SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will speak about Singapore's experience during the Covid-19 pandemic and set out how the country can secure its future at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 21).
He said this in a brief trailer posted on Facebook on Friday, which showed the preparations for his speech at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio.
"When I first spoke (at ITE College Central) in 2013, I said the venue underscored my commitment to investing in everyone in this country, and emphasised that Singapore was at a turning point. Today, this is truer than ever," he said.
PM Lee noted that this is the first year since the onset of Covid-19 when he could do the rally at full-scale.
He had delivered his rally speech in a Mediacorp studio in 2021, while the event was called off in 2020.
The rally is seen as the most important political speech of the year.
Observers said PM Lee is likely to touch on geopolitical and economic challenges on Sunday - both of which were focal topics of his National Day message.
The Prime Minister said then that Singaporeans must be psychologically prepared that in the coming decades, the region might not be as peaceful and stable as it has been.
Low inflation levels and interest rates are not likely to return any time soon, he added.
Associate Professor (Practice) Terence Ho from the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy expects PM Lee to speak about the geopolitical situation this year, given the rising tensions between the United States and China.
"PM is also likely to address inflationary pressures and the cost of living, which is top-of-mind for many Singaporeans," said Prof Ho, adding that there could be an update on Singapore's Covid-19 situation and the Government's approach to handling the pandemic.
Dr Lynn Kuok, who is Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said PM Lee is likely to explain how the Ukraine war is posing serious challenges to the rules-based international order and further complicating US-China relations.
“This has direct implications for peace and stability in the region, but also indirect implications insofar as the cooperation needed from the two most important countries to the region – the United States and China – to address transnational problems and promote growth, will be difficult if not impossible to come by,” she said.
"As the seas of geopolitical competition become choppier, Singapore will need to become more adept at navigating these currents, but also standing up for the international rule of law which works to protect all countries, particularly small states like Singapore," Dr Kuok added.
"We are likely to hear the Prime Minister underscore why this is imperative, even if costs are sometimes involved."
Prof Ho believes another topic likely on the agenda is an announcement on Section 377A of the Penal Code, which many have been anticipating given that the Government has been preparing the ground for a possible policy change. The law criminalises sex between men.
The Government has been consulting various groups of Singaporeans on the law in recent months, as it decides on the next steps.
Last month, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the Government is considering how best to strike a balance between dealing with Section 377A and safeguarding the current legal position on marriage from challenges in courts.
Prof Ho said: "As many Singaporeans are concerned about whether this would have implications for the traditional model of marriage and family, there has been talk about the possibility of new constitutional safeguards to define marriage.
"How the government seeks to balance the divergent views on this matter bears watching at this year's National Day Rally."
The rally will begin at 6.45pm on Sunday with the Malay and Chinese segments.
The English segment will start at 8pm.