore, and the duty of stewardship that we are responsible not just to the present generation, but also to generations to come," Mr Lee told unionists at Downtown East.
This shared responsibility for the future is Singapore's strength, Mr Lee added, and will be how the country can remain a successful nation.
Mr Lee's comments come as Singapore's economy expanded 3.6 per cent last year, much higher than the 1 to 2 per cent that was forecast.
Despite the "dark clouds on the horizon", there is a "good chance" gross domestic product will exceed 2.5 per cent this year, Mr Lee said. The official forecast is for economic growth to come in between 1.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent.
Mr Lee cautioned that Singapore's economy depends heavily on external events such as the trade tensions between US and China.
Rising unilateralism from the US could cause "collateral damage" to Singapore's exports and businesses even though Singapore is not involved in the fight, he said.
"As a small country, Singapore will always be vulnerable to what happens around us. We don't control events. We don't determine what the big countries do," Mr Lee said.
TACKLING DISRUPTIONS AT HOME
Domestically, Mr Lee said that technology continues to disrupt workers and businesses. Singapore will continue to restructure its economy and upgrade the workforce through training and Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs).
He brought up the example of three industries that have gone through transformation - banking, transport and retail and logistics.
In transport, ridesharing apps such as Grab and Uber have radically transformed the taxi industry in the last three to four years. Commuter habits have changed because of the convenience, predictability and options available when booking a ride on an app, he said.
Taxi companies have had to adapt and create new partnerships with ridesharing companies and the Land Transport Authority had to keep up with suitable rules for the new players to operate in, Mr Lee said.
Workers too, including bus and train captains, have had to adapt to market changes and using new technology as part of their work.
The banking sector, Mr Lee said, is also undergoing technological disruption. Banks have had to deal with technological disruptions for a much longer time from bank teller services, to ATMs, to mobile banking and the next phase of disruption with fintech start-ups, he added.
Mr Lee said that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has done well to make Singapore a popular place for fintech firms and has created 2,000 jobs in the last two years.
Banks have also started to reskill and redeploy frontline staff to take on new responsibilities through programmes such as the Professional Conversion Programme.
In the retail and logistics sector, Mr Lee shared examples of companies that have gone high-tech to respond to changing demand and new technology.
For example, DIY store HomeFix has strengthened its presence online. The company has also expanded its services to include repairing and training courses.
BUSINESSES, WORKFORCE WILL HAVE TO EMBRACE THE CHANGES
Mr Lee said that in all three industries, technology has shown to improve people's lives and provided new opportunities. So companies will have to upgrade themselves to meet with changing customer demands and to compete with others, and workers will have to adapt to and embrace changes.
"I know that change is not always easy, and many workers worry about the pace of change. The Government and Labour Movement will walk with you, and support you all the way," Mr Lee said.
Younger Singaporeans will be provided with sound education and market-relevant skills while those already working can find schemes and programmes to upgrade and re-skill, making themselves more employable, especially older workers, he said.
He added that the Labour Movement plays a "critical role" here by providing training and upgrading for members through various platforms and most importantly, "nurture in workers the mindset of lifelong learning".
"That is why when the NTUC Central Committee asked me for a political office holder to work on industry transformation and to help MTI coordinate the implementation of the ITMs, I agreed immediately," Mr Lee said.
He added that Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon will strengthen the link between the Labour Movement, industry and businesses and Government.
SINGAPORE'S SECRET INGREDIENT IS TRIPARTISM
Turning his attention to younger political leaders, Mr Lee said that they have to renew the trust between Government and the NTUC, and its commitment to the tripartite relationship.
"The fourth generation political leadership is learning on the job, taking on more responsibilities, and preparing for succession," Mr Lee said.
"At the same time, a younger generation of union leaders is being groomed. They are learning from the elders, and in time will take over the reins," he added.
As the younger leaders take over in both the Government and Labour Movement, they must continue the work on tripartism, which has been "fundamental" to Singapore's survival and success through major national and economic events such as the nation building years and financial crises, Mr Lee said.
"It is the one crucial ingredient that is unique to our success that others cannot copy. It's not a secret in the sense that people don't know about it, but secret in the sense that they can see it but can't do it," he added.
"Without the Labour Movement partnering companies; without NTUC partnering the People's Action Party in a symbiotic relationship; without the Government, unions and businesses sharing responsibility for Singapore's future, we would not have made it here," he said.