Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech yesterday focused on three national preparations key to Singapore's future. First, providing greater access to educational opportunities will better position the young to make the most of economic opportunities. Enhancing pre-school subsidies is a concrete way of ensuring that children can benefit more closely from the education system regardless of their economic and social background. Second, keeping older Singaporeans longer in the job market will help address the financial concerns associated with an ageing society and strengthen the market in a labour-scarce economy. Third, declaring climate change as an existential concern, on a par with defence - calling for sustained plans and spending - alerts Singaporeans to a long-term challenge that has already begun to bite around the world. Unlike war, which military deterrence seeks to avoid, climate change is a war that has begun. The task ahead is to mitigate and stem its wide-ranging effects.
On the education front, the greater financial support for pre-schools - along with expanded bursary coverage for university and polytechnic courses - is a significant financial investment in creating equality of opportunity. The cost is justified because it is only this equality which makes differences in academic outcomes easier to accept in a meritocratic society. To the extent possible, students facing academic competition must not be hobbled by financial obstacles if the young are to remain confident of a future which rewards them for what they are, not for who they are.