National Day Rally 2015: 11 announcements from PM Lee's speech you should know about

PM Lee announced key policy changes that drew cheers from many in the audience.
PM Lee announced key policy changes that drew cheers from many in the audience.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech on Sunday was a wide-ranging one that was in equal parts a look back and a look forward.

He also announced policy changes that drew cheers from many in the audience. Here's a recap of the 11 key ones.

HOUSING

1. The income ceiling of buyers of Build-to-Order (BTO) flats will be raised from $10,000 to $12,000, and that for executive condominiums (ECs) from $12,000 to $14,000. This means more Singaporeans at the higher end of households will be eligible for subsidised housing.

2. To make flats more affordable, the income ceiling for the existing Special Housing Grant (SHG) will be raised from $6,500 to $8,500. The maximum grant amount will also be doubled to $40,000.

With these changes, even those who earn below $1,000, but hold a stable job and contribute to CPF regularly will be able to afford a two-room flat, PM Lee said

3. Parents and married children who want to live near each other will get more help under the new Proximity Housing Grant. Children who buy a resale flat with or near their parents, or those who buy one near their married children, will get the grant. It applies to every Singaporean household, whether first-time buyers or not.

4. A new scheme will be launched called the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. It is targeted at people who have sold their HDB flats and are now living in rental units. These families will get more affordable two-room flats, but they will come with shorter leases and restrictions on resale. To help this group resolve their problems, the Government will also provide "holistic" support for these families through counselling.

FAMILIES AND BABIES

5. The Baby Bonus scheme, which helps parents defray child-raising costs, will be extended to every child instead of just the first four children. The bonus amount will also be increased, PM Lee announced without giving a specific figure.

6. Newborns will get more grants in their Medisave amount so that it's enough to cover the new MediShield Life premiums for the child till he or she reaches 21. Currently, each newborn receives a $3,000 grant deposited in two tranches.

7. Fathers will get more paternity leave. It will be increased to two weeks from the current one. The Government will pay for the extra week. This will be implemented on a voluntary basis for now, but with the public service launching it "straightaway".

The enhanced Baby Bonus, Medisave Grant and paternity leave changes will apply retroactively with effect from Jan 1, 2015.

EDUCATION

8. The Singapore Institute of Technology, Singapore's fifth university, will have its campus in Punggol. It currently runs courses at satellite campuses in the five polytechnics. It will be next to a new creative industry cluster that JTC will build. These will be integrated with Punggol Downtown and HDB's upcoming Northshore District.

9. The Government will work with Muis to strengthen the teaching of secular subjects like mathematics and science in madrasahs, or Islamic religious schools.

LABOUR

10. The re-employment age will be raised from 65 to 67 . This will be implemented by 2017. Currently, firms are required by the Retirement and Re-employment Act to offer re-employment to eligible workers when they turn 62, up to the age of 65.

ELECTION

11. PM Lee said he will call for a general election "soon", but stopped short of giving a specific date.