National Day Rally 2019: PM Lee Hsien Loong unveils plans to secure Singapore's future

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong making his National Day Rally speech at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio yesterday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong making his National Day Rally speech at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio yesterday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

* More support for pre-school, tertiary fees * Moves to raise retirement age, CPF rates * Steps to defend against climate change

Pre-school, tertiary education to be more affordable

Eight in 10 pre-school places will be government-supported in five to six years' time, bringing it to the same ratio as public housing.

The monthly income ceiling to qualify for additional subsidies for pre-school education will be raised from $7,500 to $12,000 next year. The quantum of subsidies will also be increased.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that these are part of the Government's plan to make quality early-years education more affordable and accessible.

He said that in the future, 80 per cent of pre-school places will be government-supported, up from the 50 per cent currently.

With 30,000 more households qualifying for additional subsidies, pre-school expenses should come down to the costs of primary school education.

Touching on tertiary education fees, PM Lee said the Singapore Institute of Technology and the Singapore University of Social Sciences will lower their yearly tuition fees next year - from $8,000 to $7,500 for general degree courses.

Government bursaries for university, polytechnic, Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Lasalle College of the Arts students will also be enhanced.

"Anyone who works hard will have a chance to succeed, regardless of starting point or family background," PM Lee said.


Retirement age and CPF rates for older workers to go up

As Singaporeans are living longer and many want to work longer, the retirement age will be raised gradually from 62 to 65, and the re-employment age will go up from 67 to 70.

 
 

The process will start in 2022, and be completed by 2030, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates will also go up for workers aged 55 to 70, so that the full rate of 37 per cent is extended to those aged up to 60 before it tapers off.

This process will start in 2021 and take place gradually over 10 years or so, depending on economic conditions, said PM Lee at the National Day Rally.

He added that these recommendations had been made by a tripartite workgroup, and the Government accepted them, in full.

The Government will take the lead as a major employer to raise retirement and re-employment ages in the public service in 2021, a year ahead of schedule, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce a support package to help businesses adjust to these new arrangements in next year's Budget, PM Lee added.

He also stressed that there are no changes to CPF withdrawal policies or withdrawal ages - CPF members can still withdraw some money at age 55 and start their monthly payouts from age 65.


Long-term battle to safeguard Singapore from rising sea levels

It may cost $100 billion or more over the long term to protect low-lying Singapore against rising sea levels, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

There are good engineering solutions to the problem which could include reclaiming offshore islands and connecting them with barrages. But they come at a cost.

 
 

"How much will it cost to protect ourselves against rising sea levels? My guess is probably $100 billion over 100 years, quite possibly more.

"If we only have 10 years to solve the problem, we won't have the time or resources to do it," PM Lee said in his National Day Rally speech. "But because this is a 50-to 100-year problem, we can implement a 50-to 100-year solution.

Climate change defences should be treated like the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) - with utmost seriousness, he added.

"Both the SAF and climate change defences are existential for Singapore. These are life and death matters. Everything else must bend at the knee to safeguard the existence of our island nation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'PM unveils plans to secure S'pore's future'. Print Edition | Subscribe