Singapore's progress depends on all its people: ESM Goh Chok Tong

Mr Goh Chok Tong at yesterday's National Day dinner, with Madam Juriah Yatim (third from left), the organising chairman of the dinner, and performing group Coconut Mechelle.
Mr Goh Chok Tong at yesterday's National Day dinner, with Madam Juriah Yatim (third from left), the organising chairman of the dinner, and performing group Coconut Mechelle.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Call to keep nation secure, stable, harmonious and prosperous

Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong says that at his age - 77 - he is not seized with the idea of having to be popular.

Instead, he is more interested in what works for Singapore.

Speaking at the annual Marine Parade National Day dinner yesterday, the former prime minister touched on his role as a second-generation leader at a time when the country is in the midst of transiting to a fourth-generation (4G) leadership.

He said that critical as political succession is, the progress of a nation also depends on all its people. "Every member of each generation has to do his or her part to keep Singapore secure, stable, harmonious and prosperous."

Noting Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's extraordinary comeback when he led the Pakatan Harapan coalition to victory at the general election in May, Mr Goh said some have suggested that he could do the same.

"They even proposed (former People's Action Party MP) Tan Cheng Bock to be my Anwar Ibrahim," he said.

"(Tun Dr Mahathir) made his comeback at the age of 92. I am only 77. I can wait 15 years," he quipped, to laughter and applause from the audience of 1,000 residents and volunteers at Orchard Hotel.

"If the 5G leaders do not do a good job, I'll be watching."

Mr Goh said that, like Dr Mahathir, he could not stop being concerned for his country's future.

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE

We must prepare for the next season, find the right manager, seasoned coaches and the best players. With the right strategy and tactics, hard work and a cohesive team, we can achieve new success.

EMERITUS SENIOR MINISTER GOH CHOK TONG, on Singapore's future plans.

"It is an occupational habit of former prime ministers," he added. "It is difficult to let go of the country which you have helped to build."

But Singapore does not need a former prime minister to come to its rescue, he said.

He noted that the Republic "has not done too badly" on international indices in terms of healthcare, education, housing, social welfare, economic competitiveness and per capita income.

The country's sovereign wealth funds are held up by the Economist magazine for the way they are managed, he said.

And despite its small size, Singapore has the 37th biggest economy in the world, he added.

Mr Goh cited two key factors for Singapore's success - a good Government and the unity of Singaporeans.

However, like a team in a top football league, Singapore cannot sit on its haunches, he said.

"We must prepare for the next season, find the right manager, seasoned coaches and the best players. With the right strategy and tactics, hard work and a cohesive team, we can achieve new success."

Leadership was also a theme he touched on in an earlier speech in Mandarin. "We have carefully planned our political succession with little drama or infighting. Political stability and predictability are good for economic growth and will benefit your family," he said.

"The 4G ministers are in place to lead Singapore in a few years' time."

But the next generation of leaders will need to tackle complex regional and geopolitical challenges, he said.

Domestically, they will also have to grapple with challenges ranging from an ageing population to income inequality.

Mr Goh also commended Singaporeans for working together to build up the country over the years.

"Countries where the people are divided, whether by race, religion or social status, waste precious energy and resources fighting each other," he added.

"United, we will do well as a nation. Let us stay united and true to each other."

Concluding, he called on the next generation of Singaporeans to rise to the challenge and take the country forward.

"The future is for you, the younger ones, to shape, rather than for my generation," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 19, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore's progress depends on all its people: ESM Goh'. Print Edition | Subscribe