PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech on 18 August 2013 at the Institute of Technical Education College Central. He spoke in Malay and Chinese, followed by English.
For the video with sign language interpretation, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.
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本地中小型企业，尤其面对不少困难。它们要提高效率，改善业务，以节省人力。但是资源有限，往往心有余而力不足 – 知道应该做什么，但是谈何容易。小型生意非常依赖外劳，所以他们最头痛的是工人的短缺。很多老板都诉苦，说他们有生意做，却找不到工人。其实，我们并没有减少外劳的人数；我们只是放慢了引进外劳的速度。我们的经济还在增长，外劳总数有增无减。不过外劳仍旧供不应求，所以个别商家往往受到影响。政府了解商家的困难。我们将尽力帮助他们。不过，我们还是必须节制外劳的引进，不然的话，后果是不堪设想的。
杨木光议员是外劳中心的主席。最近，他就跟企业老板做了一个很有意思的对话，讨论令中小型企业头痛的问题，尤其是讨论外劳的问题。这场对话是由新明日报和老板联谊会联合主办。他们在一艘游轮上一面“吃风”，一面谈正经事，是一场很严肃的旅行。也许因为如此，杨木光谈的话特别生动。 他运用流行歌曲的歌名来比喻，妙语如珠。一方面，老板阐诉他们的烦恼；一方面，政府解释我们的苦衷。现在我跟大家分享一下：木光说，在外劳的问题上，老板喜欢唱三首歌。第一首：《往事只能回味》。过去好好的，现在怎么变了样？所以往事只能梦里回味。第二首：《我是一只小小鸟》，歌词很有意义，恰到好处。我不会唱，可是读给你听：“我是一只小小小小鸟，想要飞呀飞 ，却飞也飞不高。我寻寻觅觅寻寻觅觅，一个温暖的怀抱；这样的要求算不算太高？”真是可怜。这是老板唱的歌，不是政府唱的歌。可是，老板的第三首歌最难唱，也就是《月亮惹的祸》。木光版的歌词非常独特：“千错万错，都不是我的错，都是月亮惹的祸”；并且有些人说，那是闪电惹的祸。这是老板唱的歌；而政府当然也必须会唱歌。我们也有三首；第一首：《你知道我在等你吗？》；第二首：《我在你左右》；第三首，我们也有我们的第三首歌，最重要的：《明天你是否依然爱我？》。
除了帮助企业之外，政府也在帮助人民减轻生活压力。最近几年，我们推出了一系列社会措施，名堂很多，不过都是为了帮助中下层人民。 例如：消费税补助券 (GST Voucher) – 抵消生活费的上涨；就业奖励计划 (Workfare) – 直接提高低薪工人的收入和公积金储蓄；特别就业补贴计划 (Special Employment Credit) – 鼓励雇主聘用年长的员工。这些都是长期的援助措施，已经制度化了，不是一次过的；所以，我们有系统地每一年帮助中低层家庭提升他们的生活。通过这些措施，我们加强了社会安全网，使老百姓的生活更有保障。
与此同时，政府也希望更多民间团体和个人参与公益活动，以辅助政府的角色。我们要打造一个有温情又有活力的社会，不可能单靠政府。值得欣慰的是，新加坡人并不缺乏公益精神。一个很好例子就是新加坡狮子会多年来实行的一个收集和分发食品的慈善计划。发起人是雷因旭先生。雷先生25年前 – 1988年开始，发动小贩和商家捐出还没卖出去的蔬菜和水果，然后自己送到各个慈善机构。这是每个星期五一次的活动。开始的时候，他单枪匹马，遇到了很多问题。不过，他不怕困难的献身精神，渐渐的得到了响应，很多人都受到感动，纷纷加入这项志愿活动。25年如一日， 雷先生今年已经85岁高龄了，还经常到收集中心帮忙，精神可嘉。最近狮子会举行晚宴，庆祝这个计划的25周年。他们邀请我参加，所以我就跟大家一起，表扬雷先生的仁风义举。谢谢雷先生。
最后，让我总结一下我今晚的谈话。在治国的理念上，我们做了重要的调整，并且已经根据新理念，重新制定民生政策。接着几年，我们将全力落实这些政策，替人民解决困难，使人民的生活一年比一年好。我们的目标是：不分贫富，人人受惠。要做到这点，我们必须特别照顾生活比较困难的社群，尤其是低薪家庭和年长一代；同时我们也会继续努力，为年轻的新加坡人创造更美好的未来。政府将全力以赴，不过我们需要人民的支持与配合。大家可以期待《明天会更好》，因为《我 (们就) 在你左右》!
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ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF PM'S NATIONAL DAY RALLY 2013 CHINESE SPEECH
I have held my National Day Rally at the University Cultural Centre for many years. This year, I have changed the venue to ITE Headquarters and College Central located in Ang Mo Kio. I think you will all agree that this is a beautiful campus, a good place for study. It is a beautiful addition to Ang Mo Kio.
Before Singapore became independent, Ang Mo Kio was a rural area, with mainly farms, plantations and attap huts. Everyone lived in kampongs, where the living conditions were poor and there were no facilities. In half a century, Ang Mo Kio has become a modern and vibrant estate. It now has a full range of amenities: Schools, community clubs, a stadium, polytechnic and many others. It has high-rise HDB flats, bustling malls and the scenic Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park – it should be called Ang Mo Kio-Bishan Park, in our opinion.
Many families in Ang Mo Kio have lived here for over 30 years. They have become close friends. It is a warm community. I see many familiar faces during my walkabouts, for example, Mrs Lim from Block 409 Market. Mrs Lim has managed her stall for more than 10 years. She is always smiling when I see her. She has three children. Two of them have gone to university, of whom one has graduated. Her business is good, and her stall often overflows with vegetables. Sometimes she takes up too much space and the Town Council fines her. So when we meet, she would ask me to persuade the Town Council to be lenient. I said I will try hard, but I will need to see if there are mitigating circumstances, and that I hope she will work with the Town Council. She replied that she will try. I feel happy for Mrs Lim. Her children are well educated and she need not worry about her basic needs. In one generation, you can see their lives have improved.
The Lims’ story is shared by many Singaporeans. Our parents’ generation scrimped and saved to give their children a good education and better lives. In many ways, they have achieved this. The lives of their children have improved in many ways, be it in their education levels, economic wellbeing, job opportunities or life expectancy.
We must continue to work hard so that the next generation can do better than us. We have the experience and resources. We can do it!
We need a new approach to keep moving forward. There will be stiffer competition in our next phase. Globalisation and technology will pose more challenges.
Other countries face these situations too. In recent years, many developed countries have implemented tough reforms to overcome their difficulties and generate growth. Many European countries face serious structural economic problems and severe unemployment. Youth unemployment in several southern European nations is more than 50%. But European countries have tightened their belts, restructured their economies and come through the most difficult phase. I believe that European economies will recover. The prospects for China are good, but there are also many difficulties. China is producing more university graduates. There will be seven million graduates this year alone, more than Singapore’s population! The Chinese government is doing their best to create suitable jobs for these graduates. Chinese leaders know that they must strengthen reforms so as to solve this problem. Fortunately, the youth in China have fighting spirit, and they are talented. In time, they will change China, and change the world.
Singapore is in a good position – we have a stable economy and high employment. But we need to continue to strive, to learn from other countries and persevere. Of course, there will be downsides as we transform our economy.
SMEs, in particular, face many challenges. They have tried hard to raise productivity, improve service standards and reduce labour costs. But they have limited resources and cannot do this on their own. SMEs rely a lot on foreign workers. Hence, the biggest challenge for SMEs is manpower. Many SMEs complain that they have business but they cannot find workers. Actually, we did not stop the inflow of foreign workers; we have only adjusted the rate at which they are brought in. The economy is still growing, and the number of foreign workers is still rising. But the demand for foreign workers is high and some businesses will be affected by the slowdown in the inflow of foreign workers. The Government understands the difficulties that businesses have, and will try our best to help. However, we need to control foreign worker numbers; otherwise it will lead to serious consequences.
The Government is now helping businesses to upgrade and transform. In Budget 2013, we rolled out a 3-year Transition Support Package, costing $5.3 billion, to help businesses reduce costs and raise productivity. SPRING Singapore’s mission is to help SMEs. They have many schemes to do so.
MP Yeo Guat Kwang, who is Chairman of the Migrant Workers’ Centre, had an interesting dialogue with business owners on foreign workers recently. The dialogue was jointly organised by Shin Min Daily and the Bosses’ Network. It took place on board a cruise ship. Mr Yeo used popular Chinese song titles to make his point. He said business owners like three songs: 《往事只能回味》 “The Past Is But A Memory” (on foreign workers); 《我是一只小小鸟》“I Am A Little Bird”, whose lyrics are “I am a tiny little bird, I try to fly but how high can I fly? I am looking for a warm embrace. Is this really too much to ask for?”; and 《月亮惹的祸》“It Is The Moon’s Fault”. Mr Yeo joked that some say it is the lightning’s (i.e. the PAP’s) fault. Mr Yeo also used three songs to describe what the Government feels: 《你知道我在等你吗？》“Do You Know I Am Waiting For You?”; 《我在你左右》“I Am By Your Side”; and the third and most important song, 《明天你是否依然爱我？》“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”.
Jokes aside, the foreign worker issue is complex. The Government cannot meet all the demands and there is no perfect solution. But we will help SMEs find a way to make it. Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck will chair a workgroup to help SMEs. The workshop will meet different business representatives to find out how to better support them.
We hope to better understand the peoples’ concerns, move with our changing social needs and support all Singaporeans.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
Besides helping SMEs, the Government has also been helping Singaporeans to deal with the challenges and stresses of daily living. Over the last few years, we have introduced many schemes to help people in need, especially low income families. For example, we have GST Vouchers to help with cost of living; Workfare to top up the wages and CPF savings of low wage workers; and the Special Employment Credit to encourage employers to hire older workers. These are long-term support schemes which are already institutionalised. They are not stop-gap measures. They strengthen our social safety net and give families more security.
Taken together, these measures also represent a fundamental shift in strategy. This Government will undertake a new approach, and a different mindset. Over the next few years, we will continue along this new direction. We hope to better understand the peoples’ concerns, move with our changing social needs and support all Singaporeans.
After half a century’s development, Singapore is at a turning point. Our goals have not changed: We want our people to have good jobs and better lives. To do so, we need to renew our approach and ideas to governing. Most importantly, we have to strike a new balance between the roles of the Government, community and the individual. The Government and community will share a larger part of individuals’ burdens. Let me give you an example to illustrate this new thinking. This is about how we help the elderly. Many elderly are immobile and need help daily. The Government has thus set up the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund, to subsidise the purchase of equipment needed by our seniors, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, special reading glasses and mattresses. (Referring to picture) This photo shows ESM Goh giving a new shower chair to an elderly resident. The Government is prepared to reduce families’ and individuals’ burdens. This is a start; we will do more in the future.
At the same time, we also hope the community and the individual will do more to complement what the Government is doing. We want to build a caring community with vitality and energy. I am heartened that Singaporeans do not lack the spirit of giving and many Singaporeans are helping others. The Lions Food Distribution Project is a good example. The project was founded by Mr Looi Im Heok in 1988. He started to collect unsold vegetables and fruits from hawkers and business owners once a week and distribute them to charities across Singapore. At first he did it alone, and encountered many difficulties. But his perseverance touched many people, and they joined him in this meaningful endeavour. It has been 25 years, and Mr Looi is now 85 years old, but he still goes down to the collection centre every week to help. I met Mr Looi at a recent Lions Club dinner to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the project. Together, we commended Mr Looi’s compassion and commitment.
Striking this new balance between Government, community and people is a process and it cannot be done overnight. We need to work on it, step by step, over many years. We will start with the immediate issues, including education, healthcare and housing. We want to reduce the risks for the people in their daily lives, especially for healthcare. I will expand on this in my English speech.
We need to help those with less, to strengthen social cohesion. We have to ensure that society does not become divided between the rich and poor. We have to think of ways to raise the income of low income families, and help them buy their own flat, to help them accumulate more savings and assets.
We need to keep our system open so that regardless of background, everyone can move up, especially through education. The Lims I mentioned are a good example. A good education has changed their circumstances and their children can look forward to better lives. The Government will help children from less fortunate backgrounds get to the same starting line as others, so they do not fall behind because of their circumstances. Hence, we decided last year to invest heavily in pre-school education. We gave low-income families more subsidies, so that their children can receive good pre-school education. There is a high demand for childcare facilities, especially in new estates like Sengkang and Punggol, where there are many young families with both parents working. We are working on a solution. Over the next five years, we will add 20,000 childcare places so that parents can be assured that their children are well cared for, when they are at work.
Apart from helping needy families, the Government will also take special care of elderly Singaporeans. They are Singapore’s Pioneer Generation. Without them, there would be no Singapore. It is our duty to look after them. I know many Singaporeans are filial and they look after their parents. Their parents enjoy the love and support. But not all seniors are so fortunate. I meet a growing number of “empty nesters” during my house visits. Some elderly couples only have each other; some elderly live alone and have no family; some have no children, no one to rely on. To better look after the elderly, and to show them our appreciation, the Government will strengthen our social safety net, and reduce their worries. Their housing needs are taken care of – many elderly own their flats and have paid off the mortgage. The homes are their retirement nest egg. We know the elderly are most worried about medical bills. For this generation, their wages were low. Hence they have limited savings in their Medisave accounts. They are worried that they will not be able to afford the medical fees if they should fall ill. The Government will revamp our healthcare system, and set up a special package for the elderly, to lessen their healthcare costs. Naturally, all of us are concerned about healthcare. The new healthcare system will also look after the others, so do not worry. In Singapore, everyone will be taken care of.
Our youth are optimistic about the future. We should create more opportunities for them to achieve their potential.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
This is how the Government will help with the cost of living. But even as we are dealing with current problems, we need to take a longer view of the future, to continue to build and find new opportunities for growth. Our forefathers have left us a strong foundation, and we now enjoy a vibrant economy, harmonious society and good infrastructure. There is a Chinese saying, “Forefathers planted the tree, descendants enjoy the shade”. It is our turn to create a better tomorrow for our next generation, to invest in our future to give our children and grandchildren the best chances to thrive.
Our youth are optimistic about the future. We should create more opportunities for them to achieve their potential. We want to make Singapore a great home for them to live, work, play and have families. We are determined and have the resources to achieve this.
To sum up, we have made important shifts in how we govern, and we have used the new approach to relook at how we craft social policies. Our priority for the next few years will be to implement these policies, to resolve the challenges that people face and help improve Singaporeans’ lives. Our goal is to ensure that everyone benefits. To achieve this, we need to take special care of those who are in difficult circumstances, especially low income families and the elderly. At the same time, we will also strive to give the younger generation a better future. The Government will do its utmost, but we need your support and for you to work together with us. Singaporeans can look forward to (quoting song titles) “a better tomorrow”, because “we will be there for you”.
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National Day Rally 2013 Chinese Speech (English dubbed + Sign language)