PM Lee's National Day Rally 2018 summarised into 14 things

We summarise it into 14 points for you.

Fasiha Nazren | Matthias Ang | August 19, 2018, 09:34 PM

If you didn't watch the National Day Rally earlier today, we took the liberty to watch the entire 75 minutes of it and picked out the important parts for you.

You're welcome.

1. Trump-Kim summit

Lee states that as host, Singapore had a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the Summit.

Both countries chose Singapore because:

  • It is friendly with all parties
  • It is a “Serious and reliable partner”
  • It is perceived as capable of providing the necessary infrastructure and security for the summit

Lee also thanked the officers and acknowledged their sacrifices.

2. The all-around negative effects of the US trade wars

Lee then turned his attention to the trade wars the US was engaged in with multiple countries, painting a rather stark picture.

He noted that many Americans had come to question globalisation, free trade and the free movement of people, harbouring the sentiment that other countries were taking advantage of them.

In attempting to make “rebalancing trade” a top priority, the US has engaged in unilaterally imposing tariffs on countries such as the EU, Canada, Mexico and most importantly, China.

Accordingly, these countries have retaliated in their own tit-for-tat moves which has resulted in damage to the global economic and business climate. Lee adds that Singapore will be hit by the collateral damage.

Beyond economics, the trade wars have also contributed to the rise in geopolitical tensions.

In particular, the tensions and rivalry between China and US is serious enough to potentially threaten the existing global international system.

3. More differences now but ultimately, still the same with Malaysia

Bringing his focus closer to home, Lee spoke at length about ties with Malaysia.

He noted the Malaysian government’s reviews of decisions by the previous administration and how it affected current projects like the HSR and RTS link to Johor, along with Mahathir’s statement to review the 1962 Water Agreement where the terms are “sacrosanct.”

Lee struck an optimistic note however, by bringing up how Singapore has worked well with Malaysia on various projects, even during Mahathir’s previous administration.

He also re-emphasised the old adage of how the essence of the relationship between Singapore and Malaysia will not change because both countries “are closely bound by ties of kinship and history, geography and economy.”

4. Cost of living

On this issue, Lee highlighted three main areas -- housing, education and healthcare, and acknowledged the costs that they imposed on families throughout their lives.

He added that it was for these reasons that the Government “would spare no effort” in ensuring that people could afford them.

On healthcare, Lee signalled out the upgrade of Medishield to Medishield Life as an instance of how the Government has helped Singaporeans in coping with medical bills. This was done by:

  • Providing more generous payout compared to Medishield and removing the limit to lifetime claims
  • Providing lifelong protection regardless of pre-existing conditions or insurance status

According to Lee, 2017 alone saw close to 200,000 Singaporeans benefitting from

MediShield Life, which amounted to over $800 million.

5. CHAS extended to Singaporeans with chronic conditions, regardless of income

The Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) is a scheme that entitles cardholders to generous subsidies.

Currently, only those who have a monthly income of S$1,800 and below per person or has a home annual value of S$21,000 and below but has no income are eligible for CHAS.

Today, however, Lee announced that CHAS will be extended to those with chronic conditions, regardless of income.

More details will be announced by the Ministry of Health later, but the benefits will still be tiered according to income.

6. More polyclinics and medical centres in the heartlands by 2023

In the past year, new polyclinics and medical centres have opened in places such as Punggol, Kampung Admiralty and Ang Mo Kio.

In fact, there will be more polyclinics in Singapore with four opening in Sembawang, Eunos, Kallang and Bukit Panjang by 2020 and two more by 2023 in Nee Soon Central and Tampines North.

Yay, more accessible and affordable places to get your MCs.

7. Bad news: You won’t stay forever young. Good news: CareShield Life’s got you covered.

Lee gave the youngins a reality check:

“When you are young, sometimes it feels like you will be young forever, but alas it is not so.”

But hey, this just means that there will be a new scheme for when the young generation gets older called CareShield Life where the payout is at least S$600 a month

Unlike the current ElderShield scheme which is only available for up to six years, CareShield Life will be available for as long as you live.


This new scheme will roll out in 2020 for every Singaporean born from 1980.

But those born before 1980 won’t have to miss out -- they can join CareShield Life, which Lee encouraged them to do so.

8. Born between 1950 to 1959? Then you’re eligible for a new package, because Merdeka.

You’ve heard of the pioneer generation, but what in the world is Merdeka generation?

This year, Lee announced the Merdeka Generation Package (MGP).

The Merdeka Generation is made up of Singaporeans born between 1950 to 1959, which Lee proudly announced, includes himself.

This generation has lived through the 1950s and early 1960s, where they too have made many sacrifices just like the pioneer generation, such as being the “earliest batches” to serve National Service and also “not being able to complete their education”, especially for the girls.

More details will be announced next year, but it will cover:

  • Outpatient subsidies
  • MediSave top-ups
  • MediShield Life premium subsidies
  • Payouts for long-term care

While it will not be as large as the PGP, who Lee mentioned, had “ much less advantage in life”, it will go some way to relieve their healthcare worries especially since this generation is inching towards their 60s.

9. It’s difficult to please everybody, but housing policies have been successful 

Unlike healthcare, housing is not as simple as keeping costs low.

When you want to buy house, you want it to be cheap. But when you want to sell it, you want the prices to be high.

But despite that, Lee said that nearly every young couple getting married can afford to buy their first homes immediately thanks to “uniquely successful” housing policies.

In Singapore, citizens can pay for most of the flat with just their central provident fund (CPF).

This is in comparison to other major cities around the world where young couples can only hope to rent a flat where the monthly rent can “cost up to 40%” of their household income.

Lee even mentioned that the poorest one-fifth of homeowners have an average of S$200,000 of wealth in their HDB flat.

10. 99 years is a fair number actually because it’s how Singapore retains land to build housing

Lee points out that 99 years is a really long time. Assuming one buys a flat in their 30s, living out the full 99 year-lease would mean that one has lived until 130 years, to the point that one’s own grandchildren can also be grandparents.

What’s more, at retirement, most people will still have 60 plus years left in their flat, which is still long enough for the flat to retain substantial value. The Government is also engaged in ways to help residents monetise their older flats by having MND work on ways to expand the lease buyback scheme and improve the liquidity of the resale market.

On the topic of people who have bought a resale flat, Lee cites that the oldest flat in Singapore is 52 years old which leave 47 years to go. A situation that sees a HDB owner out-living their leases has been estimated by HDB to happen to only less than two percent of households.

Even for owners who have to return their flat at the end of its lease, the Government will help them get another flat to live in, which can be:

  • A BTO flat from HDB with a fresh 99-year lease, if you are eligible for another one
  • A resale flat on a shorter and cheaper lease
  • A 2R Flexi flat for retirement

The fundamental reason to the 99-year lease however is “the need to be fair for future generations.” Having the flat return to the Government at the end of its lease is the only way the Government can recycle and redevelop the land for future generations.

On the contrary, if the flat was sold by the Government on freehold -- i.e. perpetuity -- Singapore would eventually run out of land to build new flats. Social divisions would also be exacerbated between those who are lucky enough to inherit property from their parents and those who aren’t.

It is for this reason that private land is also sold on a 99-year lease.

Not extending the lease beyond 99 years also has a practical reason: buildings that are older than 50 years old will have obsolete mechanical and electrical systems and deteriorated concrete. The cost of maintenance would accordingly be very high.

These are the reasons why the flats will always be set at a 99-year lease, with the exception of some blocks with historical or heritage value. New flats and towns can constantly be built which are better-suited for future generations.

11. HIP to be extended to public housings built up to 1997

Thanks to the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) that was implemented 10 years ago, older HDB flats built up to 1986 have been upgraded to keep them in good condition.

The heavily subsidised scheme where residents pay as little as a few hundred dollars helps with maintenance problems such as ceiling leaks and damages pipes, as well as upgrading electrical supply, with more households with air-conditioners and personal mobility devices.

As more flats approaching the 30-year mark are starting to show wear and tear, HIP will be extended to blocks built up to 1997.

This means about 230,000 more flats in regions such as Tampines, Jurong, Yishun and Pasir Ris will benefit from this.

12. HDB upgrades in 30 to 40 years called HIP II

Akan datang in 30 to 40 years after the first HIP will be HIP II.

This means HDB flats will be upgraded twice throughout its 99-year lease.

Realistically, HIP II will cost more than the first HIP, which costs the government more than S$4 billion.

But Lee reassures Singaporeans that HIP II will be possible as long as the Ministry of Finance has the money.

13. Selective en Bloc Redevelopment Scheme is mostly aimed at rejuvenating estates deemed to have high development value

For owners who are thinking of moving out and wondering if their flat can come under SERS, here’s some things to note:

SERS is a scheme that is very good for estate rejuvenation because it brings in new families into an estate.

Teck Ghee for example has two SERS projects going on, which has seen the neighbourhood livening up thanks to the new families brought in by the new flats.

SERS however, is a very limited scheme meant for selected HDB blocks or precincts, which have high development value which the Government can unlock.

One example would be Tanglin Halt in Queenstown. Its high development value stems from the fact that it is not well laid out due to its large carparks, low rise flats, empty spaces and leftover areas.

In this case, it makes sense for the Government to take back the flats early under SERS and redevelop the site. The high development also means that residents will also be compensated generously.

At the moment however, only 5 percent of flats are estimated to be suitable for SERS. While there will be more SERS projects in time to come, many projects with high redevelopment value have already been completed.  

14. Earlier en blocs by 20 to 30 years, only if residents vote for it

If residents, unfortunately, are not eligible for SERS, then there will be the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS).

Since older estates were built within short periods, more towns will become construction sites all over again which according to Lee, isn’t a good idea.

Thus, residents will have to choice vote for the government to buy back the flats 20 to 30 years earlier so they can use their proceeds to pay for another flat.

However, VERS won’t start for at least the next 20 years as the government will need to work out several factors such as how the government will be able to afford it for the long term and the process of selecting precincts.

And there you have it -- this year’s National Day Rally.

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Top image credit: screenshot from PMO Youtube channel