PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered this speech, in Chinese and English, at the Teck Ghee Lunar New Year Celebration Dinner held on 4 March 2018.
The portion of PM Lee Hsien Loong's speech delivered in English is provided below.
各位居民，各位朋友，大家晚上好！祝大家狗年兴旺、身体健康、心想事成、万事如意！我很高兴今年能够再次跟德义区的居民团聚，庆祝农历新年。去年，金鸡报喜，我国整体的经济表现不错，（经济）增长也比预期高。所以，政府有了财政盈余，今年可以向国人派发一次性的特别花红 (SG Bonus)，人人都有。 这是政府分发给大家的一个“小红包”。金额是三百元、两百元或一百元不等，视国人的收入而定。
大家都知道，新加坡面对人口老化的挑战。在德义区也很明显。在座的各位，相信在你身边，就有像我一样的银发族。而让我欣慰的是，许多德义的居民都明白：健康就是财富。所以，他们会常常聚在一起运动、互相交流、联络感情，也大谈“孙子兵法”，含饴弄孙。我们的 “活跃乐龄” (Active Aging) 活动，由Madam Noelene主导的，就非常受欢迎，有各种各样的活动。不过，也有不少老居民卧病在床、或是不能自己走动，需要依靠轮椅，也有的身边没有亲人照顾，所以需要大家和政府的帮忙。
要好好照顾我们的上一代，我们必须在医疗保健方面投入更多资源，做更大的投资，建立社区医院、综合诊疗所、疗养院和养老院等等。以宏茂桥为例，我们在德义区就有新的仁慈疗养院，已经投入运作，能够更好地应付居民的需求。 此外，宏茂桥综合诊疗所(Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic)也已经翻新完毕，也为居民提供更完善的医疗服务。
照顾好上一代，我们也要为下一代铺路，让来自不同家庭背景的孩子，都能够从同一个起跑点出发。我明白，新加坡目前有许多双薪家庭，父母都在工作，在养儿育女方面，更需要支持。因此，政府去年宣布，加大投资，提升学前教育服务，同时提高教职人员的素质。这样，年轻的爸爸妈妈就能安心地在工作岗位上工作，把年幼的孩子放在托儿所，由托儿所的人员照顾。这几年，我们就在德义致力于提升德义里的托儿服务，也开始看到成果；例如大牌301的PCF Sparkletots ，将是我们区内第一所设有托婴和托儿服务的PCF托儿所。我希望这能够减轻宏茂桥的爸爸妈妈们的负担，并鼓励大家多生几个宝宝！
此外，我们也不断地提升基础设施，希望进一步改善国人的生活环境。住屋方面：宏茂桥三道的Teck Ghee Park View 是德义区最新的组屋(BTO)。过去几个月，新的住户陆陆续续地搬进来。现在已经差不多都住满了。我去年，前几个月，参观了这款新组屋。从向南的窗外一看，可以看到新加坡市中心的美景，国庆日可以看到烟花，向北一望，则可以看到柔佛新山。所以这个是宝地，也是好地方。我相信今晚也有一些来自Teck Ghee Park View的居民，和我们共进晚餐。希望你们已经适应新环境，也认识了不少德义的新朋友，将加入我们的各种基层组织活动。 交通方面：历时5年推行的“改善巴士服务计划” (Bus Service Enhancement Programme)终于在去年顺利落成。最后一个新服务就是71号线巴士服务，就让宏茂桥的居民，包括我们的居民，在前往杨厝港或碧山时，有多一个选择，更方便。此外，我国第六条铁路线 – 汤申-东海岸地铁线 (Thomson-East Coast Line) – 也会在2020年完成。到时，这条线上的三个地铁站 – 伦多(Lentor)站、美华站 (Mayflower), 以及光明山站 (Bright Hill)，距离我们（宏茂桥）比较近，都能够为我们的居民带来更多便利。
Friends and residents, good evening to everybody and Happy Chinese New Year to all! I am very happy to celebrate this Chinese New Year with you. It is the Year of the Dog, it will be a busy one, as we deal with our immediate priorities, what is happening around us, and also prepare Singapore for the future.
Investing for the past, present and future
We are upgrading our economy to create good jobs. The economy is growing, the jobs are coming, and more Singaporeans are finding work and finding better work.
We are investing in our people, investing in the present generation, the people who are working, workers and adults, through SkillsFuture, investing in future generations, through a first class education system.
We are improving our infrastructure. In Teck Ghee, we are rebuilding Teck Ghee Community Club, it is under construction now and it will be completed by June this year. We have a BTO project. The latest BTO project, Teck Ghee Park View, has been completed, and families have nearly all moved in. In Ang Mo Kio, the Thomson-East Coast Line is passing through Ang Mo Kio and you can see the MRT stations being built at Lentor, Mayflower and Bright Hill. These stops will provide more convenience to our residents once the line is open, which will be in two years’ time, in 2020.
At the same time as we invest in the future, we are also preparing for the needs of our ageing population. You can see this in Teck Ghee, where the population is growing greyer, because it is an old constituency. Many residents have lived here for many years. They came, when I was here, 30 years ago, they were young people. Now, 2018, many are still living here, happily settled here, but their hair is a little bit greyer, children have grown up, and they are now looking after grandchildren. Our Senior Citizens’ Groups and Active Ageing groups are very popular. Our programmes such as Qi Gong sessions, morning walks and the “Wellness Carnival Day @ Teck Ghee” encourage the elderly to stay active, healthy and well.
But as people grow older, even if you stay active and healthy, you are likely to need more healthcare. We will need more hospital beds, more nursing homes, and more subsidies when people go for treatment or when they are hospitalised. We have a new nursing home in Teck Ghee, Ren Ci Nursing Home at Avenue 8. It started operating last year. I went to visit it not long ago. It is a very nice facility, which will be very convenient for our residents when they need nursing home places. Our Ang Mo Kio polyclinic has also recently been renovated so that they can cater for more patients and provide better services. What you see in Teck Ghee, the upgrading, construction and investments, you can also see all over the island, all over Singapore, as our national policies work out in every town, every precinct and neighbourhood, and as our plans, schemes and programmes make a difference to our lives.
A Financially Sustainable Future
All these are good programmes. Investments in our economy, investments in our people spending on healthcare, social spending, they are all good programmes. But they all cost money. That means Government spending is going up, and if we look ahead into the years to come, it will rise further. One big reason for this is healthcare spending.
The Government has to find the money to pay for all of this.
That is why after looking at all the possibilities and doing all the other things we can do, to save money, not to spend when we do not need to, and to collect money where we can do it without it being very painful to people, finally, we concluded that we need to raise the GST, sometime after 2020, in the next five years after that, between 2021 and 2025. We have announced this in this year’s Budget. We do not need the money yet, but we can see the way things are going very clearly, and we know that by the next decade, in three or four or five years’ time, we will need the money. And we have to plan ahead, work out how we are going to get what we need to spend, and announce to people our intentions as early as possible. So that people can be prepared, will know early and will not be suddenly surprised when it happens.
This way, people can also plan ahead, and understand why the tax increase is necessary and is justified, and the money collected will go towards good things, which will benefit you. This is the responsible way for the Government to behave. We do not just list out all the good things we will do; I will spend on this, I will spend on that, I will build this, I will subsidise that. When there are good things to do, we will do them, but at the same time, we will also tell people what it costs, how we will raise the money to fund them, what taxes need to go up to pay for them, and that is what we are doing.
It is easy to spend money. It is much harder for people to earn it, and for the Government to raise it. But we have to be honest when we have to do it, to explain to people why we are doing it, when we are going to do it and how we are going to spend it for your good.
We thought over the options very carefully before deciding to raise the GST. We decided we should not just draw more money from the reserves because we need to spend more. The reserves are our precious nest egg, built up over many years. It is our duty to manage the reserves, to invest them wisely, to keep them safe and intact, for a rainy day. So that one day when we encounter a rainy day, the reserves will be there for us. But an ageing society and healthcare is not a rainy day, it is an “everyday need money” day. It is a long term trend and we are ageing, we will need to spend more on healthcare every year, year after year, for many years to come. If we use the reserves for something when you must use money every day, soon you will find that the reserves are going down, they are depleted and when in fact the rain comes, thunder and lighting, and our children or grandchildren really need the money, they will find that it is gone.
So I hope you will understand why the Government is very reluctant to touch the reserves every time we need money, and will support the Government’s plans. The plans to increase healthcare spending, to take care of our ageing population, and also our plans to raise the GST, a few years from now, to pay for this additional spending.
It is a prudent, responsible, long term approach. It is an honest one. I am explaining to you what I have to do, we are all adults, and I think we can understand and face the facts of life squarely and make a judgment on whether or not we are doing the right thing. We are the Government of this generation of Singaporeans. We are the stewards of Singapore. We are responsible for this country, not just for making it work for ourselves, but we are responsible for making it work for the next generation, for the future, for all Singaporeans, to take care of it for many years to come, beyond our working lives, beyond our lifetime.
Looking to the Future Together
In fact, it is not just the Government’s duty to think like this. It is the duty of every Singaporean to think like this, to think of the future, and to look towards the next generations. Our children may not be voting yet; our grandchildren may not be born yet. But their lives and their future depend on us, the present generation, acting on their behalf, thinking for them, planning for them, making wise and far-sighted decisions that protect their interests, providing for them, so when they grow up, they find that their parents and grandparents have looked after them well, brought them up well, and provided for them well. That is how every family does it, and that is how the Government in charge of Singapore and the big Singapore family, have to do it.
For generations, Singaporeans have supported the Government when it has taken this approach, when it has pursued long term policies, thought about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and year by year built a better Singapore. That is how our forefathers and ourselves have built today’s Singapore. If we continue to do this, we can keep on building a better home for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, for many more years to come.
Thank you once again, I wish you many good years ahead and I wish you all a very Happy New Year and good health.
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