Build strong families with Govt's support, PM Lee says in Chinese New Year message

PM Lee Hsien Loong meeting elderly residents at the Teck Ghee Division Hongbao Presentation Ceremony 2015. As generations of family members gather for their Chinese New Year reunion feast on Wednesday, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans not to overlook the im
PM Lee Hsien Loong meeting elderly residents at the Teck Ghee Division Hongbao Presentation Ceremony 2015. As generations of family members gather for their Chinese New Year reunion feast on Wednesday, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans not to overlook the importance of strong families and a united society. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG 

SINGAPORE - As generations of family members gather for their Chinese New Year reunion feast on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans not to overlook the importance of strong families and a united society.

The state is "doing all it can" to strengthen the bonds within immediate families as well among the larger "national family", he said in his annual Chinese New Year message.

Apart from encouraging marriage, parenthood and families to live close together, the Government is also helping to bear some of the responsibility of taking care of the aged and the needy, Mr Lee said.

But the state's increasing support for individuals should not "supplant the role that families play", he added.

"Our family ties must not weaken, unlike what we have seen in other societies where the state has taken on more responsibility."

In recent years, the Government has made childcare and preschools more affordable, given housing grants for young couples to set up home near their parents, and provided more support for healthcare costs, retirement needs and lower-income groups.

Some of these policies have had their intended effects. Marriages involving at least one citizen rose last year to a 17-year high of 24,000, while more births lifted the total fertility rate to 1.25 last year, from 1.19 in 2013.

However, Mr Lee noted that "generous social policies and grants by themselves do not grow strong or happy families".

Such families "are the bedrock of our society," he added.

"On this most important festival in the lunar calendar, let us pause and remind ourselves of what truly matters in life, of what it means to belong to a family."

His exhortation to "enjoy the simple goodness of family" during this festive occasion takes on a particular poignancy this year, as Mr Lee will spend Chinese New Year recuperating from surgery to remove his prostate gland, after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January.