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S'pore govt to play bigger role in building fair and just society

Publication Date : 09-08-2013


Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday signalled a shift in Singapore's approach to nation building, as he assured Singaporeans they will always have a stake in the country, and ample chances to make good in life.

The government will play a bigger role to build a fair and just society and help everyone succeed, he said in his National Day message, outlining the thinking behind policy changes expected in next week's National Day Rally.

"Our road ahead will be different from the road we have travelled. So we must reassess our position, review our direction, and refresh our strategies to thrive," he said, in a message recorded at the new Safra Toa Payoh clubhouse and broadcast Thursday night.

Giving the broad strokes of the changes, he said the government will do more to help children from less well-off families get off to a good start from pre-school, the elderly cope with health-care costs and every family own a Housing Board flat.

It will give low-income workers a better deal through Workfare, which tops up their wages.

But even as the government does more, and the country finds a new balance between the individual, community and the state, each one must still do his best, and be self-reliant and resourceful. "Singapore can only succeed if each one of us contributes his part," he said.

The prime minister laid out the reasons for the change in approach, which other ministers have also pointed to in their speeches and this year's budget.

The world is changing fast and unpredictably. Jobs have become less secure and wages are rising more slowly or even stagnating. Families are working harder and parents worry for their children's future.

As for Singapore, its economy is maturing, its population ageing and its society has become more diverse.

Against that backdrop, the year-long "Our Singapore Conversation" exercise has helped "to crystallise what Singaporeans aspire to", Lee said.

What they seek is a Singapore that gives its people opportunities to succeed and live fulfilling lives, which defines success more broadly, with social safety nets that give peace of mind and where people help each other.

The government will work to realise these aspirations, he said, but it also needs to ensure Singapore stays ahead of the competition and maintains its standing in the world.

To do so, the country must remain united and get its politics right, he said, reiterating a point he made at a recent forum.

"We must always have able, honest and committed leaders, who can be trusted to serve Singaporeans. We need a good government that thinks and plans ahead, and more importantly feels for our concerns and hopes," he said.


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