Interest in climate change shows Singaporeans' long-term thinking: DPM Heng Swee Keat

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat (left) sharing his opening remarks before the dialogue as moderator Steven Chia (right) looks on. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - The impact of climate change and the need to tackle it early is one message from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent National Day Rally that resonated with most Singaporeans, especially the young, according to Government feedback unit Reach.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is heartened by the response, saying Singaporeans see the importance of tackling even challenges that are not imminent and of preparing early.

Mr Heng told reporters on Thursday (Aug 29): "I'm very encouraged by how Singaporeans are continuing to think long-term, to look at how we prepare ourselves better, and at the same time to work together."

He was commenting on Reach's findings that nine in 10 Singaporeans below the age of 30 felt the climate change threat to the country is real, and that Singapore should invest in taking mitigating actions before it is too late.

For those aged between 30 and 54, eight in 10 felt likewise.

During the media interview, before a closed-door dialogue with 200 people, he was asked how the Government plans to forge consensus among older Singaporeans on the topic of climate change.

Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, said that while interest in the issue is strongest among the young, seniors citizens also feel encouraged the Government is taking steps early to tackle it.

"Many of our seniors have gone through the early years of Singapore, when our approach of thinking and building for the long term have enabled Singapore to be where it is today. So this is a very good set of values in our society that we must continue to promote," he added.

In his Rally speech two weeks ago, PM Lee outlined some possible strategies to deal with the impact of rising sea levels, like carrying out empoldering, a land reclamation technique, along Singapore's eastern coast.

Since the Rally, more than 5,000 Singaporeans have given their feedback on it through various Reach platforms, such as online surveys, and at mobile feedback booths set up in the heartlands, business parks and at institutes of higher learning.

Mr Heng said Singaporeans have responded positively to the Rally, and its programmes and policies that will enable them to reach their full potential.

These measures include providing high quality, affordable and accessible education, from the pre-school up to institutes of higher learning, as well as the extension of the re-employment and retirement age.

On re-employment and retirement, he said Singaporeans asked for more details.

"There are quite a number of important details that need to be worked through, for instance, how do we re-skill our seniors to take on new and different jobs, in the face of very rapid technological changes and restructuring of the economy," he said.

Before the dialogue at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, a participant, chief financial adviser Xavier Hu, 50, told The Straits Times he agrees with the raising of the retirement age to 65 by 2030. It is now 62.

But the increase in Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates for older workers worries Mr Hu.

"I'm concerned that I would be less competitive in the job market as I get older."

His worry is that in the next decade or so, as the contribution rate of 37 per cent is extended to those aged up to 60, companies may not be willing to pay more for older workers like him. Currently, the rate for workers between 55 and 60 stands at 26 per cent.

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