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Singaporean PM: All to enjoy fruits of growth

NATIONAL DAY MESSAGE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivering his National Day Message on Sunday 8 August 2010 from the 51st floor -- 152m up in the air -- of The [email protected], a Housing Board residential project in Tanjong Pagar. -- Photo courtesy of the Singapore Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts

By LI XUEYING
The Straits Times
Singapore, Monday 9 August 2010

As Singapore celebrates its 45th birthday with fireworks and scorching economic growth, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that the government would continue to ensure that all Singaporeans have more opportunities.

"Our goal is for all Singaporeans to enjoy the fruits of growth," Lee said in his annual National Day Message on the night of Sunday 8 August 2010.

"When Singapore prospers, you will benefit from many government programmes: better designed HDB estates, higher quality schools and hospitals, more MRT lines and new places for recreation," he said.

Lee said that for the student, there is also the promise of further improvements to the education system. For instance, more teachers are being recruited to deliver a "more holistic and rounded education".

For the worker, he said, there are continuing education and training (CET) efforts to upgrade his skills.

But in his remarks, Lee also acknowledged the "valid concerns" of the man-in-the-street over the influx of foreigners.

While noting that it was necessary to reinforce Team Singapore with talent and numbers from abroad, Lee reiterated that the Government would control the inflow so it was "not too fast and not too large".

"We will only bring in people who can contribute to Singapore, and work harder to integrate them into our society," he said. "And we will make clear that citizens come first. After all, we are doing this for the sake of Singaporeans."

The theme of a better Singapore for all Singaporeans was prominent in his 10-minute message. It follows through on similar motifs of inclusive growth in key projects such as the Economic Strategies Committee's recommendations earlier this year, and comes at a time when efforts continue to be made to bridge the widening income gap.

It is a focus that Singaporeans such as Singapore Children's Society executive director Alfred Tan welcomed Sunday night.

"When weaker members of society feel that they are being pulled along as well and the definition of success is widened, it helps in the cohesiveness of the Singapore identity," Tan said.

Fittingly, Lee delivered his televised message from the 51st floor of The [email protected] the iconic public housing development project at Cantonment Road -- with a stunning view of the city skyline as a backdrop.

Lee began by disclosing that Singapore's gross domestic product grew 17.9% in the first half of this year, confirming earlier government announcements.

But growth is likely to moderate in the second half, he said, although the Trade and Industry Ministry still forecasts growth for the year to be between 13% and 15%.

"This exceptional performance is the fruit of Singaporeans' united response during the crisis. This enabled us to take full advantage of improved global conditions. But let us not get carried away," Lee said.

"Risks remain in the world economy, especially in Europe and the US. The global financial system is not fully mended. Singapore is small and open. If the world economy turns bad, we will be buffeted. We need to stay vigilant and watch the developments worldwide."

While Singapore cannot expect to repeat this year's sterling performance annually, "we can continue to grow our economy with sustained effort", Lee said.

"We must invest in our people, upgrade our infrastructure and improve our productivity. Then we can take full advantage of opportunities in a booming Asia and prosper."

But to do so, Lee said, each Singaporean must make the effort.

"Every student must be keen to learn and go as far as you can. Every worker must master the know-how and skills to be productive and competitive. Every manager must train and motivate his staff to maximise their contribution and potential," he said.

On the government's part, it will deliver a first-class education system for the young. Besides more teachers, "we will help every school to offer something extra and different, and thus give students more good choices", said Lee.

"We will create new peaks of excellence in the ITE (Institute of Technical Education), polytechnics and universities to stretch our students."

For the workers, there will be a comprehensive CET programme -- S$5.5 billion (US$4.08 billion) is being invested over five years, two campuses are being built and there are other schemes to boost productivity.

Another key plank in the strategy, though, is the need to reinforce the Singapore team with those from abroad.

Lee said: "I understand Singaporeans' concerns about taking in so many foreign workers and immigrants. Some of us wonder: Will it change the ethos of our society? Will it mean more competition for us at work, or for our children in schools? Will the new arrivals strike roots here? Can they adjust to us, and we to them? These are valid concerns which we must address."

But Singapore will lose out without foreign talent, and 45 years after the creation of Singapore as a nation, Lee reminded that 'we ourselves are descendants of immigrants too'.

"Let us welcome them with an open heart, help them to fit in and encourage those who will become citizens to strike roots here," he urged. "If we do this well, by the next generation, their children will be native Singaporeans."

With the Youth Olympic Games just a week away, Lee said he had no doubt Singapore's cityscape would wow the visitors.

"More importantly, we must impress with the spirit of our people," he said.

He concluded by saying that Singaporeans could be proud of what they had attained.

"But we must keep learning from others, improve in every area and strive hard to achieve our future goals. Tomorrow's Singapore must be better than today's," he said, before wishing Singaporeans a Happy National Day.

Asia News Network

MySinchew 2010-08-09

 

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