This is a compilation and summary of PM Lee's National Day Rally 2013 Speech from his Facebook account, covering topics such as home ownership, healthcare, and education:
PM began his English speech recapping the OurSGConversation (http://bit.ly/1cJT4ij) process. He said the OSC has been a very meaningful exercise. "We have listened to one another and created a firmer, shared basis to discuss and plan our future."
PM said that to achieve our aspirations, we need to take into account the world around us. He knows Singaporeans feel uncertain and anxious - technology and globalisation are widening income gaps, our population is ageing, and Singaporeans are worried about the cost of living, public transport, and other day-to-day problems. PM said: I understand your concerns, and I promise you - you will not be facing these challenges alone because we are all in it together. We will find a new way to thrive in this new environment.
Nation building, community and individuals
PM said we must make a strategic shift in our approach to nation building. Individuals must still do their best, but the Community and Government must do more to reduce the pressures on individuals.
The Community must take more initiative to solve problems and get things done. As Mr S Rajaratnam, one of our founding fathers, said, we must be a "democracy of deeds, not a democracy of words".
The Government will also do more to support individuals and community. It will make 3 important shifts: (1) Do more to give every citizen a fair share in the nation's success, raise incomes and wealth of the low-income; (2) Strengthen social safety nets, so that whatever happens to you, you can get the essential social services that you need; (3) Do more to keep paths upwards open to all, by bringing every child to a good starting point, and ensuring the less privileged are not shut out.
PM emphasised that home ownership has been and will continue to be an important way to share the fruits of our progress with all Singaporeans, and to level up the poor.
PM said he will make sure every Singaporean working family can afford an HDB flat - a family today earning $1,000 per month should be able to afford a 2-room flat; $2,000 per month a 3-room flat; and $4,000 per month a 4-room flat. Flat prices will be kept affordable so that people can use mostly CPF to pay off their loans, and have a 25 year loan instead of a 30 year loan.
Families in 2-room flats can look forward to more help to upgrade to 3-room flats later, as they improve their lives, through Step-Up Housing Grants. Lower- and middle-income households buying 3-room and 4-room flats for the first-time will also get more support - the Government will extend the existing Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) to purchases of 4-room flats, extend it to middle-income households, and increase the SHG quantum.
PM: "We will always make sure that an HDB flat is always within reach - affordable and available to Singaporeans."
PM said that the Government will improve healthcare financing to give all Singaporeans peace of mind. It will provide more help with outpatient care. It will remove the age floor (currently 40) in the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) and increase subsidies for lower- and middle-income patients at Specialist Outpatient Clinics.
MediShield will be revamped to become MediShield Life. It will cover people for life (not up to 90) and be universal (covering every Singaporean, including those not currently covered, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions). MediShield Life will also give better protection for very large bills. Because benefits and coverage are better, premiums will be higher. The Government will subsidise premiums for those who can't afford it. MOH will conduct a public consultation exercise on this major change.
Pioneer generation of Singaporeans
PM promised to take special care of our Pioneer Generation. They worked hard to build today's Singapore and paved the way for us to live better lives than themselves.
The Government will introduce a Pioneer Generation Package to help this group of elderly pay for their premiums under Medishield Life. This will make sure they are well-covered and will not need to worry about healthcare in their old age.
PM highlighted the need to keep paths upwards wide open to all, especially through education. Government is investing to give children the best start in life. It will henceforth contribute to Edusave accounts of every school-going child, including madrasah students, home-schoolers and those studying overseas.
PM said we have an excellent education system, but our society is becoming more stratified, and competition is intensifying, focusing too much on exam performance and not enough on actual learning. We must recalibrate to keep our system open and focus efforts on things that matter.
PM announced changes to Primary 1 admissions and PSLE scoring. From next year, every primary school will set aside at least 40 places for children with no prior connection to the school. PSLE scoring will be changed (not this year) to use wider bands for grades like in 'O' or 'A' levels. This will reduce excessive competition to get that extra point, and give schools space to educate and develop students more holistically. MOE will announce more details.
PM said the Government will create flexibility in secondary schools for students to tailor their education to their abilities and development. Secondary 1 students will be allowed to take a subject at a higher level if they have done well in that subject in PSLE. Secondary students who are strong in some subjects but not others can then learn each subject at a pace appropriate to them, and build their confidence.
PM said it is good that we have outstanding schools in our system, but we need to keep admissions to these top schools open. These schools must not take just students with outstanding academic results but also very good students with other special qualities such as character, resilience, drive and leadership. They must make sure that those from low-income backgrounds are not put off from applying for fear they cannot afford it, or cannot fit in. MOE will broaden the Direct School Admissions scheme to do this, and enhance Financial Assistance and Bursary schemes substantially so that students who qualify and want to attend these schools can do so confidently.
PM stressed that the Community will have to do more to complement individual effort and Government programmes, and some have indeed shown that spirit during the recent haze crisis.
PM was encouraged that many young people are doing good work. The Government will encourage more youths to build a better world and a better Singapore. A volunteer youth corps will be formed. The Govt will provide funding for youth corps members to start and do their own community projects. The youth corps will also match youths with critical community needs to help them make a meaningful contribution to our nation. "You are our future. Go forth, and change Singapore and the world for the better," PM said.
PM said the new policies in housing, healthcare and education are significant shifts, and part of our new way forward. But he emphasised that Government's core purpose has not changed, and that is to ensure every Singaporean shares in the nation's progress, to support the less fortunate and vulnerable, to create opportunities for Singaporeans to do their best, and to build a stronger Singapore. It will take some time to work out policies and programmes to realise the new balance between Government, Community and Individual, and Government will take further steps as we gain experience.
PM stressed that the new strategic direction will take us down a different road from the one that has brought us this far. There is no turning back, PM said, but he believes this is the right thing to do given the changes in Singapore and the world. "We proceed. But let me sound a caution: All this is not without risk." Hence, we have to tread carefully, and beware the pitfalls.
PM: We must pass on to our children a better Singapore than the one we inherited. We owe it to them to do so, just as we owe what we have today to our founding generation. PM said his responsibility is to help our young build the Singapore of their dreams: A Singapore with Opportunities, Purpose, Assurance, Community Spirit and Trust, a home where we celebrate our many talents, and above all, a society where the human spirit flourishes.
New complex at Changi Airport, Shifting Paya Lebar Airbase for land, and moving container ports at Tanjong Pagar to Tuas
To realise these dreams, we need to do tangible things to build our city and improve our living environment. We are upgrading Changi Airport with a new complex codenamed Project Jewel, two new terminals and a fourth runway, to maintain our position as an international hub and create more opportunities for Singaporeans in future. We will move Paya Lebar Airbase to Changi. This will free up a big plot of land (bigger than Bishan or Ang Mo Kio) for new homes, offices, factories, parks and more in Paya Lebar. Relocating the airbase will also remove height restrictions on a large area around Paya Lebar, and allow us to redevelop eastern Singapore in new and exciting ways. The Government is also building a new port in Tuas and will move all container ports from Tanjong Pagar there eventually. This will free up prime land in Tanjong Pagar for a brand new Southern Waterfront City.
PM said these longer-term plans reflect our fundamental mindset and spirit - to be confident, to look ahead, to aim high. He said if we can carry off these plans, we will not have to worry about running out of space or possibilities in Singapore. We are creating possibilities and opportunities for the future, for our children and theirs to continue building, upgrading and reinventing our city for many more years.
In his conclusion, PM said that all these are not merely plans but acts of faith - in Singapore and in ourselves: that a generation from now, Singapore will still be here; that we can thrive in the world and hold our own against bigger and stronger competitors; that we can get our politics right and have honest, capable, trusted people to lead our country well; that we can stay together as one united people and make our dreams come true.
PM called on Singaporeans to work with him and with one another. "Together, let us forge our new way forward, to create a better Singapore for all of us."
I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.