Govt pledges to increase social safety nets and more: President Tony Tan

·Nurul Azliah Aripin
Government will pursue new strategies to build a better future for Singapore and its people, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said during in his speech at the opening of the Twelfth Parliament’s second session on Friday.

Government will pursue new strategies to build a better future for Singapore and its people, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said during his speech at the opening of the Twelfth Parliament’s second session on Friday.

He said the government would work with all Singaporeans to achieve the following six broad goals: strengthening social safety nets, enhancing retirement adequacy, supporting strong families and communities, creating a better quality of life, creating more job opportunities and enabling young Singaporeans to fulfil their potential.

“Our environment has changed, and so must our approach to nation building. We will chart this together with all Singaporeans,” he said.

He said the government will ensure opportunities for social mobility through continued investment in education and training. Specifically, it will invest more in pre-school education, create more opportunities for Institute of Technology and Polytechnic students and expand university places.

Government is also strengthening the system of Continuing Education and Training (CET), including the two new CET institutes: the Devan Nair Institute in Jurong and the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, he noted.

Strengthening social safety nets

In the area of social safety nets, the government will continue to make housing affordable and will develop new housing options to encourage extended families to live closer together.

It will also ensure affordability and quality of healthcare to Singaporeans, he said.

He pointed out that the MediShield Life Review Committee is finalising the details of the scheme to ensure premiums would be affordable.

The government will also “improve existing Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings and CPF Life annuity schemes”, he added.

Government spending, particularly on social programmes, will increase over the next decade, but, he noted, “We have to ensure that our social spending can be sustained, and that we have enough revenues to balance our budget.”

The government will also work on making Singapore a good home for people to thrive. Housing Development Board (HDB) heartlands and neighbourhoods will continue to be upgraded. They will also be integrated with green corridors and waterways, as well as sports and leisure facilities, he said.

“We will make Singapore a Smart Nation: enabling safer, cleaner and greener urban living, more transport options, better care for the elderly at home, more responsive public services and more opportunities for citizen engagement,” he said.

In it together

Tan also urged Singaporeans to treat immigrants and foreigners who contribute to the country’s society and economy with “graciousness, kindness and fellowship”. He added that “this spirit will enable us to progress and prosper together.”

On the topic of upholding constructive politics, the president encourages Singaporeans to join debates, understand issues, share views and argue positions. While some may have differing views, such differences should not “pull us apart”, he said.

Singapore will continue to adapt to the changing environment, said the president, highlighting the government’s efforts such as introducing ComCare and Workfare to take care of the needy and low-wage workers, as well as speeding housing and public transport programmes to address urgent needs.

He also said that Singapore should continue to safeguard interests abroad by cooperating with other countries and “earn respect around the world”. He added that Singapore needs to maintain a strong Singapore Armed Force and Home Team to protect Singaporeans. Stressing the importance of showing support for NSmen, he said the Committee to Strengthen National Service will propose ways to do this.

In concluding his speech, Tan said that the “best years lie ahead” for Singapore.

“As we approach our 50th anniversary of independence, let us pledge ourselves anew to build a better, brighter Singapore,” he said.

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