Long-term policies in place and strong team in charge: PM

He cites policy improvements in healthcare, education, housing and public transport

With long-term policies in place and a strong team in charge, Singaporeans have reason to be confident of their future, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a New Year message yesterday that touched on Singapore on the international stage, domestic issues and leadership transition, PM Lee noted that the country has made progress domestically.

He noted that in many countries, societies are under stress because people are angry that wages are stagnating, their lives are not improving and political systems are malfunctioning.

The protests in France were the most recent manifestation of this angst.

"Being a highly open society, Singapore is exposed to similar pressures," he said.

"But we have coped better than most other countries, because we have worked closely together to improve the lives of all Singaporeans," he said. "The economy has grown, unemployment remains low, and incomes have risen across the board. We have created good jobs, and prepared people for them through education and SkillsFuture."

He added: "Crucially, the Government is focused on people's concerns, and working with citizens to create a better tomorrow for all."

He listed policy improvements in such areas as healthcare, education, housing and public transport.

For example, healthcare infrastructure is being ramped up with the building of more polyclinics and hospitals. The latest - Sengkang General and Community hospitals - started taking patients last August.

Upcoming improvements to the Community Health Assist Scheme, which subsidises medical care, as well as national disability insurance scheme CareShield Life, will further support those with chronic conditions and disabilities.

Singaporeans of the Merdeka Generation born in the 1950s can also look forward to receiving their healthcare benefits package soon, just like the Pioneer Generation before them.

In education, greater emphasis is put on holistic development rather than examinations and grades, and more resources are being invested in pre-schools. Pre-school subsidies have been raised to lighten the burden on parents.

On the housing front, housing and infrastructure are being rebuilt for the next 50 years.

The Housing Board is working on schemes such as the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), HIP II and Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) to ensure flats remain quality homes with "a good store of value for retirement".

HIP and HIP II are schemes to upgrade Housing Board flats. Under Vers, owners of flats aged 70 years and older can vote for the Government to buy back their homes before their leases run out, if their precinct is selected for the scheme.

Progress has also been made in public transport. Buses and trains are now less crowded and more reliable, new trains for the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line have been delivered in time for the Stage 1 opening in Woodlands this year, and public consultations for the 2040 land transport masterplan are under way. Work on the Tuas MegaPort and Changi Airport Terminal 5 is continuing, and the Jewel at Changi will open this year.

These, PM Lee said, are critical investments in Singapore's future, and to realise them requires steady and capable leaders who can rally Singaporeans.

"With long-term policies in place and a strong team in charge, we have reason to be confident about the future," he said.

Linette Lai

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2019, with the headline Long-term policies in place and strong team in charge: PM. Subscribe