National Day Rally 2018 Speech (Chinese)

National Day Rally 2018 Speech (Chinese)

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 19 August 2018 | ITE College Central

PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech on 19 August 2018 at the Institute of Technical Education College Central. 

 

PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech on 19 August 2018 at the Institute of Technical Education College Central. He spoke in Malay and Chinese, followed by English.

For the English translation and video with English dub, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.

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各位同胞,大家晚上好!

这一年对新加坡来说算是个好年头,整体表现不错。经济持续稳步增长。生产力提高了,人民的薪金也增加了。这要感谢大家的努力,让我们看到成果。

过去几个月,我出席了裕廊集团、吉宝企业和星展银行成立50周年的庆祝活动。它们都是今年庆祝50周年。50年前,也就是1968年,是新加坡建国历程中,意义重大的一年。当时,我国独立不久,百业待兴,还没有站稳脚跟,英国又突然宣布会提早在1971年之前,从我国撤走部署的军队。这个消息严重打击了我们的信心。那个时候,英军开支占国民生产总值的百分之20,很多人的生意和工作都是靠英军才能维持。而且,我们才刚推行国民服役,还没有组成强大的武装部队。新兵刚刚征召入伍。所以,国家的生计和安全顿时陷入危机。

当时的财政部长是吴庆瑞博士。他制定政策,维持人民和投资者的信心,让大家觉得工作和生活都有保障。他设立了多家新公司和机构,其中就包括现在的裕廊集团、吉宝企业和星展银行。这推动了我国的工业化,也创造了不少工作机会,解决了当时高达百分之7的失业率问题。那是一段艰辛的时期,幸好人民和政府上下一心、同舟共济。

50多年后,今天的新加坡和建国初期相比已经截然不同,人民的生活素质不断提升。我们拥有世界级的教育制度,人民也享有高素质、同时可负担得起的医疗服务。此外,我们也达成了居者有其屋的目标。随着经济日趋成熟,增长步伐已放缓,但近年来经济还是稳健增长 。失业率保持在低水平,工友的薪金也持续增加。另外,政府也一直通过各种措施,和人民分享经济增长的果实。

生活费

可是,人们还是感受到生活费高、生活压力大!大家觉得要用到钱的地方多了,钱不够用!

为什么大家会有这样的感受呢?我认为,大家会感觉生活费高,有4大原因。让我一一说明。

年轻家庭 住房 + 教育 费用

首先,我们看一看年轻家庭的忧虑。他们正准备买人生中的第一套房子。他们也计划组织家庭、生儿育女,并且希望孩子有一个最好的起跑点。所以,年轻家庭就会很关注住房的开销,和学前教育的费用。这是第一个因素。

夹心层 医疗 + 教育 费用

另外是夹心层。他们需要照顾一家老小,因为人口老化,这些家庭已经越来越多。他们担心什么?他们担心老爸老妈的医药费。因为父母老了、病痛多了,就会需要更多的医疗照顾他们也担心孩子的教育费,因为孩子还没长大。所以,夹心层的担忧是医药费和教育费。这是第二个因素。

生活方式的改变

第三,我们的生活方式改变了。这些年来,随着经济增长和科技的进步,人民的生活水平, 已显著提高。以前的一些“奢侈品”,还有一些新的产品,比如冷气机和手机,现在都成了很多人 的“必需品”。同时,大家出外用餐的次数增加了,休闲娱乐的选择也多了,出国旅游已经越来越平常了。看看每年的旅游展,都是人山人海。并且不只是每年一次,现在正有旅游展。在新加坡博览会举行。

其实,生活水平提高了,这是好事,说明大家的生活改善了。不过,人们为了维持更高的生活素质,开销多了,生活压力自然更大了。所以这是第三个因素,就是生活方式的改变。

物价上涨

最后一个因素是通货膨胀导致物价上涨了。从数据来看,物价平均上涨的幅度不算太高。整体上,人民的薪水增长了,情况比很多发达国家来得好。不过,我明白,不是每个人的收入都增加。有的薪水没有增加。还有一些因为经济转型、担心工作不保、前途茫茫。有的甚至失业,幸好是少数。此外,退休人士单靠储蓄过活,更怕“老本”很快就用完了。因此对这些人来说,东西起价,他们就感觉钱包缩水了。

总的来说,国人的生活费压力,就是这4个方面:年轻家庭的担忧、夹心层的忧虑、生活方式的改变和物价的上涨。

如果归纳起来,人们关注的大笔开销来自住房、医疗保健和教育。所以政府一直都很关注这三个课题。我们绝对会确保,无论是组屋、医疗服务或教育,大家都负担得起,请大家安心、放心。我曾经多次在国庆群众大会上提到教育的课题。今晚的英语演讲,我会谈有关医疗和房屋政策,政府会做哪些调整,可以更好地照顾大家的需求。

今晚的华语演讲,我要重点讨论物价上涨的问题,以及生活方式的改变。谈一谈,政府可以怎么做、大家可以怎么做,来减轻生活费的压力。

如何应付物价上涨?

首先,让我谈物价上涨的问题。一直以来,政府都尽力抑制通货膨胀,以稳定物价。

不过,我们不能完全避免物价上涨 。例如:近来,水费就起了。这是我们近20年来,第一次调高水费。这个是万不得已才做出的决定。因为这20年来,生产自来水的费用显著增加了。同时,我们需要投入大笔资金,建造新生水厂和海水淡化厂,增加国内水的产量。对我国来说,水一直是非常宝贵的资源,更关系到国家的安全和战略,也是个敏感的外交问题。53年前是这样,53年后的今天还是这样。如果你有留意最近的新闻报道,就会知道,其中的利害关系始终没有改变。

另外,电费今年也起了。不过,电费的情况比较复杂, 需要一些时间来解释。让我先问一问大家:你们认为,现在的电费,跟10年前相比,是上涨了,还是下跌了? 谁觉得现在的电费比10年前贵的,请举手。

Chart of electricity tariffs and oil prices over time

谁觉得现在的电费比10年前便宜的,请举手。 现在让我们看数据。请看看这张图表。横轴是年份、2008年到2018年,垂直轴是电费。十年前(2008)第三季,电费是25点07分 (25.07),刚刚超过两毛半。这十年来,看看电费的走势,有起有落、有起有落。现在的电费,是23点65分 (23.65),低过两毛四。所以,答案揭晓:正确的答案是,现在的电费比10年前便宜!刚才猜对的,请自己掌声鼓励一下。电费上涨时,大家往往记得很清楚。可惜的是,电费下跌的时候,我们可能没有注意到,或者有点健忘。所以这个就造成了一个政治问题。

电费的高低不是政府所能够控制的。因为我国主要是利用天然气来发电。而天然气全部都是进口的。 天然气的价钱是根据国际燃油价来设定的。 所以,我们会跟着油价的起伏来调整电费。

这里是另一个图表,横轴同样是年份,垂直轴是油价。让我们看一看,过去10年,电费和油价的走势。你可以看到,电费的波动和油价的波动是很相似的 。因为电费成本的一半就是天然气。换句或说跟油价有关。

有些人还是会问:为什么电费必须随着油价起起落落?为什么政府不能固定电费?有两个理由。第一,新加坡不是产油国。如果要政府全面津贴电费,费用会很大。长久下去,会对国库造成负担,很难维持。第二,如果我们这样做,用电多的人,得到的津贴就越多。那请大家想一想,用电多的,是有钱的家庭?还是贫穷的家庭?当然是有钱家庭。所以,如果政府全面津贴电费,固定电价,这不是帮助中低收入家庭的最好办法。

我们有什么更有效的办法,那就是直接津贴中低收入家庭,帮助他们支付水电费。这也是政府一直以来都在做的。所有住在政府组屋的家庭,都能获得U-Save水电费回扣。住在小型组屋的家庭,得到的回扣最多;住在大型组屋的也有回扣,不过少一点。去年,政府也调高了回扣的数额。所以一房式和两房式的屋主,今年得到的回扣,接近400元,应该可以抵消多达4个月的水电费。

今天我花了一点时间,向大家说明水费,电费,油价,和水电费回扣的关系。我希望大家会了解,政府其实采取了最好的方式,帮助人民减轻负担。

人民为生活费担忧,身为政府,我们会尽力帮助大家减轻压力。不过,大家也有责任“照顾好自己的钱包”,省水、省电,同时在买东西时货比三家,做个精明的消费者。

接下来,我想谈一谈,我刚才提到的,生活方式的改变。我会通过三个具体例子,也就是手机、奶粉和小贩中心,来加以说明。

手机

首先,手机的出现,彻底改变了我们的通讯和生活方式。

90年代,大部分家庭只有一台电话,家里不管有多少人,都必须轮流使用这一台电话。不过,月费便宜,8块左右,一年只需要100块。现在,不少家庭已经不安装固线电话了。几乎每个家庭成员,老老少少、阿公阿嫲、甚至是小孩子,都有一台手机。并且,应该都是能上网的智能手机。大家的生活已经离不开手机了。没有它,上不了网、收不到讯息、也联络不到朋友,感觉就与世隔绝了,大家可能会觉得日子非常 “难过”。

在迈向智慧国的道路上,我们无法走回头路。不过,在前进的过程中,人们在电信服务方面的开销增加了。

华社自助理事会发现,一些低收入家庭,每个月花在电信服务的费用300多块,超过他们家庭收入的百分之10。其实,也有一些家庭在这方面的费用只有100多块钱,还是可以符合全家人的需求。我很高兴华助会开办的一些理财课程,也包括教导低收入家庭如何节省电信服务的费用。例如,如果想上网看连续剧和电影,请不要用4G。等到回家才使用家里的无线网络,下载电影,然后尽情欣赏。出外时,就尽量用Wireless@SG免费上网。只要注意使用量,不要超标,就不必担心费用会增加。大家可以继续上网,联络朋友,以及利用视频跟孩子或孙子聊天。

婴儿配方奶粉

我要举的第二个例子是,年轻爸爸妈妈所关注的奶粉价格问题。

和其他国家相比,本地售卖的奶粉的确比较贵。我了解,父母爱子心切,想给孩子最好的;老实说,天下的爷爷、奶奶也是一样的。我现在知道了。对宝宝来说,母乳当然是最好的。不过,越来越多年轻妈妈出外工作,不方便喂母乳,或者是不够母乳,就只好给孩子喝奶粉。商家看准商机,推出各式各样的高档奶粉。有的商家更积极打广告,让家长误以为“奶粉越贵,对孩子越好”,所以不少家长不惜花钱买给孩子喝。

为了解决这个问题,政府成立了特别工作小组,由许宝琨高级政务部长带领 。小组多管齐下,抑制奶粉价格的上涨。首先,政府简化了进口程序,引进更多奶粉品牌,也增加了平行进口的奶粉。医院也积极配合。现在,政府医院已经改用经济实惠的品牌,以免婴孩一出世就养成喝高档奶粉的习惯。一些私人医院也开始这么做,向政府医院看齐。此外,政府也清楚表明,将加强对奶粉宣传标签的管制,不允许商家提供误导性的资料。以前,经常会看到奶粉广告,广告上有可爱的宝宝或小动物,头戴方帽,好像喝了这些品牌的奶粉,宝宝会变得更聪明。很高兴,现在这类广告比以前少了。商家可能意识到,政府解决这个问题的决心。同时,我们积极展开宣导工作,让家长知道,不是越贵的奶粉就越好。除非宝宝有特别情况,需要摄取特殊的奶粉,不然一般奶粉都能提供足够的营养,让孩子健康成长。我这一代人出生时,市面上根本没有这类高档奶粉,但我们还是照样长高、长大了。我想,下一代也一定没问题!

在大家的努力下,消费者现在有更多价格合理的奶粉,可以选择。奶粉的平均价格也下跌了。更重要的是,爸爸妈妈现在能得到更可靠的讯息。他们就能按照自己的需求和预算,做出最明智的选择。这样,就能省一点钱,减少生活费,也减轻心理压力!

小贩中心

当然,不是每户家庭都需要买奶粉,但是每个人都需要解决每天的三餐问题,所以我要说的第三个例子同小贩中心有关。现在,在家做饭的家庭越来越少。因为双薪家庭越来越多,夫妻俩都要工作、早出晚归,没有时间煮饭,出外用餐更方便。这种生活方式的转变是可以理解的。不过,在外用餐的花费一般比在家做饭来得高,所以,生活费也难免会增加。

为了协助国人减轻出外用餐的负担,其中一个方法就是多建小贩中心。过去几年,政府就兴建了7个新的小贩中心,另外13个也会陆续落成。

在为新的小贩中心招标时,我们就规定竞标业者必须提供经济实惠的选择。他们要确保绝大多数的摊位,至少有一样食物,价格不超过3块钱。也就是说,我们不只看标价,也看业者是否有提供经济的食物,让人们选择。例如,在淡滨尼天地 (Our Tampines Hub)的小贩中心,你就可以买到经济可口的鸡饭。今晚,我就邀请了这位鸡饭摊主;以及其他8位来自全岛各地的小贩,来招待大家。群众大会结束之后,你们就可以品尝这些小贩们的拿手好菜,希望你们会喜欢!

小贩中心申遗

小贩中心不单可以帮助大家减少日常开销,也是我国重要的文化遗产。它们就像是我们的社区饭厅。无论华人、马来人、印度人还是欧亚裔人士,大家不分种族、宗教和收入高低,都能够聚在小贩中心,一起用餐。在这里,大家可以享用nasi lemak、炒粿条和roti prata等本地美食。 当然,我希望大家还记得我们去年在群众大会上谈过的课题,尽量挑选比较健康的食物,例如:soto ayam、酿豆腐和thosai 。

住在海外的国人,更是想念这些本地美食。我们每次在其他都市举办“新加坡日”时,小贩的佳肴总是能吸引大批思乡的国人排长龙。可见本地美食最能排解国人的“相思之苦”——“‘食’物最相思”!

所以说,小贩美食和小贩中心能引起大家的共鸣: 新传媒8频道《星期二特写》就推出了介绍小贩中心文化的“生活气场”系列,很受欢迎。这个节目叙述了许多精彩感人的故事,这些故事都发生在大家熟悉的小贩中心里,让我们去看一看。从短片中,我们可以感受到小贩中心特有的文化:接地气、富有人情味,也包含许多传统记忆。这些都有助于加强国人的归属感。

3年前,新加坡植物园获选进入联合国教科文组织(UNESCO)“世界文化遗产名录”。大家都感到自豪,因为那是我国第一次获得这份荣耀,也是到目前为止唯一的一次。

现在,我们决定再次“申遗”。这一次的目标是小贩文化。我们要申请把新加坡的小贩文化列入UNESCO“非物质文化遗产代表名录”中。我们做了民调,结果显示,小贩文化是最多国人支持的项目,因为它和大家的生活息息相关,也富有本地特色,“非常新加坡”。如果申遗成功,将有助保留和发扬新加坡这个独特的文化,让更多美食传承下去 。同时,全世界也会更加了解新加坡的各种美食,以及独特且丰富的多元文化。希望大家踊跃支持小贩文化申遗,让小贩文化登上世界舞台。

结论

今晚,我谈了建国初期的情况,以及新加坡持续的经济发展,如何提高了国人的生活水平。我也谈到,政府怎样和大家携手应对生活费上涨的问题。不过,一个国家不能只是追求经济增长和物质上的成就。让我们凝聚起来的,是那些非物质的东西:也就是我们的价值观、我们的集体回忆,和我们的共同使命感。

今年的国庆庆典就介绍了五位国人的生活经历 。他们克勤克俭,乐观进取,关怀社群,以各自的方式为新加坡做出贡献。其中一位就是88岁的红头巾婆婆——胡润心。胡老婆婆细说了当年下南洋,来到新加坡讨生活的故事。为了可以过更好的日子,胡老婆婆和她的姐妹在工地做粗重的工作,当时的生活很艰苦。胡老婆婆见证了新加坡的蜕变,并为我国的发展感到自豪。胡老婆婆的回忆让许多人十分感动,包括我在内。听听她怎么说。 “

有饭吃饭,有粥吃粥。是吧。”这位可敬的长者提醒我们,在追求高素质生活的同时,也要有乐天、惜福的人生态度。

53年前,新加坡几乎一无所有,胡老婆婆和其他建国一代,辛勤奋斗,把国家建设起来。接着,一代又一代的国人,在建国先辈建立的基础上,继续努力不懈,让我们安居乐业。让我们有更好的基础,去实现更远大的梦想,攀越新的高峰。

现在,建国的棒子交给了我们这一代,我们也要跟先辈们一样坚韧不拔,一样勇于开拓,为我们的子孙创造更美好的未来。

这样,新加坡才可以生生不息,代代相传。继续作为一个独特的国家,立足世界。让新加坡永远是,你我珍惜的温馨家园。谢谢!

 

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National Day Rally 2018 Chinese Speech (with English Dub)

English translation of Chinese speech

Good evening! We have had a good year overall. Our economy is growing steadily. Productivity has improved, and wages have gone up. Thank you all for the hard work and good results.

I attended the 50th anniversaries of JTC, Keppel and DBS over the last few months. They are all celebrating Golden Jubilees this year. 1968, 50 years ago, was a critical year in our nation-building. Singapore was newly independent, and we were not yet on a stable footing. The British announced unexpectedly in January 1968 that they would withdraw their forces from Singapore by 1971, earlier than planned. This was a severe blow to us. Our businesses and workers depended on British forces here, which contributed more than 20% to our GDP. We had just started National Service in 1967, and did not yet have a strong SAF. Our survival and security were at risk.

To maintain the confidence of Singaporeans and investors, and to reassure our people of their jobs and livelihood. Then Finance Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee instituted policies and set up several new institutions, including JTC, Keppel and DBS, to promote industrialization. We managed to create much needed jobs and brought down the unemployment rate, which was as high as 7%. Those were difficult times, but Singaporeans came together with grit and resilience.

Compared to those early years, Singapore has been totally transformed, and our lives have improved significantly. We now have a world class education system; we enjoy affordable and high quality healthcare; and we have a high rate of home ownership. With a more mature economy, our growth rate has slowed, but we continue to grow steadily. Our unemployment remains low, and wages continue to rise. Various Government policies ensure the fruits of growth are shared widely among all our people.

Cost of Living

However, people still feel cost of living pressures. They sense that they have to spend more, that their earnings never seem to be quite enough.

Why do people feel this way? I think that there are four main reasons why Singaporeans are feeling cost of living pressures. Let me explain them. 

Young Families: Housing and Education Costs

First, let’s look at the concerns of young families. They are buying their first flat. They are also planning to have children, and want to provide the best for them and give them a good start. Therefore, these young families pay close attention to the costs of housing and preschool education.

Sandwiched Generation: Healthcare and Education Costs

Second, there is the sandwiched generation, looking after both their children and their parents, the young and the old. With an ageing population, more families are in this situation. What are they worried about? They are worried about medical expenses because their parents are getting old, and will have more medical conditions to treat. They are also worried about the costs of education, as their children are still young. Therefore, the sandwiched generation is concerned about healthcare and education costs.

Lifestyle Changes

Third, our lifestyles have changed. Our quality of life has improved, as a result of economic growth and technological progress. Things that were once considered luxury items or perhaps did not even exist before, like air conditioners and handphones, have now become everyday necessities. People eat out more, and have more entertainment and leisure options. Overseas vacations have also become more common. Travel fairs are always packed with crowds. Our standards of living have gone up. This is a positive development, because it means that our lives have improved. However, to sustain this higher quality of life, people are spending more than before, and this can put pressure on households. So cost of living can increase as a result of changing lifestyles.

Price Increases

Lastly, inflation has led to price increases. According to statistics, the overall price increase is modest. And overall, wages have gone up. We have done better than most developed countries. However, I know that not everyone’s wages has increased. For some, their wages have stagnated. Others worry about losing their jobs because of economic changes. Some have lost their jobs and retirees who no longer have incomes, and are living off their savings, they are worried about their savings running out. Therefore, for these Singaporeans, when prices increase, they feel as if “their wallets have shrunk”.

In summary, these are the four key reasons why people feel cost of living pressures: The concerns of young families, the worries of the sandwiched generation, lifestyle changes and price increases.

The major expenditure items which Singaporeans are most concerned about are housing, healthcare and education. The Government looks at these very closely. We will make sure that housing, healthcare and education are affordable, so that Singaporeans do not have to worry about them. I have spoken about education many times in previous NDRs. Tonight, in my English speech later, I will speak about healthcare and public housing, and the adjustments the Government will make in these areas to better meet the needs of Singaporeans.

In my Chinese speech, I will focus on price increases and lifestyle changes. I will explain what the Government can do, as well as what you yourself can do, to alleviate cost of living pressures.

Price Increases

First, let me talk about price increases. The Government has tried to keep inflation low and prices stable.

But we cannot completely prevent prices from increasing, for example, water prices have gone up recently.

This is the first time in nearly 20 years that the water price has increased. We put off the increase for as long as we could. But in the end, we had to do it, because the cost of producing clean water has increased significantly over the years. We also need to build more NEWater factories and desalination plants to produce more of our own water in Singapore. Water will always be a precious resource for us, a strategic and security issue as well as a sensitive foreign policy matter. This was the case 53 years ago. This is still the case 53 years later, and if you read the newspapers, you will know that our vital interests where water is concerned have not changed.

Electricity tariffs have also increased recently. But this is a more complicated issue, which needs a longer explanation. Let me first do a little quiz.

Do you think that today’s electricity tariff has gone up or come down, compared to ten years ago? If you think that today’s electricity tariff is higher than what it was ten years ago, please raise your hands. If you think that today’s electricity tariff is lower than what it was ten years ago, please raise your hands. This is a straightforward question. You don’t have to check the internet, just make a guess, and I will make a count.

Chart of electricity tariffs and oil prices over time

Now let us look at the data. Looking at this chart, the horizontal axis indicates the years from 2008 to 2018, and the vertical axis indicates the electricity tariffs. Ten years ago, in 3Q 2008, the electricity tariff was 25.07 cents/kwh, which is slightly more than 25 cents. Since then, the tariff has gone up and down over the years. And today, it is 23.65 cents/kwh, less than 24 cents/kwh. So the answer is: today’s tariff is lower, compared to ten years ago. Unfortunately, we all remember vividly when the electricity tariff goes up, but when the tariff comes down, we forget quickly.

We cannot control electricity tariffs. Because we use natural gas to generate almost all of our electricity and we import all our natural gas, which is pegged to global oil prices. Therefore, we will adjust electricity tariffs according to fluctuations in oil prices.

Let me show you another chart. The horizontal axis indicates the years from 2008 to 2018, and the vertical axis indicates oil prices. Let us look at electricity tariffs and oil prices for the last ten years. You can see that our electricity tariffs track changes in oil prices.

Some people have asked: why should electricity tariffs be in step with energy price fluctuations? Why can’t the Government fix the electricity tariff? There are two reasons why we can’t. First, we are not an oil producing country. Fixing electricity tariffs will mean costly subsidies. This is not financially sustainable in the long run. Second, if we do this, it means that those who consume more electricity will receive more subsidies. And who do you think uses more electricity? Wealthy or low income families? It is the wealthy. Subsidising the cost of electricity by fixing a low tariff is not the best way to help low income families.

A more effective way is to give direct subsidies to low-to-middle income families for their utilities bills. This is what the Government has been doing. We have U-Save rebates for all households living in HDB flats. Households living in smaller flats receive the most U-Save rebates. Those living in bigger flats also receive U-Save rebates, but the rebates are lower. We also increased the U-Save rebates last year. Households in one- and two-room HDB flats will receive close to $400 of U-Save rebates this year, which is about 4 months’ worth of utility bills.

I have spent some time today explaining the relationship between utility prices, energy prices, and U-save rebates. I hope people will understand that we have adopted the best approach to lessen the burden of Singaporeans.

Lifestyle Changes

While the Government will do its part to alleviate people’s cost of living concerns, each of us also has a responsibility to “look after our own wallets” — save water, save electricity, and at the same time, shop around for the best prices, and be a smart consumer. I will now talk about lifestyle changes. I will explain using three examples: smartphones, infant milk formula, and hawker centres.

Handphones

Handphones have completely changed our lifestyles and how we communicate. In the 1990s, most Singaporeans families only had one landline. Everyone in the family took turns to use the phone. The telecommunications bill was about $8 a month, or $100 a year. Today, most households no longer have landlines. Every family member – young and old, grandparents and even young children – now has a handphone and they are mostly smartphones. Handphones have become a necessity in our daily lives. Without them, we can’t surf the internet, receive information, or contact our friends. We feel cut off from the world. Our lives become “unbearable”.

This is the way forward to become a Smart Nation. We should not regress. However, this also means telecommunications bills will grow.

CDAC found that some low income families had telecommunications bills as much as $300, which is more than 10% of their household incomes. But there are also other families whose telecommunications bills only come up to $100, and yet their data plans can meet their needs.

I am glad that CDAC has been giving households financial advice and suggesting ways to bring down their telecommunications bills. For example, don’t use 4G to watch movies when you are outside. You can download the movie first using your home’s WiFi. When you are out, you can tap on Wireless@SG when it is available. If we watch our data usage, we will not have to worry about high telecommunications bills. We can still surf the internet, connect with friends, and videochat with our children and grandchildren.

Infant Milk Formula

My next example is infant formula. Many parents are concerned about the cost of infant formula.

Infant formula is more expensive in Singapore than in some other countries. I understand that every parent wants to have the best for their children. To be honest, grandparents are just the same. Breast milk is best, but often mothers need to supplement breast milk with infant formula. Infant formula makers have taken advantage of this to develop all sorts of premium brands. They have also marketed aggressively, misleading parents into thinking that if it is more expensive, it must be better. As a result, parents spare no expenses and tend to buy the expensive brands for their children.

The Government set up a task force, led by SMS Dr Koh Poh Koon, to tackle this problem. The task force addressed the issue in various ways. First, it simplified import processes, and brought in more brands and parallel imports. Hospitals have also come on board. Public hospitals now offer more affordable brands so that the newborns will not get used to drinking expensive brands. Some private hospitals are also adopting this approach. The Government has also indicated clearly that it will tighten regulations for the labelling of infant formula and put a stop to misleading advertising. In the past, there were many advertisements showing babies or cute animals with mortar boards, as if drinking that particular brand will make the children smarter. I am glad that there are fewer such advertisements now. It is clear to infant formula makers that the Government is determined to solve this problem. At the same time, the task force launched a campaign to educate parents that more expensive infant formula is not necessarily better. Unless the child has a special medical requirement, all infant formulas sold in Singapore are suitable for our children, and will meet their nutritional needs. When I was an infant, there were no such expensive brands of infant milk formula, yet my generation still grew up healthily. So I believe the next generation will not have a problem.

Through our efforts, there are now more reasonably priced options for consumers to choose from. Average prices of formula milk have dropped. More importantly, young parents are better informed. They are now able to make better choices, based on their needs and budget. Therefore, they can save money, reduce the cost of living, and feel under less pressure.

Hawker Centres

Not every household needs to buy infant formula. So my third example is hawker food, because everyone needs to eat. Fewer families cook at home today. We have more dual-income families these days. They have no time to cook after working the whole day. It is more convenient for them to eat out. This lifestyle change is completely understandable but eating out costs more than cooking at home, so it pushes up the cost of living.

One way to help Singaporeans manage the cost of eating out is to build more hawker centres. We have built seven new centres in the last few years, and 13 more are on the way.

Stalls in the new hawker centres are required to provide affordable food choices. Almost every stall will offer at least one economical meal option, priced at $3 or less. In other words, when we tender out the hawker centres, we do not assess bids on their tender price alone, but also on whether the operators can offer affordable options. For example, you can get affordable and tasty chicken rice at Our Tampines Hub. We will have food from this chicken rice stall and eight other hawker stalls from all over Singapore at the reception. Hope you will enjoy these specialities after the National Day Rally.

Hawker centres are important not just to keep the cost of living low. They are a cultural institution, a unique part of Singapore’s heritage and identity. Hawker centres are our community dining rooms. Singaporeans of all races — Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian — and of all religious faiths and income groups, are able to eat together in hawker centres and enjoy our nasi lemak, char kway teow and roti prata. But I hope that you also remember what we discussed at last year’s National Day Rally, and as far as possible, choose healthier options like soto ayam, yong tau foo and thosai. When we travel overseas, we find ourselves craving for local hawker food. When we hold Singapore Days overseas, the hawker food is the biggest draw for homesick Singaporeans. Hawker food is the best cure for homesickness!

Our hawker centres and hawker food resonate with many Singaporeans. Mediacorp Channel 8’s “Tuesday Report” has a popular series of documentaries, “Where We Connect”, introducing hawker culture. Let us take a look. From the clip, we can see that our hawker culture is a part of our community, our collective memories, and our national identity.

Three years ago, the Singapore Botanic Gardens was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was a proud moment for Singaporeans. As of now, it is our first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We now want a second UNESCO inscription. This time we will nominate our hawker culture to be inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In our various consultations, there was widespread support from Singaporeans to nominate our hawker culture because it is “Uniquely Singapore” and reflects our daily lives. The UNESCO inscription will help to safeguard and promote this unique culture for future generations. It will also let the rest of the world know about our local food and multicultural heritage. I hope everyone will strongly support this nomination, so that our hawker culture can stand proudly on the world stage.

Conclusion

Tonight, I spoke about our early years and economic journey, how our standards of living have improved, and how the Government is working with you to cope with cost of living pressures. But a nation cannot just be pursuing economic growth and material achievements. What holds us together are the intangibles: our values, our shared memories, and our collective sense of mission.

This year’s National Day Parade featured five individuals who shared with us their life experiences. They led difficult and frugal lives, but they were optimistic and driven, and they cared about the community. Each of them contributed to Singapore in his or her own way. One of them was Madam Woo Yun Sum, an 88-year-old samsui woman, who came to Singapore to earn a living. It was hard labour at the construction sites, but Madam Woo and her fellow Samsui sisters persevered so that they could have better lives. She witnessed the dramatic transformation of Singapore and she is proud of what we have become. Her touching life story moved many people, including me. Let’s hear what she said.

“When there is rice, eat rice; when there is porridge, eat porridge”. Madam Woo’s words remind us of the importance of staying positive and being content, even as we seek to improve our quality of life.

53 years ago, Mdm Woo and the pioneer generation toiled and built Singapore from scratch. The generations who followed them built on the foundations the pioneers laid. They too have worked hard so that we can have better lives. Now we are in a stronger position to realise bigger dreams and scale new heights.

Today, it is our generation’s turn to build Singapore. And we too must be resolute and open new frontiers, so that our children and grandchildren will have an even brighter future.

This is how we keep Singapore going, generation after generation. So that Singapore will always remain an exceptional country that stands tall in the world and an endearing home for all of us. Thank you.

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