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President Halimah Yacob’s first President’s Address, written by 4G ministers. Which is also a first.

There were a lot of milestones in President Halimah Yacob's first Presidential Address.

By Sulaiman Daud | May 7, 2018

President Halimah Yacob delivered her first President’s Address to Parliament on Monday evening, May 7.

This is her first Address since her walkover election victory in September 2017.

Even though the address is read by the President, it was actually written by members of the government.

It sets out the proposed policies, programmes and direction of the government for this session of Parliament.

This resembles the UK’s State Opening of Parliament, where the monarch as Head of State delivers the address to her MPs. Her speech is also written by her government.

Drafted by 4G leaders

But this particular address was unique as it was the first to be drafted by the PAP’s fourth-generation leadership.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post on Feb. 27 that he would be asking them to do it.

He said:

“I am asking the fourth-generation Ministers to draft the Government’s agenda for the President’s address. It will give Singaporeans a better sense of them and their thoughts.”

In a sense, this was the public’s first look at the priorities of the PAP’s 4G leaders.

So what did they have to say?

Priority 1: Secure Singapore’s place in the world

The government’s first priority is to carve out a place for ourselves in a “changing world” by defending our interests and working with others.

  • Build up the SAF and Home Team’s capabilities to counter new threats, like terrorism and cyber attacks, while also strengthening civilian resilience.
  • Commit to a rules-based order and uphold international law.
  • “Champion” our particular interests, like free trade, against rising protectionism.
  • Make as many friends as possible, particularly the US and China, while also working to enhance ASEAN unity.

Priority 2: Building a well-connected, world-class city

Good news, everyone who thinks that our infrastructure, especially in transport, could be improved. The second priority is to invest in infrastructure and plan for long term development.

  • Invest in both physical and data links to keep Singapore the most well-connected city in Asia.
  • Investing “heavily” in MRT infrastructure and renewing the HDB heartlands to promote a car-lite city, which helps to reduce carbon emissions.
  • The moves of Paya Lebar Air Base and the city ports to Tuas will free up a lot of land for exciting new developments.

Priority 3: Adapt to new economic conditions

The next priority is to ensure that workers still have opportunities amidst fast-changing economic conditions.

  • Invest in emerging industries like Artifical Intelligence, FinTech, bio-science and advanced manufacturing.
  • Encourage local firms to collaborate and strike out overseas.
  • Invest in workers at home to improve their skills.

Priority 4: Forging a cohesive society

Tackling inequality gets a mention, balancing the principle of meritocracy while “leaving no one behind.”

  • Providing support in housing, education and skills training to make meritocracy work.
  • Support for the elderly, whether they need jobs or specialised healthcare.
  • Support for families to cope with the cost of living, and help disabled people to lead full lives.
  • Build a culture whereby those who are better-off help out those who are less-fortunate.

Priority 5: Nurturing the Singaporean identity

President Halimah wrapped up by emphasising that Singapore needed to nurture our common identity, to preserve the unique aspects of each culture’s traditions while building a new identity based on common values and beliefs.

What’s next?

Parliament now has five days to debate the proposed policies contained in the address.

In another first, this will give Pritam Singh, the newly-elected Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, the chance to make his first speech in Parliament as the new leader of the opposition.

It’s a good opportunity for the WP to make their mark in this session of Parliament too. Stay tuned.

Top image from screen shot via Toggle Live.

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About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve. In his spare time he writes about film, pop-culture and international politics, which you are very welcome to read here.

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