Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's 2022 National Day Message. The message was recorded at Gardens by the Bay and telecast on 8 August 2022.
My fellow Singaporeans
We have battled COVID-19 for two and a half years now. After many ups and downs, we have come through as one united people. We are now in a much better position. Our population is highly vaccinated, and well protected. Our hospitals and clinics are still busy, but not overwhelmed. Despite the recent surge in cases, we have been able to avoid tightening measures again.
I thank the many individuals and organisations, public and private, who have participated in the fight against COVID-19. Key to our success has been the high level of trust in our society. Singaporeans trusted your Government, and followed its advice. You accepted and complied with difficult but necessary Safe Management Measures. You stepped forward to get vaccinated when your turn came.
But above all, Singaporeans trusted one another. We all practised personal and social responsibility. We did the right thing even when no one was checking. We supported and took care of fellow citizens, contributing hand sanitisers in lifts, and delivering food packs to those quarantined at home. Our mutual trust in one another made all the difference.
Indeed, COVID-19 has been the test of a generation. We held up through this trial, to emerge stronger and more united. This unity is crucial as we move forward beyond COVID-19.
Our road ahead will not be easy. Around us, a storm is gathering. US-China relations are worsening, with intractable issues, deep suspicions, and limited engagement between them. This is unlikely to improve anytime soon. Furthermore, miscalculations or mishaps can easily make things much worse.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also has profound implications for the world and for Singapore. First, it has set Russia, a nuclear power, bitterly against many states, especially the US and the NATO countries. The hostility is deep, and will not be resolved easily. Second, the invasion violates fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity under the United Nations Charter. This is particularly vital to Singapore, because these principles underpin our security, and even our existence. Third, war in Europe will affect regional security in the Asia-Pacific. Already it has further strained China’s relations with the US, and with America’s partners in Asia. Singapore will be buffeted by intense rivalry and tensions in the region around us.
What can we do about this? Staying united is key to Singapore’s survival – it is the only way to deal with challenges in an increasingly troubled world. We must look to our Total Defence, and maintain a strong and credible SAF and Home Team. We must also brace ourselves and be psychologically prepared that in the next decades our region may not be as peaceful and stable as it has been thus far.
More immediate however, are the economic challenges. Even though our economy has emerged strongly from the pandemic, the outlook has clouded considerably. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, the pandemic had already disrupted supply chains, and inflation was already rising. But the invasion has aggravated both problems. Food and energy prices are rising all around the world.
I know that the cost of living is at the top of everyone’s minds. The Government is doing everything necessary to help Singaporeans cope with rising prices. We have announced multiple support packages, targeting assistance to those who need it most. Some measures have already been implemented, and more will be rolled out in the coming months. We have acted decisively to secure supplies of food and other essentials, diversifying our sources and building up adequate stockpiles. I am also glad to see that companies and community groups have initiated their own support programmes. By helping each other, Singapore can be Stronger Together.
Meanwhile, we have tightened our exchange rate policy and strengthened the Singapore dollar, to dampen imported inflation. The Government also stands ready to do more to help Singaporeans if things worsen. But the basic reality is that international economic conditions have shifted. The world is not likely to return anytime soon to the low inflation levels and interest rates that we have enjoyed in recent decades. Singapore’s deeper response to this shift must be to transform our industry, upgrade our skills and raise our productivity. Then our wages can go up higher than inflation, and Singaporeans can earn more in real terms year by year.
Securing our Future
Beyond these immediate issues, we must also look to the long-term. I am speaking to you from Gardens by the Bay. This year is the Gardens’ 10th anniversary, but the Gardens were decades in the making. Where I am standing used to be open sea. About 50 years ago, we started to reclaim land here to create Marina South and a future downtown. And we decided that the new downtown should not just be office and residential buildings, but would have at its heart an iconic green public space. Thus was Gardens by the Bay conceived, designed, and built. Since it opened in 2012, the Gardens have become a landmark which Singaporeans enjoy and are very proud of. And we keep on improving. Soon, we will be starting works at Bay East Gardens, where the Founders’ Memorial will be sited.
This is how we do things in Singapore – always daring to dream, setting our sights on the next frontier, and searching for better solutions and fresh possibilities. We look and plan ahead not just for the next 5 or 10 years, but for the next 30 or 50 years and beyond.
Last year the URA launched the Long-Term Plan Review. They consulted and engaged many people, old and young, looking for ideas to re-imagine our city and island for the next bound. The ongoing exhibition at the URA Centre showcases concepts for major developments, and ideas to create new communities and green spaces. These concepts represent our collective dreams and aspirations for what Singapore can become. They will transform the way we live, work and play, while strengthening our roots and heritage. There is a lot for Singaporeans to look forward to.
Of course, long-term plans are not just about the physical infrastructure. We also need to sustain economic progress and social resilience – investing in our people to reach their full potential, taking care of our elderly and vulnerable, fostering a common identity and building a brighter future for our grandchildren and beyond. Each generation should be able to aim higher and bolder, to build a better Singapore than the one they inherited.
DPM Lawrence Wong and the 4G team have launched the Forward Singapore exercise, to involve citizens in refreshing our social compact, and to chart our way forward together. I invite you to participate actively, contribute your ideas, and help to shape our future Singapore.
We must never stop imagining and building the Singapore we want, even as we strengthen our guard against what can go wrong. COVID-19 will not be Singapore’s last crisis. More storms and turbulence lie ahead. But do not fear. As long as we stay united and resolute, we can keep our nation peaceful and secure, build a more prosperous economy, and forge an inclusive society that all of us can belong to and can be proud of, for many years to come.
Happy National Day!
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