PM Lee Hsien Loong seeks to rally youth amid slowing economy

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong engages students from Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) in a dialogue session themed , Preparing for the Future Economy.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong engages students from Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) in a dialogue session themed , Preparing for the Future Economy. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Singapore is pursuing right strategies and creating opportunities for its people, he says

The world economy is struggling but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is confident that Singapore will do well in the long term.

He said the country has every reason to be optimistic: It is highly connected and has a reputation as an outstanding place to do business.

Also, it is creating many new jobs and continues to invest in its people through education.

"If any city in the world is in a position to do well in the new world economy, Singapore should be that place," he said yesterday.

Students at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) listen during PM Lee's dialogue session. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI 

"We are feeling the pains of restructuring, but not yet seeing the dividends of our hard work. But we are pursuing all the right strategies, and I am confident that, given time, they will work," he added.


But how well the nation does, and the society it will be in the next 30 years, depends on the next generation, Mr Lee said in a speech to 500 students and staff at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), whom he sought to assure of the country's prospects, adding that the future was theirs to shape and determine.

"As young Singaporeans, the world is your oyster. You have many opportunities, many more than your parents had," he said.

"But you have to seize them, make the most of them, and create further opportunities for yourself."

Singapore's future will also depend on whether today's young are resilient in the face of uncertainty and change, and whether their generation works together as one united people, Mr Lee added.

The Government, he said, is opening up avenues for students to earn good certificates, acquire know- how to find good jobs and achieve their aspirations.

Singapore, he added, was spared the problem of youth unemployment, which is a serious issue for some societies with many graduates. And it is creating opportunities by connecting to the world, he said.

Singaporeans, too, need to adapt to new conditions. "We're not candy floss... or the strawberry generation. These are durians, very tough," he quipped to laughter.

They also need to take downturns in their stride and soldier on, he said. For instance, taxi drivers worry about competition from Uber and Grab, but driverless cars are already on the way.

Nobody can predict what more changes lie ahead, but Mr Lee said "the scaffolding is in place to support you" in the form of SkillsFuture schemes. He urged Singaporeans to tap them to prepare to switch jobs or industries as the economy shifts - "to learn, unlearn and relearn things all your life".

He also said Singapore's success will continue to hinge on how united its people are. He urged the audience not to take unity for granted.

Unions, companies and the Government also work together and adopt "give-and-take" on various issues, he said, adding: "Unity is more than a warm feeling - it is the bedrock of our society."

Mr Lee said that amid today's economic gloom, Singaporeans need to stay hopeful about the future.

"If you press on through the storms and rain, the skies will eventually clear, and then, if you have worked hard to get to the right place, you will find your rainbow.

"So be confident, aim high and do well. And a generation from now, you will have built Singapore into something much better, something beyond what our imagination can dream of today," he added.

Mr Lee also fielded questions on SIT, the rise of extremist politicians in the West, and Singapore's future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'PM Lee seeks to rally youth amid slowing economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe