Here are 3 key takeaways from the National Day Rally 2022.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally address at ITE College Central yesterday, August 21.
Speaking in Malay, Mandarin and English, PM Lee gave an update on the Covid-19 situation and the nation’s economic outlook amid challenges such as inflation and persistent supply chain disruptions which are likely to persist due to possible further escalations in the Ukraine war and potential escalation in regional geopolitical tensions.
Our collective efforts have saved many lives
PM Lee began his English speech with an update on Singapore’s fight against Covid-19.
In Singapore, fewer than 1,600 people died from the disease. Singapore is learning to live with the virus, and the latest wave is now subsiding. However, the virus will continue to mutate.
PM Lee noted that the vital part of that success is the high level of trust – between the people and the Government, and people practised personal and social responsibility.
He added, that the Government will ease mask requirements. Masks will still be required on public transport and in healthcare settings like clinics, hospitals, and residential and nursing homes. Everywhere else, outdoors or indoors, masks will be optional. That includes in schools.
The speech focused on how Singapore will be tackling three social challenges:
- Tackling the high cost of living
- Repeal of Section 377a of the Penal Code
- Addressing the concerns over foreign professionals
The government will continue to do necessary
With the high cost of living remaining at the top of everyone’s mind, PM Lee said that the government will do everything necessary to support Singaporeans, especially lower and middle-income families. He further illustrated with two examples of the types of support which include cash payouts, U-Save rebates, S&CC rebates, CDC vouchers, and MediSave top-up.
PM Lee added the government is prepared to do more such as tightening the exchange rate policy. However, continuing to do as such would mean Singapore’s exports would cost higher and this may weaken our competitiveness against other counties.
As Singapore does not have much influence over the global inflation picture, the only way forward is to “press on with economic upgrading and restricting, redoubling transformation efforts, and encourage workers to upgrade their skills.”
A workforce that is higher-skilled, can potentially increase not just our nation’s competitiveness, it would also lead to better career prospects and wages for our workers.
To PM Lee, when workers earn more, this would more than make up for the higher prices of food, fuel and other imports.
“That way, we can all become better off, in real terms,” said PM Lee.
A person’s sexual orientation and behaviour is a private & personal matter
PM Lee announced, that the Government will repeal Section 377A.
He believed this is the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept. He added, “This will bring the law into line with current social mores, and I hope, provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.”
“While we remain a broadly conservative society, gay people are now better accepted in Singapore, especially among younger Singaporeans.”
It is time to ask ourselves again the fundamental question: Should sex between men in private be a criminal offence? said PM Lee.
Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalises sex between men. Parliament last debated whether or not to repeal Section 377A in 2007 which led to strong views by MPs on both sides. 15 years on, attitudes have shifted considerably.
However, PM Lee added that the government does not want the repeal to trigger sweeping changes in society.
“Even as we repeal 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage. Under the law, only marriages between one man and one woman are recognised in Singapore. Many national policies rely upon this definition of marriage, including public housing, education, adoption rules, advertising standards, and film classification. The Government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage, nor these policies.”
PM Lee said there will be a full debate when the legislation is brought to Parliament.
The impact of non-residents living and working in Singapore
“We do our utmost to develop our own talent, and enable every Singaporean to reach their fullest potential. But when it comes to top talent, we can never have enough. This is an age where talent makes all the difference to a nation’s success. We need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent, in the same way, we focus on attracting and retaining investments.
PM Lee gave his assurance that the government continues to follow- up on the issues and ease concerns related to the impact of non-residents living and working in Singapore, we “must not stop seeking out top talent who can contribute to our Singapore story”.
He said, “If we can get the people we want to come here, it will really help Singapore to shine brightly as a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth. And it’ll make our own talent want to stay in Singapore, to participate in building a dynamic and outstanding nation.”
Growing our talents in a time of slow economic growth, especially when the the world is also becoming more uncertain, with technological advances, intensified competition and new ways of work, is a formidable task. Demographics and workforce profiles are evolving, together with our workers’ aspirations. Thus, as part of developing our workforce, the year-long public engagement exercise, #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations recently launched by National Trades Union Congress is timely.
Through this year-long public engagement exercise, NTUC hopes to reach out to at least 20,000 Singaporean workers to hear their concerns, priorities and aspirations and look at the key factors that enable workers to succeed in their careers, the assurances they need throughout various stages of their life, as well as the protections needed for vulnerable workers.
The findings and subsequent recommendations will also contribute to the Forward Singapore movement, a national year-long engagement exercise led by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, which aims to refresh Singapore’s social compact.
Good leadership is non-negotiable
Before ending, PM Lee spoke about how Covid-19 had put his succession plans on hold.
“Now we are learning to live with COVID-19, and entering a new normal. The younger ministers have chosen DPM Lawrence Wong to be their leader. I am happy that the matter is settled, and my succession plans are moving forward again. I am also glad that from everything I see, Singaporeans are supportive of Lawrence and his leadership of the team.”
“So I ask you to give Lawrence and his 4G team – your team – your fullest support.”
PM Lee highlighted for Singapore to overcome all its challenges, the country must strive to get three fundamentals right- a united people, a high-quality leadership team and continued high trust between the people and their leaders.
Rounding up the National Day Rally PM Lee said, “I have given you my sense of what we can achieve, and also what can go wrong. But with your trust, we can come through whatever difficulties await. With your support, we can turn hopes and dreams into reality. And united as one people, we can secure a brighter future in this uncertain world – not just for now, not just for ourselves, but for every Singaporean child, for many generations to come.”