We can reach a better tomorrow as one people

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivering the National Day Rally speech on Aug 23, 2015.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivering the National Day Rally speech on Aug 23, 2015.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has delivered another substantive National Day Rally speech, highlighting key achievements of our past and aspirations for an even better country in the next era.

I congratulate the Prime Minister for focusing on progress in population, international relations, defence, housing and, more importantly, our cohesion as a people.

These fundamental pillars have been built over decades of strong People's Action Party vision and guiding principles continued by successive administrations.

Let me also highlight other achievements not mentioned in the National Day Rally speech that have made Singapore successful and will continue to enhance our future.

We have a law-abiding and courteous citizenry, with a fair justice system and civic programmes. This is the basis of a strong united people.

Therefore, I hope we will continue to inculcate even finer civic-mindedess in our lives.

As a young nation, we can aspire to reach maturity, just as the Japanese and German standards of social courtesy have shown the world how soft capital can overcome limitations.

In education, Singapore has already started moving to a more skills-based focus.

At the vocational and tertiary level, we now have leading polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education and new universities tied to renowned partners producing practical professionals.

We can accelerate this strategy by professionalising various levels of work currently not viewed as careers. Plumbing, carpentry, masonry, driving, cooking, security, retail and design are examples of work that, once levelled up, will bring new possibilities in the service industry.

This also reduces our long dependence on cheap foreign labour in currently less rewarding jobs.

Skills-based education is the future pillar of entrepreneurship and a service economy that is necessary in a nation with limited land. We will find new meaningful vocations away from multinational careers to grow our national income if we level up jobs.

Lastly, we have a renowned public infrastructure.

Over the past five years, Singapore has successfully enhanced liveability standards with a vibrant social environment that is clean and exciting.

Visitors and residents alike have the widest variety of entertainment and recreational options. The physical beauty of new iconic attractions has added prestige and mindshare through visitors' pictures on social media.

These are achievements of the current Government that have turned an efficient investment destination into one of the world's top destinations for living.

There are many other things we will have to do better. But we are moving in the right direction.

As long as we stay as one people, we will reach a better tomorrow together.

Ed Cheong Tuck Kuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'We can reach a better tomorrow as one people'. Print Edition | Subscribe