Govt’s plans will bear imprint of 4G leadership: PM Lee

2018 designated as Singapore's Year of Climate Action
FARIS MOHKTAR Today Online 31 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE – The Government's agenda for the second half of its term will "bear the imprint" of the fourth generation leadership, who will be taking on "greater responsibilities and putting forth their ideas for Singapore", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his New Year message on Sunday (Dec 31).

The plans will be laid out when President Halimah Yacob delivers her inaugural address at the opening of the new Parliamentary session in May, after the Parliament prorogue in April following the Budget statement.

On the domestic front, Mr Lee said the Government will press on with its economic restructuring plans, as it continues to put in place all 23 Industry Transformation Maps, promote lifelong learning through SkillsFuture and help workers adapt and grow amid the volatility in the job market.

He noted that more pre-schools will also be built amid increasing demand, especially in the newer estates. Mr Lee had announced in the National Day Rally this year that 40,000 pre-school places will be added from now till 2022, bringing the total number to about 200,000.

Healthcare policies will be reviewed, while facilities expanded to prepare for an ageing population, said Mr Lee. A UOB report recently warned that Singapore's demographic "time bomb" will start ticking next year, as the country's share of its population who are 65 and above will match the proportion of those under 15 for the first time.

With public confidence in the rail network taking a huge hit this year due to two high-profile incidents – an unprecedented tunnel flooding and a train collision – which had caused massive disruptions, Mr Lee said the Government will continue to improve rail reliability and grow the MRT network.

On top of that, other infrastructure projects to boost Singapore's status as a transport hub are also in the works, said Mr Lee. These include the new Terminal 5 which will double Changi Airport's current capacity by the late 2020s, the Tuas mega port, and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR).

"All these are essential investments in our future. They require time and resources, and will stretch way beyond this term of government. We have to plan well ahead for them," said Mr Lee.

"This is how we have built today's Singapore – each generation working and saving for the future, building on what it inherited and passing on something better to the next generation. This was the creed that drove the Pioneer Generation of Singaporeans, and it must animate out generation too."

With 2018 designated as Singapore's Year of Climate Action, Mr Lee stressed the Republic is committed to meet its environmental goals under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. The blueprint – the latest edition of which was unveiled in 2015 – will guide sustainability efforts such as maintaining green spaces, reducing reliance on cars and creating a green economy until 2030.

Singapore will also commit to the Paris Agreement on climate change to cut emissions intensity by 36 per cent, from 2005 levels, by 2030. In the past year, the Government has announced plans to introduce carbon tax and tighten emissions standards for vehicles as part of its pledge.

UNCERTAIN EXTERNAL OUTLOOK

Pointing to the uncertain global landscape in the year ahead, Mr Lee said that Singapore "must keep on strengthening our position at home and abroad". He noted that terrorism remains a threat, while the Korean Peninsula continues to be a source of "growing tension and anxiety", given North Korea's repeated missile tests.

Against the backdrop of a vague American foreign policy, Singapore also has to "keep relations with our immediate neighbours steady as they gear up for elections", said Mr Lee. Malaysia is expected to hold its elections after the Chinese New Year in 2018, while the run-up to Indonesia's Presidential election will begin towards the end of next year.

As Singapore is set to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, it hopes to take the group forward by focusing on the themes of "resilience" and "innovation", said Mr Lee.

'A GOOD 2017'

Looking back on the past year, Mr Lee said that although 2017 had started out with "some uncertainty", given the muted economic mood coupled with concerns over terrorism and the US' radical foreign policy approach, Singaporeans had "pressed on, undaunted by these challenges". Overall, it "has been a good year", Mr Lee said.

At home, the economy has grown by 3.5 per cent, double the initial forecast, while incomes have "gone up across the board", said Mr Lee. At the same time, security measures have been stepped up to guard against potential attacks.

Mr Lee noted that Singapore also strengthened its pledge to multiracialism this year through the introduction of the reserved Presidential Election, which saw Madam Halimah elected as the country's first Malay President in almost half a century.

On the external front, Mr Lee noted that Singapore has maintained good relations with both China and US, and bilateral relations with immediate neighbours such as Malaysia and Indonesia have been "positive".

"We dealt with the urgent concerns, but we looked beyond immediate problems and did not settle for quick fixes," said Mr Lee. "We made steady progress on our long-term goals, and are finishing the year stronger than we started. We are ushering in 2018 with confidence and strength."

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