President Halimah hopes Singaporeans will be kind to each other in 2018

President Halimah shake hands with Ms Jayabalan Suriakala, a pharmacy technician, at the Families for Life event on Dec 30.
President Halimah shake hands with Ms Jayabalan Suriakala, a pharmacy technician, at the Families for Life event on Dec 30.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Children enjoying the facilities at the Families for Life picnic event at the Istana.
Children enjoying the facilities at the Families for Life picnic event at the Istana.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Children enjoying the facilities at the Families for Life picnic event at the Istana.
Children enjoying the facilities at the Families for Life picnic event at the Istana.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - It is not just economic growth that is the mark of a society, but also how strong and cohesive are the social ties among its people, according to President Halimah Yacob.

She said on Saturday (Dec 30) that Singaporeans should look forward to the new year with "great optimism", with the global economy recovering and the "pretty good" projections of growth here.

"Above all, I just hope Singaporeans will be kind to each other, support each other, and help each other," she said.

"I think that's truly important, because that is the mark of a society. Not just economic growth, but also how we relate to each other socially."

President Halimah was speaking to the media at the Families for Life Picnic@Istana, jointly organised by the President's Office and non-profit group Families for Life.

Close to 500 families gathered on the Istana lawn for an afternoon of activities, such as terrarium making, jumping on bouncy castles and watching musical performances.

There were also stations where the crowd played games such as archery and basketball.

Ms Agatha Kee, 27, was there with her husband Gevine Khoo, 41, a civil servant, and their 11-month-old twins Gerrard and Acacia.

The homemaker said she was excited to spend time with her family. "It's my first time here at the Istana," she said, adding that she had not expected to meet the President.

Another family at the event was the Jayabalan family - all 17 of them.

Mr Balakrishnan Manoj, 39, who works in a bank, said the family wanted to spend time together and so they decided to go for the picnic.

The oldest family member is his father-in-law, Mr Jayabalan Surian, a 58-year-old sales marketing executive, and the youngest is his niece, two-year-old Teertha Sathish.

Even the rain and the muddy ground did not dampen their spirits.

"The children have played all the games here already,"said Mr Balakrishnan.

President Halimah said she hopes the picnic will become a yearly event, as it is a way to make the Istana grounds more accessible to Singaporeans.

Families form the "bedrock of our society", she said, but they are under increasing pressure due to changes brought about by rapid urbanisation.

"We need such platforms for families to be able to come together, spend time, and bond with each other," she added.