Singapore - SINGAPORE must continue to tap a "global blend" of people and ideas to move the country ahead and create more opportunities for its citizens, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Wednesday.
He added that the government would remain open to talent to augment the country's economic vitality, while ensuring that Singaporeans continue to receive the necessary education and training to do well in the global economy.
These points were in the response by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to the issues raised by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the opening of Parliament last Friday, when the head of state talked about the government's commitment to building a caring society in Singapore.
Mr Teo, also the Minister-in-charge of the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), one of the nine agencies under the PMO, said in a statement called an addendum to the President's Address:
"Singapore must be a place where everyone is treated fairly, and have equal opportunity to succeed based on merit and hard work, regardless of background." He also pledged to foster greater mutual understanding and appreciation between different people living in the country, through facilitating more social interaction and raising awareness of shared societal values and norms.
One priority for the NPTD is to promote a pro-family environment, one in which Singaporeans can fulfil their family and work aspirations.
Mr Teo noted that citizen marriages and births in the last two years have been among the highest in more than a decade, and said the government would try to maintain this upward trend.
Even as the state has strengthened its support for marriage and parenthood through measures such as enhanced housing and childcare policies, Mr Teo stressed the need for broader societal support:
"As more mothers remain active in the workforce, there is room for fathers to play more active roles in bringing up children. Employers are also critical in ensuring good workplace support."
On its part, the government will partner people-sector organisations that share its family focus to cultivate stronger social support for marriage and parenthood.
But with Singapore's population ageing and growing more slowly, Mr Teo said there was a need for a "carefully calibrated" number of new citizens to keep the country's citizen population stable.
"We will need foreigners to complement our Singaporean workforce in areas where we are short. But we cannot grow the population indefinitely," he said, promising to strike a careful balance so that citizens do not feel crowded out.
Two other ministries also revealed their plans for the government's new term as they outlined various ways to foster a caring society.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said his ministry would work with different government agencies and the people and private sectors to jointly implement the Action Plan for Successful Ageing.
This plan aims to "promote active ageing, build a cohesive community with inter-generational harmony, and improve city infrastructure to enable seniors to age confidently in place".
Mr Gan also announced that the ministry would add more healthcare facilities to cater to the needs of the ageing population, including adding more than 10,000 beds in hospitals and nursing homes over the five-year period from 2015 to 2020.
Meanwhile, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said his ministry would focus on strengthening marriages and families, providing a good start in life for the young, helping the vulnerable and fostering a caring community.
Singapore's social needs are becoming more complex as demographics, economics and family structures change, he said.
"Our social policies and services must evolve so that we can continue to nurture resilient individuals and strong families," said Mr Tan. "Our societal culture must also evolve so that we can become a more inclusive and caring society where no Singaporean is left behind."
More ministries will announce their respective addenda to the President's Address on Thursday and Friday. Parliament will sit for five days from Monday to debate Dr Tan's speech.
This article was first published on January 21, 2016.
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