President's Address

Moves to tackle inequality vigorously

The Government will tackle inequality as it strives to build a fair and just society, President Halimah Yacob said in Parliament on Monday.

It is one of five key priorities for Govt in second half of its term

Inequality is an issue the Government will tackle "vigorously" as it strives to build a fair and just society based on meritocracy, while leaving no one behind, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

This was one of five key priorities that she outlined in her inaugural address at Parliament, where she set out the Government's agenda for the second half of its term.

The President highlighted four other major priorities - securing Singapore's place in a changing world; building a well-connected, world-class city; developing a vibrant economy with good jobs and nurturing a Singaporean identity.

People in Singapore must always be able to get ahead through effort and excellence, regardless of their backgrounds, she said.

"We must open up more progression pathways and celebrate a broader range of successes," she said, adding that the right support - in housing, education, skills training and employment - must be provided to those who need it.

Building an inclusive society also means the Government will have to pay special attention to the growing population of elderly people, including by continuing to help older workers stay employed so that they can age with dignity and purpose.

Young families will get more help to cope with the cost of living, while people with disabilities must be enabled to lead full and active lives, Madam Halimah said.

ENSURING MERITOCRACY WORKS WELL

We must tackle inequality vigorously. We need to provide the right additional support to those needing it - in housing, education, skills training and employment - so that meritocracy works well. Only then can everyone do well through hard work, talent and skills, regardless of their backgrounds.

PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB

On top of that, Singaporeans want to feel a strong sense of nationhood, she noted. "That is why we are prepared to participate in and enlarge our common space, while preserving and practising our own ethnic cultures."

Singapore has succeeded in nurturing a distinct identity, where its people share a sense of common destiny that transcends individual racial and religious identities, she said. "This is still a work in progress, but we have come far."

Madam Halimah also set out what Singapore is doing to secure its place in the world, including upholding international law and championing free trade to counter rising protectionism around the globe.

The Republic seeks to be friends with as many countries as possible, and will work for good relations with both the United States and China in particular , she added.

At home, the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team are building up their capabilities to handle unconventional threats like terrorism and cyber attacks.

To build a world-class city, she said, the Government will invest in infrastructure like Changi Airport Terminal 5 to keep Singapore one of the best-connected cities in Asia - a hub and conduit for the flow of goods and services, capital and people, as well as information and knowledge.

 
 
 
 
 
 

"A far-reaching transformation of Singapore's cityscape will take shape in the coming decades," she added, pointing to land that will be freed up for development when Paya Lebar Airbase moves to Changi and the city ports move to Tuas.

For Singapore to remain a nation of opportunities, the Government is prepared to adapt to changing economic conditions, embrace technology and continually upgrade the skills and knowledge of its people, Madam Halimah said.

Companies will play a major role in economic restructuring, she noted. "We will build a strong base of local firms with the capabilities to succeed both at home and abroad."

The Government will also invest heavily in Singaporeans, she added.

"In an age of technological disruption, Singaporeans must be flexible, eager to learn and adventurous to venture beyond our shores," she said. "We are changing the way we educate and prepare Singaporeans for life, putting less emphasis on academic grades, and more on skills and the ability to adapt to a dynamic external environment."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2018, with the headline 'Moves to tackle inequality vigorously'. Print Edition | Subscribe