Singapore president highlights challenges and priorities in post-COVID world in opening speech for parliament

Singapore president highlights challenges and priorities in post-COVID world in opening speech for parliament

Madam Halimah Yacob, the President of Singapore, addressed the opening of the second session of the 14th Singapore Parliament on Monday (10 Apr).

In her speech, Mdm Halimah spoke about the challenges that Singapore faces in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Praising the resilience and unity of Singaporeans in navigating the uncertainties and fears of the pandemic, which she described as the crisis of the generation, Mdm Halimah noted that the country had emerged stronger and more united than before, with social capital amongst Singaporeans deepening and trust in the government strengthening.

However, Mdm Halimah also warned that new challenges lie ahead, as the world becomes increasingly dangerous and troubled.

She pointed to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the intensifying rivalry between the US and China, which has recently taken a turn for the worse.

Mdm Halimah also mentioned Myanmar’s encounters in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, emphasizing the need for vigilance and proactive defense against external threats.

Mdm Halimah acknowledged the growing pressures faced by smaller countries like Singapore to take sides in the midst of great power rivalry. She stressed the importance of resisting foreign influences and disinformation campaigns aimed at shaping domestic public opinion and pressuring the government to adopt certain positions.

Mdm Halimah emphasized the need for unity and standing together as one people to uphold Singapore’s vital interests.

Mdm Halimah also highlighted the growing obstacles faced by global trade and investment flows, with governments in major economies providing substantial fiscal support to develop strategic industries and strengthen their own industrial bases. She expressed confidence in Singapore’s ability to adapt and find opportunities amidst the challenges.

Priorities for Govt’s remaining term

In her speech, Mdm Halimah listed out priorities for the government’s remaining term.

Firstly, the government aims to expand opportunities throughout life for all, regardless of individual backgrounds and circumstances. This includes rethinking the approach to education and work, preparing children for the future starting from their early years, and providing more resources to support those who start out with less.

Secondly, the government aims to improve social safety nets to help Singaporeans better cope with disruptions and setbacks in life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes studying how to extend similar support beyond the pandemic to help displaced workers and strengthening the SkillsFuture ecosystem.

Thirdly, the government aims to build a city that is green, connected, and highly livable. This includes renewing and transforming the urban landscape, developing new centers and districts outside of the Central Business District, and enhancing retirement adequacy and expanding care and living options for seniors.

Finally, the government aims to strengthen collective responsibility to shape a new social compact that reinforces individual and family efforts. This includes mobilizing and involving all stakeholders, including businesses that champion socially responsible and sustainable practices, civil society, and active citizenry.

Preparing for the future

Mdm Halimah highlighted the existential threat that climate change poses to the island state and the need for the country to take resolute steps towards meeting its net zero commitments. The President acknowledged the challenges that Singapore faces, including rising sea levels, and stated that plans for more extensive coastal protection measures are being developed, which will be dovetailed with urban renewal strategies.

Mdm Halimah also stressed the importance of upholding the country’s long-standing principles of fiscal prudence and discipline to ensure that future generations have the means to weather major storms and build the Singapore of their dreams.

She noted that Singapore has faced and overcome numerous challenges and setbacks throughout its nation-building journey, and the country is now in a much stronger position to overcome vulnerabilities armed with crucial resources to push forward with confidence.

The President emphasized the need for collective efforts, mutual trust, and confidence in the system of government to make the impossible possible. She also called for the new 4G team to strengthen their bonds with Singaporeans and work closely with them to write the next chapter of Singapore’s story.

Mdm Halimah stressed the importance of constructive, respectful, and responsible conversations anchored on mutual respect and trust, based on facts and sound analysis, and with a shared goal of advancing the larger public interest.

As Singapore commemorates the centenary of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s birth, Mdm Halimah urged Singaporeans to reflect on the values and principles of the founding generation of leaders and reaffirm and uphold shared values while reexamining what needs to be updated and possessing the courage to break new ground.

In conclusion, she called on Singaporeans to keep faith with future generations yet unborn and build a Singapore that thrives and endures for many years to come.

This would be Mdm Halimah’s last speech to Parliament for her term, as it marks the end of her six-year term, with the next presidential election to be held by September this year.

The parliament will meet next week to debate her speech.

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