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Singapore Parliament reopens: Key points of President Tony Tan's speech

Published on May 16, 2014 9:55 PM

Singapore's 12th Parliament resumed on Friday with the Government pledging anew to build a better and brighter Singapore, and calling on all Singaporeans to do the same.

In a speech that set out the priorities, policies and programmes for the rest of the term, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said that it was an important moment in Singapore's history as the country prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence next year.

Singapore's best years lie ahead, he said.

Parliament was prorogued on April 15 for a mid-term break, to let the Government and MPs take stock of their work since Parliament opened in October 2011.

Singapore's 12th Parliament resumed on Friday with the Government pledging anew to build a better and brighter Singapore, and calling on all Singaporeans to do the same. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Addressing MPs and invited guests at Parliament House, Dr Tan outlined the Government's goals to strengthen safety nets for the vulnerable and elderly, build strong families and communities, improve quality of life for all, and create more opportunities for both working adults and the young.

"Just as our pioneers overcame formidable obstacles with grit and determination to build today's Singapore, we too must create our Singapore of tomorrow," he said.

Dr Tan said the Government would pursue new strategies and work with Singaporeans to address their concerns and aspirations.

He noted that in the last decade, Singapore had been adjusting and adapting to changes in the global and domestic environments, with the Government making some major shifts.

Among them are the introduction of ComCare public assistance for the down and out and Workfare wage supplement schemes to help the needy and low-wage workers.

More changes are to come, he said, in the areas of education, housing, the Central Provident Fund schemes and in National Service.

For instance, plans are afoot to harness new technologies to turn Singapore into a "Smart Nation" with greener urban living, more transport options, better care for the elderly, public services that are more responsive and greater opportunities for citizen engagement.

The CPF savings and annuities schemes will also be improved to better prepare Singaporeans financially for their golden years, he said.

And new housing options would be developed to encourage extended families to live closer together for family bonding.

As it goes about these plans, Dr Tan said, the Government will pay special attention to the vulnerable, especially the elderly and low-wage workers.

But he cautioned that even as the Government spends more on social programmes, the spending must be sustainable.

Government spending itself will not create a wealthier or happier society, he added as he called on individuals and the community to pitch in to build a home "where we feel a sense of responsibility for one another, and not just a sense of entitlement to the benefits of citizenship".

As Singapore continues to adapt to the changing environment, some fundamentals, like the country's small size, would not change, he said.

As such, Singapore will always be "navigating dangers and threats in an uncertain world", and should never take security for granted, he added, citing recent events in Ukraine and the maritime disputes in East and South-east Asia.

Effective diplomacy and a strong army and Home Team were, therefore, necessary to provide the "sense of security to pursue our dreams", said Dr Tan.

The President also warned against populist politics which would "weaken" Singapore.

"It is crucial to maintain constructive politics that puts our nation and our people first" in order to achieve the ambitious goals the Government has set for the rest of its term, he said.

Recalling the opening of the first Parliament in 1965, he noted then-President Yusof Ishak expressing the hopes for Singapore to become a "tolerant society, multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, welded ever closer together by the ties of common experience".

Singapore's pioneer generation had fought hard for the country's survival, and had created in Singapore "something special and precious for all of us to enjoy", he said.

The $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package, announced in this year's Budget, was a sincere expression of appreciation for their sacrifices and contribution, he added.

But a better way to honour them was to uphold the same pioneering spirit, to "dream and fight for Singapore".

He urged Singaporeans, especially the young, to "take the torch, run faster and further, and keep Singapore's light burning bright". "We must be stewards of our pioneers' success, and leave behind a better Singapore than we inherited," he said.