As we countdown to brand new year ahead of us, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared his 2018 New Year Day Message with Singaporeans.
The annual message usually focuses on Singapore’s economic performance for the year and also addresses some of the significant events that will happen in Singapore in 2018.
Here are 4 key points from his message.
1. The economy grew by 3.5% in 2017, more than double of the initial forecast
PM Lee said that Singapore's economy did well for the past year, growing by 3.5% in 2017, more than double of the initial forecast.
He said 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."
2. Our external environment will remain uncertain in 2018
Growing tension and anxiety on the Korean Peninsula, the present danger of extreme terrorism and the yet to be fully articulated US’ approach towards Asia, the Middle East and the rest of the world were examples raised by PM Lee to illustrate the external risks in 2018.
He also mentioned that Singapore will be the ASEAN Chair in 2018.
"Fifty years ago, Singapore was one of the five founding members which came together to promote cooperation and stability in Southeast Asia. ASEAN has since grown to ten members, and become a key pillar of our foreign policy. Through ASEAN, Singapore has a bigger voice on the international stage. As the next Chair, Singapore hopes to take the group forward with our Chairmanship themes of “resilience” and “innovation”."
3. The government has a full domestic agenda in 2018
PM Lee listed the work that will keep the government busy in the coming year.
- Economic restructuring plans: The Future Economy Council is working closely with unions and businesses to implement Industry Transformation Maps, inculcate lifelong learning in the workforce through SkillsFuture, and help affected workers to adapt and grow in new jobs and careers.
- Education: Building more preschools to give children a strong start in life.
- Healthcare: Expanding healthcare facilities and reviewing healthcare policies to prepare for an aging population.
- Environment: Work to meet environmental commitments under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint and the Paris Agreement
- Infrastructure: Improving rail reliability and growing the MRT network. Major infrastructure projects include Changi Terminal 5, the Tuas Megaport, and the High Speed Rail link to Kuala Lumpur, to enhance our status as a transport hub.
"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."
4. The fourth-generation leadership will take on greater responsibilities
A new parliamentary session will open in May 2018.
PM Lee said President Halimah Yacob will deliver her inaugural President’s Address, and in it, the government will lay out its its agenda for the rest of the term.
Against the backdrop of a widely expected cabinet reshuffle, PM Lee said
"This (the agenda) will bear the imprint of the fourth-generation leadership, who are taking on greater responsibilities, and putting forth their ideas for Singapore."
5. The bicentennial of Raffles' landing in 2019 to be commemorated "appropriately"
Singapore's history goes back at least 700 years.
In his speech, PM Lee described Sir Stamford Raffles’ landing in 1819 as "a key turning point", which set Singapore on a different trajectory, and brought the country to where it is today.
"Had Raffles not landed, Singapore might not have become a unique spot in Southeast Asia, quite different from the islands in the archipelago around us, or the states in the Malayan Peninsula. But because of Raffles, Singapore became a British colony, a free port, and a modern city. Our progress was not a straight line upwards. We experienced many dislocations and disruptions, including war and peace, economic depression and prosperity, struggle as well as success. But ultimately we came through, and became an independent nation."
He said 2019 - 200th anniversary of Raffles’ landing, "is an important milestone for Singapore", and should be commemorated "appropriately", just like how we mark the 150th anniversary in 1969.
It will be an occasion to "to reflect on how our nation came into being, how we have come this far since, and how we can go forward together."
You can read his full message hereTop photo from PM Lee Hsien Loong's Facebook