I am here at the Alexandra Park Connector near Dawson. This area used to be kampongs and swamps. Now this neighbourhood includes homes, shops, and restaurants, beautifully integrated with nature, running water and green spaces.
Dawson is an example of how we are upgrading Singapore, year by year. We are working together to improve our lives, build a better home, and hand to our children a better Singapore than what we inherited.
This was the spirit of our pioneers. They worked hard to take Singapore from Third World to First. They worked together. Thanks to them, we have today's Singapore. The Pioneer Generation Package is our way of saying 'thank you'.
We must uphold the spirit of our pioneers in a new era. The globalised world offers many opportunities for the bold and enterprising. But it also makes people uncertain and anxious about their future. Events overseas affect us quickly and unpredictably, such as political changes in Southeast Asia, maritime disputes in the South China Sea, or armed conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.
Singapore has changed too. Most of us were born after independence, and have grown up in a completely different Singapore than our pioneers. Our interests and opinions are more diverse and deeply held. We are now at a higher level, from which we can scale new heights. Hence we must reassess our position, review our direction, and refresh our strategies.
We are improving our social safety nets, most recently with MediShield Life. Mr Bobby Chin's Committee and the Ministry of Health have done a good job working out the details. Many Singaporeans offered valuable feedback which improved the scheme. In Parliament last month, all MPs endorsed the White Paper on MediShield Life. Now we must implement it well. Please work with us on this.
Your government is also helping you to save enough for retirement. Our population is ageing, and our seniors have fewer family members to support them. They need peace of mind in their silver years. They want to be assured that they can retire happily after a lifetime of hard work.
Singaporeans know that they have to prepare for retirement. People are working longer and saving more. For most of you, your HDB flat and CPF savings are key ways to fund your retirement. The HDB flat has allowed Singaporeans to build a home, and to grow a valuable nest egg for old age. Your flat is an asset which appreciates as Singapore prospers. My team is studying how to make it more convenient for retirees to get cash out of your flats, in a prudent and sustainable way.
Besides your flat, the CPF has helped you to save for your old age. It ensures you have a stream of income in retirement. The scheme works well for many of you, but it can be improved. I will be speaking about this at the National Day Rally next weekend.
Stronger safety nets are not just to give you peace of mind, but also to build the confidence to hope and dare. Our system will help you shoot for the stars. Everyone will have full opportunities to fulfil your potential, regardless of your family background or circumstances.
Education is a big part of the answer. That is why I set up the ASPIRE Committee, chaired by SMS Indranee Rajah, to help ITE and poly graduates advance in life. You are talented, passionate and confident. You deserve to chase your dreams and be the best that you can be.
Your learning should not stop when you graduate from ITE or polytechnic. The government is helping you further your studies, but the academic route is not the only way up. We will also help you upgrade yourselves while you work. We will help you to master specialised skills, and earn advanced qualifications as you progress in your careers.
Helping every one of you achieve your potential is not just a matter of continuing education and training. It is also a matter of social values. As Singaporeans, we must judge a person not just by his educational qualifications, but also by his skills, contributions and character. This is how we keep Singapore a land of hope and opportunity for all.
Whichever path our students and workers take, ultimately we need a vibrant economy to produce good jobs and fulfilling careers. Our economy grew 3.5% in the first half of 2014, and is forecast to grow 2.5-3.5% for the year. We must keep up this growth over the next decade to help you improve your lives.
Singaporeans have a good home to live, work and raise our families. Together, we will make it even better. We are beautifying our heartlands and public spaces in new towns across Singapore. We are building amenities for everyone to enjoy, like the new Sports Hub, and the restored Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. We are conserving our blue waters and green spaces, like in Pulau Ubin. We will take full advantage of technology to transform ourselves into an IT City, a Smart Nation.
Beyond our physical infrastructure, we must strengthen our bonds with one another and the spirit of mutual support. We must deepen our shared identity, and the values we hold dear. Singapore will only succeed if we stand together as one united people.
We have come a long way since independence. Singaporeans hold our heads high everywhere we go. Foreign visitors are impressed with what they find here. But we have not reached our limit; there is no limit to what we can do.
Singapore turns 50 next year. We are celebrating our Golden Jubilee with many events, including the SEA Games. I am glad that many of you have proposed ideas to mark this special occasion in your own ways, and with many different groups. This collective sense of ownership and belonging will take us forward.
What Singapore becomes depends on what we make of it. We are well placed to thrive in a changing world. Let us dedicate ourselves to working together, and building a brighter future for us all.
Happy National Day!