Singaporeans must stay united, understand global challenges

Mr Chan Chun Sing (Minister, Prime Minister's Office and MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC) give out mandarin oranges to residents at the Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas SMC annual Lunar New Year celebrations dinner at Cambridge Road, on Feb 4, 2017.
Mr Chan Chun Sing (Minister, Prime Minister's Office and MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC) give out mandarin oranges to residents at the Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas SMC annual Lunar New Year celebrations dinner at Cambridge Road, on Feb 4, 2017. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

PM Lee, Chan Chun Sing say opportunities to move ahead remain despite uncertainties

The uncertain global environment and how Singapore and its people should respond to challenges were key themes at two Chinese New Year dinners last night.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Ang Mo Kio GRC that there are both challenges and opportunities for Singapore in this climate, as he gave an update on relations with the region and the wider world.

These opportunities will help the country and its people move ahead, do better and prosper in an uncertain world, he said.

"But to do that, we have to stay united, understand what is important to Singapore as we manage our foreign relations and we find new paths ahead together."

The good news is that Singapore's relations with its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia are stable, with goodwill and a desire to work together and deepen ties, he added.

 

Relations with the United States and China have also grown steadily over the years, and amid a changing mood in the US under a new administration, he hopes Singapore continues to develop its friendship and cooperation with both.

In Tanjong Pagar GRC, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said Singapore and its people must have a keen eye on global trends, understand them, and figure out how to best work with others.

Amid a shifting global balance of power and economic disruption, Singapore can stay afloat and succeed if it sticks to a few guiding principles, he said: Be pro-Singapore, believe in the rule of international law and freedom of navigation over air and sea, maximise partnerships with countries big and small.

Alluding to developments like Britain's vote to leave the European Union and the election of US President Donald Trump, Mr Chan said Singaporeans must understand why people in other countries voted the way they did.

One lesson is the importance of sharing the fruits of economic growth with those who are less successful.

"When a country grows, if there are not sufficient economic opportunities for the middle class and the next generation, there will be trouble," he said.

Singapore also needs to watch global trends "and read the tides carefully", he added. "Whenever the huge waves buffet our small little boat, we need to stay calm and collected and very clear-eyed."

Mr Chan said Singapore is "neither pro-country A nor anti-country A. We are just pro-Singapore."

On the importance of freedom to navigate in the air and sea, he said: "If I stay in an HDB flat, I would like to be assured that I and my family can walk in and out of our flat... without fear of harassment."

The nation must also be successful so it remains relevant to the rest of the world and can enter win-win partnerships with others.

"Once in a while, there will be challenges between us and other countries," he said. "What remains unchanged is for us to be very clear-eyed about our interests and their(s). Stay in it for the long haul, remain open, remain inclusive."

Singapore has backed China's development and integration into the global system, as well as the US' continued engagement in this part of the world, Mr Chan noted.

"We want to be friends with both. The Pacific Ocean is big enough for us to find common ground, to work on common projects together," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 05, 2017, with the headline 'S'poreans must stay united, understand global challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe