SINGAPORE — Singapore must continue to reinvent itself and break new ground to “stay in front of the pack”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in this year’s National Day message.
Delivering the nine-minute message from Jewel Changi Airport on Thursday (8 August), Lee cited the $1.7 billion retail complex, which opened in April, as an example of what makes the country special.
“It shows that Singaporeans not only have the creativity and daring to re-invent ourselves, but also the passion and the competence to turn dreams into reality,” he added, noting that the concept of Jewel was conceived nine years ago when the airport was facing intense competition.
“As you might expect, other cities and airports are already planning to emulate Jewel, and perhaps even do it bigger and better. But we dared to attempt the new, and we did it first,” said Lee.
The Jewel is “just one of the many things we are doing to remake our city”, he added. Among the major projects in the pipeline highlighted by Lee are the Changi Terminal 5, Tuas Megaport, the Jurong Lake District, the redevelopment of Paya Lebar Airbase, and the Greater Southern Waterfront.
“All these projects will keep us busy, and create new opportunities for Singaporeans for decades to come,” he said.
Lee also spoke about a foreign leader, whom he did not name, who expressed admiration for Singapore during his first visit here recently.
The foreign leader recounted as the airplane he was in flew over the island that “he knew at once that he was over Singapore”. He described seeing from the window to Lee that “every corner of the island had been meticulously thought through and lovingly tended – every housing precinct, every landmark, every patch of park and greenery”.
The island was a “sparkling diamond, with brilliant facets catching the eye”, just like Jewel, said Lee.
External economic challenges
Lee also spoke about the challenges facing the nation this year, including economic uncertainties, growing friction between major powers and global warming.
“Singapore will not be immune to these global problems...We must get ourselves ready for a very different future,” said Lee.
The local economy has slowed down this year with the weakening of global demand and international trade affecting the manufacturing sector and trade-related services.
Particularly, Singapore is feeling the worldwide cyclical downswing for electronics, which performed strongly last year, said Lee.
“We have experienced such slowdowns before, and we will take this one in our stride. Should it become necessary to stimulate the economy, we will do so,” he added.
Singapore’s past gives confidence that it can overcome the present challenges, Lee stressed.
“Throughout our history, when trials and tribulations have beset us, we picked ourselves up, and worked together to overcome them. Each time the world changed, we were able to survive,” he said.
“Each time, we reinvented and renewed our economy, our people and our city, and we thrived again. And this is what we must keep on doing.”
The country has made good progress in transforming different industries, Lee noted, including the research of new cures for diseases and pushing boundaries in FinTech services.
“Our seaport and airport are expanding to meet the growing demands of a dynamic Asia. The two integrated resorts...are being enhanced to attract more tourists. Our tech and startup scenes are flourishing,” he said.
“Good progress” is also seen in re-skilling and upgrading for a “future-ready” workforce, with SkillsFuture helping tens of thousands of Singaporeans to be more productive, employable, and prepared for the new jobs being created, he added.
Investing heavily in Singaporeans
The government will continue to invest heavily in Singaporeans to help “every citizen to achieve (their) potential and contribute (their) best to Singapore, Lee stressed.
“This is a joint endeavour,” Lee explained. “Each one of us must strive to improve ourselves, do our best, and chase our dreams. And I know parents are making the effort to bring up children well, with the right character and values.”
One of the initiatives the government is looking at is to make preschool and tertiary education even more affordable, especially for lower and middle-income families.
“To help older Singaporeans, we have protected them for their healthcare and retirement needs. For those who wish to work longer, we will be raising the retirement and the re-employment ages,” said Lee, adding that he will speak more about these matters at the upcoming National Day Rally on 18 August.
Calling for today’s Singaporeans to be as “intrepid, tough, resolute and united” as their ancestors and forefathers, Lee noted that the country has “many more bright chapters to unfold”.
“Let us continue to work together as one united people to thrive in an uncertain world, challenge ourselves to explore new horizons, and commit our hearts and souls to Singapore and its future,” he added.
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