Singapore should not lose sense of reality, perspective while tackling social problems: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking during a parenthood celebration event in Cheng San Community Club on May 27, 2018.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking during a parenthood celebration event in Cheng San Community Club on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's ranking as the best country for children to grow up in reflects its success in "giving every child, regardless of background, the best possible start in life", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (June 3).

In a Facebook post, he said he was happy to read about the Republic's top rank - tied with Slovenia - in a recent report by non-governmental organisation Save the Children.

The report surveyed 175 countries across eight indicators: under-five mortality rate, child stunting, out-of-school children and youth, child labour, child marriage, adolescent birth rate, population displaced by conflict, and child homicide rate.

Singapore scored 987 out of a possible 1,000, indicating that relatively few children miss out on childhood here.

Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Finland rounded out the top five.

"Each of these harrowing gauges is considered a 'childhood ender'," said Mr Lee about the report and its indicators. "We are fortunate that these grave threats to children are rare or do not exist in Singapore."

He added that although Singapore frets about social inequality and should never cease striving against it, "this report is a timely reminder that we have not done badly at all".

"While tackling our social problems, let us not lose our sense of reality and perspective," he said.

 
 

The issue of inequality featured prominently in the debate on the President's Address last month, with various ministers including Mr Lee himself speaking at length on the matter.

Mr Lee noted in his speech last month that social networks are natural structures in society which form when people interact, but they must remain open and permeable. If they close up, he warned, social mobility will be frustrated and the results would be disastrous for the nation.

Others, like Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, described tackling inequality as a national priority and raised the spectre of a poison creeping into Singapore society - social stratification.

These discussions followed President Halimah Yacob's speech at Parliament's reopening, in which she highlighted inequality as a problem to be dealt with "vigorously". The address was drafted by the fourth-generation ministers.