In his new year message for 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore has made steady progress on its long-term goals, and are finishing 2017 stronger than it started and that Singapore is ushering in 2018 with confidence and strength.
PM Lee said that Singapore’s economy grew by 3.5% in 2017, which is more than double of the government’s initial forecast and that incomes have gone up across the board, especially for low and middle earners.
“We have benefitted from the global economic upswing. But more fundamentally, our productivity has grown. Singaporeans are upgrading and learning new skills, while businesses are innovating and adopting new technology. That is how we will stay competitive and ready for the future.”
Strengthening against terrorism
PM Lee said that the SGSecure movement has made Singaporeans more aware of the terrorist threat and that community and religious leaders of all faiths are working together to strengthen Singapore social cohesion and reject extremist and exclusivist ideologies.
Strengthen of racial harmony
Perhaps one of the questionable aspects of PM Lee’s message is that he noted the amendment of the Constitution to put in place the reserved Presidential Elections, which saw the walkover election of President Halimah Yacob as a significant step to strengthen Singapore’s racial harmony, now and well into the future,
He said that President Halimah as Singapore’s first Malay President in almost 50 years, is a visible symbol of Singapore’s national unity and its commitment to multiracialism.
PM Lee in his message, noted that Singapore has maintained good relations with countries such as China and the United States. Relations with neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia are also positive with new initiatives being worked on to deepen bilateral cooperation.
Singapore will be the ASEAN Chair in 2018, PM Lee said that Singapore as next Chair, hopes to take the group forward with its Chairmanship themes of “resilience” and “innovation”.
Plans for Singapore in near future
PM Lee noted that the government has economic restructuring plans put in place, that the Future Economy Council is working closely with unions and businesses to implement Industry Transformation Maps, inculcate lifelong learning in the Singapore workforce through SkillsFuture, and help affected workers to adapt and grow in new jobs and careers.
More preschools built to give children a strong start in life and expanding healthcare facilities and reviewing healthcare policies in light of the aging population.
PM Lee states that Singapore will work to meet its environmental commitments under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint and the Paris Agreement. He also said that Singapore is improving rail reliability and growing its MRT network.
Major infrastructure projects will be undertaken which include projects such as Changi Terminal 5, the Tuas Megaport, and the High Speed Rail link to Kuala Lumpur, to enhance Singapore’s status as a transport hub.
Emphasis on Bicentennial celebration
PM Lee in his speech, dedicated five lengthy paragraphs to justify the need to bring about the celebrations of Singapore’s bicentennial founding commemorating Sir Stamford Raffles’ landing in 1819.
“2019 will be the 200th anniversary of Raffles’ landing. We should commemorate this bicentennial appropriately, just as we marked the 150th anniversary in 1969. It is an important milestone for Singapore; an occasion for us to reflect on how our nation came into being, how we have come this far since, and how we can go forward together.” said PM Lee.
Some speculate that it is a gimmick by the government to justify spending on handouts to the people in preparation for the General Election in late 2019 or early 2020.