Mon, Aug 18, 2008
my paper
Govt not stupid, says PM Lee

DIRECTOR Jack Neo is quick to capitalise on topical issues, like the current inflationary climate and the increase in Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates, in his latest movie, Money No Enough 2.

However, the Government, while not as fast, is certainly 'I Not Stupid', quipped Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

His remark - punning on the film-maker's two hits - was in his Mandarin National Day Rally speech delivered at the University Cultural Centre yesterday evening. It was used to illustrate the fact that the Government has indeed taken steps to 'mitigate the impact of the increase' in prices.

On the ERP topic, which he acknowledged has generated much public debate, he said: 'With more cars on the road, we need to increase ERP to keep traffic flowing. When ERP was increased, we also reduced road tax and improved public transport.

'Jack Neo did not mention the overall picture nor the steps by the Government to help Singaporeans, so I will explain further in my English speech.'

His English speech will be telecast at 8pm tonight, while the Malay and Mandarin speeches were shown last night. This was so that Singaporeans could watch the historic women's table- tennis team play at the Beijing Olympics.

On inflation, PM Lee said: 'We have been monitoring prices since last year. We have taken concrete measures to help Singaporeans to cope.'

For example, he pointed out: 'The Ministry of Finance has distributed part of the Growth Dividend and GST Offset. A further Growth Dividend package will be given out in October.'

The Government has also given out $3 billion - 'enough to make big impact'.

He added that some increases have been held back. There has been 'no increase in Town Council and service and conservancy charges in PAP wards this year, (and) increases in water tariffs have been held off'.

Still, 'some increases cannot be prevented because energy and other operating costs have increased, (and) workers also need salary increments, but the Government will try its best to keep any increase small'.

In addition to speaking on such measures to help combat inflation, he also urged young people to see marriage as an important part of life.

He said that while inflation is an acute concern, Singapore needs to address longer-term challenges, such as the country's low birth rate.

He advised young people to 'achieve the right balance between career and marriage'.

'Otherwise, (they) may miss out on chances to find love and happiness, may miss (the) best window to have children and the happiness of family life,' he explained.

He also spoke about the now-'extinct' mei po, or matchmaker, who enabled singles to meet their partners more effectively.

He added: 'I hope parents will encourage their children in a sensitivemanner and that children will take this matter seriously. Ultimately, this is a personal matter and the Government can only facilitate.'

Besides this, PM Lee also touched on the topic of foreign workers.

He assured Singaporeans that 'the Government's responsibility is to Singaporeans'.

'Our duty is to improve the lives of Singaporeans. We allow in foreign workers and new immigrants because doing so will benefit Singaporeans.'

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