PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech on 17 August 2014 at the Institute of Technical Education College Central. He spoke in Malay and Chinese, followed by English. Here is the transcript of the Malay speech in full. For the video with sign language interpretation, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
另一个能够保障国人晚年生活的，是居者有其屋计划。对一般新加坡人来说，房子是一笔很可观的资产。如果你拥有一间三房式的政府组屋，就等于拥有大约三十万的储蓄；四房式，等于四十万的储蓄，有些更多。屋主可以利用这套房子换取一笔养老的现金。比如，屋主可以出租一间空房；他也可以把整间屋子租出去，跟孩子一起住。年长人士也可以大屋换小屋，同时享受乐龄安居花红 (Silver Housing Bonus)。这样，不但可以套现一笔相当可观的现款，每个月还可以领取一笔钱，终身受用。
新谣歌曲中，我最喜欢的是《小人物的心声》，也最熟悉。在国庆庆典上，很高兴有机会跟大家一起唱。因为它很有意思：小人物也有小人物的贡献。很多人告诉我，他们也很喜欢梁文福的《细水长流》。我去听了，觉得也很有意思。细水长流的开头是这么唱的：“年少时候 谁没有梦 无意之中 你将心愿透露”。听这首歌的时候，我就想：是的，年少时候，谁没有梦？在新加坡，不论老少，大家都可以做梦，还有很多实现梦想的机会，即使你不是什么大人物。
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
English Translation of Chinese Speech
Good evening everyone!
It is nearly half a century since Singapore became independent. 49 years ago, this little island separated from Malaysia. Overnight, our future became uncertain. We learnt to survive with little room to manoeuvre and we focused our energies on industrialising our economy.
During the early years of independence, there was nearly nothing in the Government’s budget. We did not have social welfare or support packages to speak of. The mantra of leaders from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s generation was that we need to rely on ourselves and be rugged.
Fortunately, Singapore’s Pioneer Generation was indeed rugged and endured much hardship. They put Singapore’s interests first, and made personal sacrifices when necessary. They worked all the time; there was no work-life balance to speak of. Often, they had to raise large families on meagre salaries. They suffered a lot, for the sake of their next generation.
In February this year, we organised a Pioneer Generation Tribute Party at the Istana. I met many pioneers at the Party. Each had moving and impressive life stories. Among them was 87 years old Madam Wong Ah Woon. In 1948, she came to Singapore from Guangdong. She was only 21, illiterate and spoke only Cantonese. To earn a living, she found work at the construction site, and started her 44-year career as a Samsui woman. She did back breaking work at the site, all day long, throughout the year. She carried pails of cement and sand. There were no lifts: she had to bend her back and lug the materials up the building. Madam Wong and her generation built up Singapore, brick by brick. Thank you Madam Wong！
Without the hardworking Pioneer Generation, Singapore will not be what it is today. At last year’s NDR, I said that we should be grateful to our Pioneer Generation, and find a meaningful way to express our appreciation. After a year of planning, we have launched a special package, which we hope will be useful for the Pioneer Generation (PG).
Here is the PG package which has been sent to our pioneers. I think many of our seniors would have received it If you haven’t received it, don’t worry, it is on its way. The details of the package are inside. The most important part of the package is this PG card. Some journalists call it the “red card”. This is not the “red card” issued at the World Cup, but it is just as powerful! With this red card, you will enjoy more subsidies, e.g. $10 less at CHAS clinics and dental clinics (compared to blue CHAS card holders), more discounts at Polyclinics, government dental clinics and Specialist Outpatient Clinics. This card has no expiry; you can use it for life. It is the King of cards! Still, we hope you don’t have to use it often. Better to stay healthy and be an active ager. Please keep it carefully. Keep it with your IC, and don’t lose it. This is a gesture of our appreciation.
We should build on our forefathers’ foundations, and do better. We should not rest on our laurels and stop moving ahead.
We share a common dream: To give the next generation better lives. We are in a new environment, and it is changing rapidly. Government will help people to cope with the changes, especially our elderly and vulnerable. Therefore, last year, I announced two new policies: Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield-Life. These measures will help our people, especially the elderly, with their medical bills. It is what the elderly need. This will also lighten their children’s burden.
Government’s other goal is to help everyone to have enough for retirement. There are two pillars of retirement savings: First, CPF; and second, home ownership.
Everyone has heard of the CPF and its benefits. CPF helps us save as we work. But fewer are familiar with how the CPF works exactly. I will say more in my English speech later. Here, I will touch on a few key points.
CPF can help us with our retirement and life’s needs e.g. housing, healthcare, education etc. Some feel that at 55, they would like to withdraw their CPF. After working for many years, some would like to use their CPF to pursue a dream or lifelong desire. This is to be expected and I fully understand. But I am concerned: If people spent all their savings, what will they do for the next 20, 30 years? At my MPS, I frequently see seniors who are in trouble. They have used up their savings, and can’t make ends meet. They are desperate, so they see their MP. MPs would do their best to help, especially the needy, but sometimes, MPs are not able to do everything.
Apart from meeting residents who have spent their savings, MPs have also come across residents who would like more flexibility in how they use their CPF. Teo Ser Luck met such a resident, a woman in her 60s.
Resident: Prices are going up. We don’t have enough money. Why is Government holding on to my CPF? I am getting old, and I don’t know how I will live.
Ser Luck: You look very healthy, surely you will live long. Government wants to make sure that you have money for your retirement
Resident: Thanks but no thanks. Just return me the money, and you don’t have to worry.
Ser Luck: If we return you and your husband, all your CPF savings, and it runs out, what will you do?
Resident: Just return my CPF money. Don’t give it back to my husband, he will spend it all!
Here, I should say that not all men will spend their CPF savings recklessly. Furthermore, it is not about managing finances either. Because even if you know how to manage, you may get into trouble. What the Government wants to do, is to offer the best protection for people’s retirement.
Government will refine the CPF system, to make it work better for you. We need to strike a new balance between allowing more flexible use of the CPF, and ensuring that the CPF continues to provide a steady stream of income in retirement, so that no one will be left penniless.
Home ownership is another pillar of retirement adequacy. For Singaporeans, the flat is a valuable asset. Those who own a 3-room HDB flat, would have about $300,000 of savings in the flat; a 4-room flat, would have about $400,000 of savings. Some may have more. Home owners can unlock the savings in their flats in many ways. They can rent out a room or more, or move in with their children and rent out the whole flat. Seniors can take up the Silver Housing Bonus and “right-size” their flat. The seniors can earn a large sum of cash and receive monthly payouts for life.
We will refine the policies and help our seniors to use their flats to fund part of the retirement. So long as a family has CPF savings and a flat, they should be able to meet basic living expenses.
Besides the elderly and vulnerable groups, Government has not neglected the needs of the other Singaporeans. In every Budget, there are schemes to help the sandwiched group. These include GST Voucher, Seniors’ Bonus, U-Save rebates, S&CC discounts, and Education subsidies. There are many schemes. Some of these rebates are credited into your account. Please check that the money has been credited.
For the middle aged, the burden is not light as they have to look after aging parents and worry about their children’s education. Apart from taking care of the seniors, another way for Government to help is to create opportunities. So that the young can pursue their dreams, and develop their talent. We want our people to be confident and hopeful about the future. Wherever you start from, you will have opportunities to rise.
Education is important to Government. Government will provide the young with opportunities to upgrade and further their studies. After years of hard work, our universities, polytechnics and ITEs, they are recognised internationally as institutions of excellence, and produce graduates who are well-trained, highly skilled and employable. Education is important to many people. Parents would like their children to go to university. Poly and ITE graduates would like to further their studies too.
Government will help more students to realise their dream, but I noticed quite a few countries have produced many graduates. Many cannot find jobs. Their degrees may not be relevant to the market. Therefore, I would like offer my views on this issue.
It is a fact that everyone has different interests and aptitudes. Not everyone is suited for the university track. Furthermore, not all university degrees have the same value. A university degree does not guarantee a smooth career.
Fortunately, many good jobs do not require university degrees. So children need not go on the university route to have a bright future. I had lunch with some SME bosses recently and we discussed the issue of upgrading of employees. These bosses said that some knowledge of the job can only be learnt on the job, it cannot be learnt in school. They said that when it comes to promotion, the main consideration is practical experience and ability, and not whether the staff has a university degree.
One of the bosses was Dr Moh Chong Tau of Makino Asia. He shared the example of his employee Ang Kian Hua (31). Kian Hua did N levels at secondary school and then Higher NITEC at ITE. After graduating from ITE, he found his first job as a technician at Makino Asia. Over the years, he took courses while working. After completing a Master Craftsman certification (which is equivalent to a poly diploma) in April this year, he was promoted to a Craftsman. Hope Kian Hua keeps it up, and continues to master new skills and upgrade himself.
Working and learning is also a good pathway to upgrade and secure a better future. Just like martial arts training. You start with the basic horse stance. After many years of practice and honing of the skill, you become a master. In life, to become top chefs, hair stylists, performance artists or businessmen, you do not need university degrees. These people can do well in life, faring as well as graduates.
Our vision for education is to allow students to pursue their interests according to their ability and aptitude, and to find a learning pathway that can develop their talent to the fullest. We believe everyone can excel in the job they choose. It is vital that they respect the work they do and master their skills. As a society, we should respect every job, every worker, and recognise their experience, skills and contributions. We should not measure a person’s worth, social standing and achievement solely by their academic qualifications.
To help create more choices for education and better learning opportunities. I appointed SMS Indranee Rajah to lead the ASPIRE committee, to review Polytechnic and ITE education. They will review how to open more pathways for their career progression, and help fulfil their potential and enhance their career prospects. I hope employers will partner us by providing systematic on the job training and career planning, and help their employees to learn new skills, raise their standards, and achieve personal excellence.
For better lives, we need a vibrant economy to create many good quality jobs. Otherwise, even if Singaporeans are highly educated and trained, without jobs, they are unable to give full play to their talent. Therefore, we need to grow our domestic market and international networks, especially in Asia’s emerging economies, such as China.
In 2007, we created a new platform, Business China, to help Singapore enterprises seize the business opportunities in China and enter the Chinese market. Business China recently organised the 5th FutureChina Global Forum. The forum creates opportunities for businesses from Singapore and China to meet, and help Singapore businesses understand China. I participated in a Forum dialogue. A participant asked me, how did the Singapore government plan to facilitate more partnerships between entrepreneurs from the two countries? I told him we are only a matchmaker. Through platforms like FutureChina, we create opportunities for businessmen from both countries to meet and interact. If there are parties that share similar goals, can get along and form a partnership eventually, we would be happy with that. I would like to encourage those who are interested to do business with China to join us for the next FutureChina Global Forum. I am the patron of Business China, so I am doing my duty to give them some free publicity.
Many Singapore companies have set up business in China, and done well. Government support is one reason for their success. Another reason is that Singaporean Chinese share a similar cultural background, are bilingual, and can integrate into Chinese society more quickly. This gives us some advantage. To take advantage of this opportunity, we need to help our young understand their own culture better, help them connect internationally, but remain rooted to Singapore and anchored to our culture.
Government has always supported groups that promote Chinese culture and mother tongue education. Our clan associations have done much in this area. Two years ago, the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) came up with the idea of creating a Singapore Chinese Culture Centre (SCCC). I immediately gave it my support. Much has been achieved since it was conceptualised. The grand building in the slide is the new SCCC. It will be located behind the Singapore Conference Hall. Its ground-breaking ceremony will be held next month.
I would like to thank SFCCA President, Mr Chua Thian Poh, for his leadership. And my old classmate, Mr Choo Thiam Siew, for accepting the role as President of SCCC. Thiam Siew is a leading light of the arts and cultural community. He headed the National Arts Council and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. With his rich experience, I am confident he will do well in his new role. This is a significant project for the Chinese community. Government will give its full support. I encourage all who support Chinese culture to join in, and help us complete the SCCC building project.
SCCC will promote both traditional and modern Chinese culture, and Singapore’s unique Chinese culture. After many years of nurturing, Singapore Chinese culture has taken shape as the “Nanyang” style. For example, Singapore Chinese Dance. One of our leading dancers is Madam Yan Choong Lian, who started a dance school. Apart from teaching traditional Chinese dance, she introduced elements of other cultures into the dances. The Singapore-style dance performances are well received overseas.
Another example is the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. It has become a multi-cultural Chinese orchestra. While using traditional Chinese music instruments, they have made their mark with performances in “Nanyang” style. In June, SCO with other Chinese orchestras, held a spectacular concert at the new Sports Hub. You can see in the photograph that the stadium was packed with people and performers. It also set a new world record of being the largest Chinese orchestra performance.
Xinyao is another example. Made popular in the 80s, it is part of the fond collective memory of youth from that generation. I remember attending a Xinyao concert in Mountbatten in 1987. My son had just been born so I was quite busy, but I attended the concert as promised. It was drizzling. We enjoyed the concert under umbrellas. I enjoyed the beautiful melodies and brilliant performances by the youths. I remember taking a photo with some performers dressed in big head doll costumes. The dolls still look young, but my hair is now already white.
I am happy that there is now a Xinyao revival. The Xinyao Concert at Bras Basah was packed to the brim. Ardent supporters braved the rain to enjoy the concert. There were supporters of all ages; some youngsters came with their parents. XInyao has catchy melodies and beautiful lyrics. It is full of local flavour, and is heart-warming.
My favourite Xinyao is “Voices of an Ordinary Guy”. We sang it at NDP 2014. The song is meaningful as it is about how ordinary people can also make a contribution. Many told me that they like a song by Liang Wern Fook, a pioneer of the Xinyao Movement, “Small Stream that Flows Forever”. I listened to it and found it meaningful.
The song goes: Who does not dream, when we are young? You shared your dreams unintentionally with me. Indeed, when we were young, who didn’t have dreams? In Singapore, not only can you have dreams, you have the opportunities to realise them, even if you are ordinary.
Over the last century, our small stream has flowed continuously. Each of us doing our ordinary bit, we have achieved something extraordinary together. Every member of the Pioneer Generation worked hard and gave his all. Together, they built a prosperous Singapore, a country that we treasure and can be proud of. It is our turn now, to create a better home and brighter future for our next generation
At independence, we dared not dream and dared not imagine, what this little island can achieve. Today, we have come a long way, from Third World to First. But we have not reached our limits; our opportunities are limitless. We must have the courage of our Pioneers; embrace their can-do spirit, to scale new peaks. Let us come together to work for a better future.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -