Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong’s May Day Rally Speech: An Election Campaign Prelude?

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong’s May Day Rally Speech: An Election Campaign Prelude?

SINGAPORE – Rehashing the points about the increasingly dangerous and troubled world, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said that Singapore’s competitiveness is being tested amid rising protectionism, shifting investment flows, and massive subsidies for strategic industries by major economies.

This was said by Mr Wong in his address to the labour union during the May Day Rally at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on 1 May, highlighting Singapore’s economic transformation, the significance of lifelong learning, and the critical role of tripartism and the People’s Action Party (PAP)-National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) partnership.

Mr Wong explained that protectionism is hurting trade-dependent Singapore, while geopolitics is causing a slowdown and concentration of foreign direct investment (FDI) flows among geopolitically aligned countries. Furthermore, advanced economies are offering massive subsidies for key projects and investments, making competition tougher for Singapore.

He urged union leaders to understand and communicate these challenges to their members, stressing that the country cannot afford to outbid major economies to attract multinational corporations’ investments.

In his speech, Mr Wong emphasized the necessity of economic transformation and the adoption of emerging technologies like AI. He stressed the importance of upskilling and reskilling for workers to remain relevant in a rapidly changing job market.

Mr Wong shared inspiring stories of individuals like Dickson and Mdm Aminah Mohamed Lah, who have embraced lifelong learning and successfully transitioned to new careers.

Mr Wong addressed housing affordability concerns by reassuring Singaporeans that public housing remains accessible and affordable.

He explained, “In Singapore, the Prime Minister has to be a real estate agent, so I’m learning and brushing up my skills and I will use this occasion to practise.”

Mr Wong, who was appointed DPM in 2022, is slated to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but no clear indication has been provided as to when the transition will take place.

Responding to worries surrounding the affordability of HDB flats, Mr Wong stated, “BTO flat prices have, in fact, moved in tandem with incomes.”

He also mentioned various housing grants available to first-time homebuyers, making flats even more affordable.

He explained that while prices for 4-room Build-to-Order (BTO) flats in non-mature estates have risen nearly ten times since 1980, median household incomes have increased at a similar rate. Additionally, housing grants of up to $80,000 for first-time buyers make flats even more affordable.

Mr Wong emphasized that the typical household today continues to use less than 25% of their income to service housing loans, similar to 1980 levels.

He reassured Singaporeans that the government remains committed to ensuring affordable and accessible public housing, adding that it’s a key part of the social compact in Singapore.

“We have done this in the past. We’ve created the world’s best public housing. You go anywhere in the world: name me any country that has the same quality of public housing that we do – there is none.”

“Now, we are continuing to provide affordable and quality public housing to Singaporeans. And as long as the PAP remains in charge, we will ensure quality public housing that is affordable and accessible for our children and future generations.”

“This is what we stand for. The Government will always strive for a fairer and more equal society, and for the well-being of every worker – that conviction is in our DNA; it’s in the DNA of both the PAP and the NTUC,” said Mr Wong.

Mr Wong underscored the importance of the PAP-NTUC partnership and tripartism in Singapore, asserting that it is a competitive advantage for the nation. He said, “Tripartism – that’s our secret recipe, our secret formula. It is one of our greatest and most sustainable competitive advantages.”

NTUC is currently headed by Mr Ng Chee Meng, a member of the PAP Central Executive Committee, who lost against the Workers’ Party’s team of new candidates at Seng Kang GRC in the General Election 2020.

He shared his personal ties with the union, which began over 15 years ago and pledged his continued support to the Labour Movement.

Mr Wong expressed his gratitude to union leaders and promised, “You can always count on my support and friendship as we chart our new way forward together.”

Mr Wong emphasized his commitment to the well-being of Singapore’s workers, promising to “look after our workers, protect your interests, and help you earn a better living and live a better life.”

He also affirmed his commitment to the PAP-NTUC partnership and the Labour Movement, ensuring sustained growth and good jobs for all Singaporeans.

Amid increasing speculation surrounding the next General Election, Mr Wong’s May Day Rally speech bears a striking resemblance to an election campaign address rather than one typically delivered on the significant day dedicated to labourers.


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