PM Lee Hsien Loong calls on next generation to open new Singapore chapter

NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing (far left) introducing deputy secretaries-general Koh Poh Koon (centre) and Ng Chee Meng on stage during the May Day Rally at D'Marquee in Downtown East yesterday. Mr Ng is set to succeed Mr Chan as labour chief,
NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing (far left) introducing deputy secretaries-general Koh Poh Koon (centre) and Ng Chee Meng on stage during the May Day Rally at D'Marquee in Downtown East yesterday. Mr Ng is set to succeed Mr Chan as labour chief, and Dr Koh will help drive the transformation of industries.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

S'poreans must create new possibilities while keeping faith with trademark values: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on the new generation of Singaporeans to renew the country in an age of disruption while holding fast to the values that have made it successful.

The Pioneer Generation built modern Singapore from scratch, he noted. And succeeding generations weathered many crises to bring it to First World status.

Now, he wants the new generation "to open a new chapter, to create new possibilities and frontiers for our country".

He made the call at the annual May Day Rally attended by 1,600 unionists, workers, employers and Cabinet ministers.

In striving for a new future, he said, Singaporeans must keep faith with the country's trademark values: the instinct to plan ahead; the drive to do better; the sense of mission; and the duty of stewardship.

"This shared responsibility, this shared sense of mission, is our strength.

"It is how we will show others - and show ourselves too - that Singapore will always have what it takes to endure and to succeed," he added, while highlighting what lies ahead for the economy and how the country is responding to technological disruption.

Last year, improved productivity helped the economy grow a better-than-expected 3.6 per cent, he said.

There is a good chance it will grow by more than 2.5 per cent this year if the momentum of economic restructuring is sustained.

Growth this year is forecast to be between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent. But hitting this target also hinges on the external environment, which is clouded by tensions, said Mr Lee.

He emphasised again a theme of speeches he had made at various international meetings in the past weeks: the importance of free trade and investments. This is being threatened by the strained trade relations between the United States and China, sparking fears of a trade war, which could escalate into a more serious row if countries are forced to take sides, he added.

After the US unilaterally imposed tariffs on US$50 billion (S$66 billion) worth of Chinese goods, "the Chinese, politely but firmly, said they do not want a fight", said PM Lee. But if there is a fight, they will take on the US "every step of the way, to the bitter end", he added, saying Singapore would surely suffer collateral damage in such a situation.

He warned unambiguously that what is at stake is not just trade, but war and peace.But as the dark clouds on the horizon will take time to reach us, Singapore's economy will be all right this year as long as efforts to strengthen it continue.

The labour movement plays a critical role in the journey of change, he said, describing how disruptive technology has brought radical changes.

Technology has improved people's lives, he stressed. Referring to online shopping, he said: "My children do it a lot, and once in a while I do it too, with some help from them!"

But citing industries, including transport and retail, he talked about how ride-sharing apps have disrupted the taxi industry and how online shopping has hit retail shops, giving examples of older workers who have had to retrain.

He pledged to workers to "walk with you and support you all the way". It is the reason fourth-generation political leaders are sent to the labour union to renew tripartism, he said to applause.


Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who has taken over as Minister for Trade and Industry, is being succeeded by Minister Ng Chee Meng, who is NTUC's deputy secretary-general. Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon has also joined NTUC to help drive the transformation of industries.

Describing these changes as part of Singapore's leadership transition, Mr Lee called on the political and NTUC leaders to renew the unique tripartite relationship that underpins the country's success.

"Tripartism... is one crucial ingredient that is unique to our success that others cannot copy," he said. "People can see it but they cannot do it. I think that is the best kind of secret."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'Call for next generation to open new S'pore chapter'. Print Edition | Subscribe