Saturday, August 12, 2006

PM Lee's National Day Speech 2006

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Message 2006

My fellow Singaporeans,

1. After the past few years upgrading and restructuring our economy, Singapore is in a much stronger position than before. Our strategies are working, and our economy is growing and creating jobs.

2. For the first half of this year, growth was 9.4 percent. For the full year, MTI has raised our growth forecast to between 6.5 and 7.5 percent. The strong economy has generated 81,500 jobs in the first half - the highest number in a decade. More than half of these jobs have been taken up by residents. Our efforts to re-design jobs and re-skill workers are also helping more older and lower-skilled Singaporeans to upgrade themselves and earn more.

Global Outlook and Risks

3. The global economic outlook remains positive. The US economy is slowing down. However, this moderation is balanced by stronger growth in Japan, and gradual improvements in several European countries, especially Germany.

4. In Asia, the strong momentum of China and India continues to fuel the dynamism and optimism of the entire region. Southeast Asia is benefiting from this, although several countries face political problems which could affect confidence and growth.

5. While the overall outlook is favourable, we must continue to track and anticipate developments around us, especially potential threats to our growth and security.

6. The Middle East is in upheaval. Iran's nuclear programme is raising grave international concerns. Iraq is almost in a state of civil war. The fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah and Hamas continues. Singapore hopes that the senseless cycle of violence in the Middle East will be stopped. But if the crisis worsens and disrupts world oil supplies, energy prices will shoot up even higher, and trigger a global recession.

7. The WTO Doha Round negotiations have stalled. If the trade talks fail, protectionism will grow. As an open economy which depends on free flow of trade and investments, Singapore will be very vulnerable, but our free trade agreements will protect us and safeguard our access to important markets.

8. Bird flu is a real concern. It is a serious problem in Indonesia. Should the virus mutate to spread from human to human across the world, tens of millions may die. We have contingency plans to deal with such a pandemic, but no plan can cover every eventuality.9. Extremist terrorism remains a threat. Terrorist networks have been disrupted in Malaysia and Indonesia, but some dangerous terrorists are still on the loose and Singa­pore is one of their targets.

Adapting to Change

10. To deal with these and other challenges, we need able and dedicated leaders in every sector. We need a good and effective government to lead the country. And we need Singaporeans to work together to take our nation forward.

11. As a small country, we must accept the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. We must watch closely the changes around us, and respond promptly when opportunities or threats emerge. We stand out from our competitors precisely because we react faster and more effectively to new situations. We must also work with our neighbours to deepen our cooperation in ASEAN, and make Southeast Asia a vibrant region which investors cannot ignore. So while we focus on issues within Singapore, we must never take our eyes off what is happening around us, or be slow to react to them.

12. I know that this strategy demands a lot from Singaporeans. It means exploring new and risky approaches, instead of clinging to familiar arrangements. It needs trust and confidence between the people and the Government. It also requires us to help those less able to cope with the rapid changes. For example, when oil prices rise, electricity costs more to produce, and buses, taxis and trains cost more to run. We cannot keep electricity tariffs and public transportation fares fixed. But we can and will directly help those in need. This is what the Government has been doing through programmes like U-Save and the recent Progress Package.

A More Open and Diverse Society

13. One important strategy to cope with changes is to make our people more resilient, better able to tackle issues on their own instead of looking to the Government to solve every problem. We are building a more open society, and encouraging freer debate. The media are airing more diverse issues and perspectives. The public is more engaged in helping the Government to work out policies and solve problems. Civic groups are organising themselves, running special schools, protecting the tone of neighbourhoods, or promoting informed debate.

14. The internet is a tremendous tool which is changing the world. We should make full use of it to link up with the world, engage one another, and be a productive economy and vibrant society. But the internet creates new problems too. Not everything on the internet is reliable; it is not easy to tell apart fact from fiction in cyberspace; and instant communi­cations can cause people to over-react hastily and unthinkingly to events. Therefore we must learn how to live with this new medium, and adapt to it. This is a challenge to many societies, not just Singa­pore.

15. Going forward, we will continue to open up in a considered and progressive way. Singaporeans should express themselves freely but responsibly. We need to help solve problems and build our nation, not chip away at the pillars of our society. We will not always agree with one another, but we must stay cohesive and united in our common vision for Singapore.

16. The people's votes in May settled the team to lead Singa­pore, and the direction that Singa­pore should take, over the next five years. We should now focus on over­coming the problems ahead. At the end of the term, the Government will put its record before the people, for voters to judge whether their lives have improved. This way, by focussing on the future, we will stay on top of our challenges and ahead of the competition.

Strengthening our Core

17. Amidst all the changes, some things remain the same - we are still a small country in an uncertain world, other countries are larger and better endowed than we are, and we will still have to work harder and smarter than them. Therefore as we encourage diversity, we must also strengthen our core and stay together as one people.

18. This will be all the more important for the younger generation. They are growing up connected to the internet and the world, and this new landscape is a natural part of their lives. Young Singaporeans enjoy a first-class education. They have many opportunities to pursue their passions and fortunes both in Singapore and abroad. We must do more to engage our young, and strengthen their roots in Singapore. We must imbue in them the conviction that Singapore is a special and unique place that belongs to them, and that Singapore's future depends on them. They must develop an instinctive obligation to give back to society and enable many more Singa­poreans to enjoy the opportunities they do.

19. Many years ago, when Singa­pore was just a fishing village, our forefathers came here in search of a better life. In 1965, after a period of communist and communal strife, independence was thrust upon us. Suddenly we were on our own. But we worked hard and built modern Singapore from scratch. Let us uphold this spirit of self reliance, this openness to change, and this determination to succeed, as we build a brighter future for all.

20. I wish all Singaporeans a Happy National Day.

My comments:

Hi all

I am glad that official statistics indicate that our economy is heading in the right direction.

However,I will be not surprised if those most affected by the restructuring remain highly skeptical of these figures. The challenge is how to provide a buffer for those affected by the adverse effects associated with globalization. Not all these unemployed can be taxi-drivers or McDonald uncles and aunties. There is a strata of “chronically unemployed” who seem to be glossed over by the new economy. I am sure that not all of them are “choosy” or have unrealistic expectations.

The recent arrests of potential terrorists in the UK reinforce the reality that we live in a different world post- 911. It is futile to argue over who is to blame for this “clash of the civilizations”. The fact is that there are some out there who feel so aggrieved by the actions of the Western world (personified by the George Bush’s USA ) and they feel that jihad against these western symbols are justified even if innocent lives are sacrificed.

According to some sources,Singapore is a target of these jihadists (partly due to its links with the West) and it is fortunate that we have so far been spared any successful terror attack. Our social fabric and our much treasured multi-racial harmony will be severely tested when ( and not if) these terrorists strike.

To be honest, although I count myself a liberal (and hence open to various viewpoints) and look forward to the day when all of us are persuaded by the strengths of our arguments in any intellectual debate, I am most troubled by the amount of racism and bigotry in some internet forums.If you are the victim of racial abuse, don't you feel upset by derogatory terms used by some irresponsible posters? Perhaps we should just excuse these as excesses of immature teenagers?

I do accept that with freedom, there will inevitably be some chaos and that somehow, self-regulation by other more enlightened netizens will ensure that the more unacceptable expressions will be frowned upon by the rest and with time, these will remain in the fringe and stay there. Anyway, these are meant to be like idle "kopi-tiam"(vernacular term for coffee-shop) talk and not to be taken seriously right?

The jury is still out on whether Singapore is becoming a Nation. (read my post on this) My impression is that Singaporeans will continue to emigrate to more developed economies and that new immigrants (mostly from China,India and of course Malaysia) will play an increasingly important role in our society. As some ministers have already admitted, this policy is “necessary” as our population has not been replacing itself.

I guess all of us will just have to accept this reality that there will be stiff competition for all resources including jobs, places in educational institutions etc. In any case, all of our forebears were migrants too.

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan


Anthony said...

Greetings Doc !

Do you really think that Singapore will one day be a target for terrorists? Honestly, I have my doubts about that. Why such a pessimistic view? Somehow, I can never swallow the high sounding bunkum that the mainstream media dishes out about terrorists, “they hate us because we are free” and all that shit. Is something true just because the official media says it is so?

Mind you, I don’t wish to sound like a whacky conspiracy theorist, but more and more Americans are now convinced that 9/11 was an inside job. No matter how little we know, I think we know enough to realise that there’s something dreadfully wrong with the official picture of 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terrorism”. It seems like one big campaign to keep us in a perpetual state of fear. The more one fears, the more easily one is controlled and manipulated. Isn’t that so?

By the way, a recent poll indicates that more than 30 p.c. of Americans can no longer recall the year in which 9/11 took place!!! Wow! Talk about the public having short memories! And then this new incident comes along as if to remind us that the “terrorists” are alive and well. Weird, isn’t it?

As for racism, you’re absolutely right, and, sadly, it’s not only in internet forums. It seems to be rearing its ugly head everywhere. But what is to be done? “We the people” seem to be nothing more than pawns in a bigger game. Almost everything that we so proudly call “history” is virtually nothing but racism. The Crusades, Slavery, Colonialism, the Second World War, weren’t all these movements racist at their core, where the “superior” races subjugated and exploited the “inferior” races for their own nefarious purposes? What were the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but a horrendous act of racism without precedent? And now the “war on terrorism” where the Occident is supposedly menaced by Islam. It’s the Crusades all over again. Only this time it’s not Richard the Lion-Heart but Bush the Brain-Dead, although I’m well aware that, a hundred years from today, George W. Bush might be “historically” acclaimed as the greatest American president ever.


nofearSingapore said...

Hi Anthony,
I have read some of those conspiracy of how it was not possible for just a plane to bring down the WTC like a pack of cards.
I am not a demolition expert but the "inside job" is an attractive theory.
Actually, yes I think Sg is a likely target. I was in Kota Beach ( Bali) around the time of the latest bombing. Coincindentally I left for home, one day before the bombs went off less than 100m from my hotel. I can argue why the West is at fault for pushing the Muslims to the "wall" and now it is just "pay-back" time but whatever the root causes, we (the non-players) will be caught smack in the middle.
Yes, govts use our fears as "bogeyman" to keep us in check. Most govts do.That doesn't negate the fact that there are some nasty things happening in the world.
Yes there is much injustice in the world. Why the USA got into Middle east but leave Rwanda to rot while the Hutus and Tutsis are slaughteting each other? Oil and nothing else.
But Anthony,we can only in our small part lessen tensions amongst races and cultures. Or should I just consider that since the big powers are "racists", what's the point and maybe even join the "orgy"?
Perhaps you can share with us, how the different cultures/races coexist where you are? Let's learn from each other.
Nice to hear from you.

Whispers from the heart said...

Hi Doc,

Am aware of the conspiracy theories. In the US, most things are hyped up. Their propaganda machinery is probably a hundred times more efficient than ours, if they set their minds to it.

For Singapore, if agreeing that there is risk of a terrorist attack, my feeling is that we spent a disproportionate amount of our resources to assuage this fear.

It may just be some ocasional drills but the amount of resources and man hours utilised behind the scenes is quite wasteful already.

I know, we can create awareness but humans are such creatures where an experience speaks more than a thousand lectures.

Singaporeans are already living in a lot of fear (as in worries). It doesnt' really help to further stress ourselves.

(By the way, I had a personal experience with one such case where somebody reported an abandoned plastic bag in the carpark. It took 1 fire engine, 3 police cars and five hours to clear the 'supicious' bag. And it was done only when the bomb squad arrived in the last hour! Not reported in the newspapers probably because it looked darn silly on everybody!)

Cobalt Paladin said...

Hi Whispers,

By not doing drills does not make the problem go away. If it is there, it is there. It is better not to behave like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Imagine the public outcry if any incidents occur. The public may blame the government for not taking any actions and not having any drills.

Personally, I find it comforting that people reported about a bag that was left unattended. This is better than having the bystander mentality that many urban dwelllers are known for.

It may not have been reported simply because it wasn't "newsworthy"?

Wouldn't it be unwise if the incident was reported and ridiculed, everyone goes back into their shell and become a bystander again?

Whispers from the heart said...


I don't object to drills, I advocate balance in everything we do.

I think the silliest thing about the 'unattended bag' was that it took the bomb squad 3-4 hours to be activated. The police condoned the place for that long to wait for the bomb squad. Imagine if it was really something sinister. The car park was right next to a petrol station.

The police and everyone prepares for a drill and knows when they will be called up. In a real disaster, I hope they don't take so long to arrive. (Perhaps, in the incident, the bomb squad had decided it was low priority risk).

aliendoc said...

I watched The Tonight Show last weekend, with Bill Maher as one of the guests. He gave his very humorous (but probably very true) perspective on why so many Americans believe in the conspiracy theory: A combination of the stupidity of the American public & the genius of Marketing.