PM Lee’s speech in 2018 President’s Address debates, summarised in 60 seconds

He spent a good amount of time talking about the cohesiveness of society, and that all-important question of his successor.

By Joshua Lee | May 17, 2018

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke in Parliament on the President’s Address on Wednesday, May 16.

If getting his 4G leaders to draft the speech was not indication of his gradual pulling back, then he’d like to remind you that from now, his main role is to be “supportive, to help the 4G Ministers present and implement the agenda, and to see through as much of it as possible while [he is] PM”.


With that out of the way, let’d jump in to the things from his speech that matter to you:

1. International events are like elephants

Kicking off his speech with an outlook on the international state of play, PM Lee talked about how a “small and open” country like Singapore will always be vulnerable to the things happening around us.

Quoting a 1973 speech by the late Lee Kuan Yew, PM Lee compared external events to elephants — whichever way they move, the grass (Singapore) is affected.

Everyone suffers, tbh.

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On the world stage, Singapore is keeping abreast of what is happening, especially the trade disagreements between China and America.

Within the region, PM Lee mentioned a few key events like the historic Malaysian election and the upcoming Indonesian local and national elections this and next year, as well as his hopes for the future of our diplomatic relations:

– On Malaysia, and its new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, PM Lee said we have worked with him on joint projects like the Second Link at Tuas, noting at the same time that he will be very busy because expectations of his new government are very high.

– On Indonesia, PM Lee noted that he has good working relations with President Joko Widodo as well as his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and voiced his hope that we can maintain friendly and productive ties with them too.

2. “Zhnging” the economy 

Since independence, our economy has grown 40 per cent. Today, our developed economy only sees single-digit growth. This year we are forecasted to grow 2-4 per cent. 

However, asserts PM Lee, slower growth is not the end of the world. Singapore is working at upgrading our economy by developing new areas to grow.

For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has spent the past three years developing Singapore into a financial tech (Fintech) hub.

Today, there are more than 400 Fintech companies based here and over 30 innovation labs and research centres set up here.

3. Moving forward as a society

While Singapore has the policies and tools to promote social mobility, PM Lee says we have to get rid of old mindsets about class divides.

PM Lee brought up the example of how some parents of eligible primary school students didn’t want to send them to Raffles Institution simply because they thought their children would not fit in with more well-off ones.

Singaporeans also have to use shared experiences such as National Service, and our love for hawker food to transcend differences in order to build a more cohesive and resilient society.

He added that government policies need to comprehensively support social mobility and meritocracy — ensuring quality education, affordable homes and healthcare, and pointing to their investments in pre-school education, as well as the social safety net of schemes for those with difficulties.

PM Lee spoke about suggestions for big policy shifts like implementing a Universal Basic Income (the effectiveness of which he said is yet unproven), abolishing the PSLE (which he says is very tough to do, but that the government is prepared to consider better alternatives), stressing the need to be realistic.

4. 4G leadership shaping up

PM Lee also outlined the tasks at hand for the next generation of leaders:

– To grow Singapore through reinventing our economy and finding new possibilities
– To make sure our society is still unified, cohesive, meritocratic, fair and just.

According to PM Lee, the next generation of leaders is a “strong team of able men and women, with a balanced combination of skills”.

They are slowly learning the ropes, taking charge of their own portfolios, and learning to work together as a team to support the eventual fourth Prime Minister of Singapore, just previous Prime Ministers were supported by their own teams — PM Lee said he and his predecessors Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and the late Lee Kuan Yew were all “first among equals” with their colleagues.

As for a timeline, PM Lee said that he expects a leader to emerge and be chosen before the next General Election.

Here’s what the latest 2018 Cabinet reshuffle tells us about the 3 PM frontrunners

Top image via Gov.sg

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