President Tony Tan Keng Yam opened the new session of Parliament on Friday night. In a speech, he mapped out the Government's priorities and policies as Singapore marks its Golden Jubilee next year. He said the Golden Jubilee "will be an occasion for us to re-dedicate ourselves to building a better Singapore". Here are 10 highlights of his speech:
1. Low- and middle-income households will get help to own their Housing Board (HDB) homes. New housing options will be developed to encourage extended families to live closer together.
2. Premiums for MediShield Life, which offers better life-long protection against high medical bills, will be affordable for all. MediShield Life Review Committee is finalising details of the scheme.
3. There will be more options for Singaporeans to unlock the value of their homes in their retirement. Existing CPF savings and CPF Life annuity schemes will be improved.
4. Better transport network, sports and leisure facilities for HDB estates. HDB neighbourhoods will be linked to green corridors and waterways.
5. Greater focus on pre-school education, especially for children from less privileged families. More opportunities for students from ITEs and polytechnics. New degree programmes will be offered in the two new universities - the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University.
6. Continuing education and training for work adults will be stepped up with the setting up of two new institutes - the Devan Nair Institute in Jurong, and the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.
7. Government spending will increase over the next decade and beyond, especially on social programmes. But to ensure that social spending can be sustained, the Government must have enough revenues to balance the Budget.
8. Steps will be taken to turn Singapore into a Smart Nation by using new technologies to bring about cleaner and greener urban living, more transport options and better care for the elderly at home.
9. National servicemen will get more support and recognition, with the Committee to Strengthen National Service looking into this. NSmen can expect more benefits in housing, health care and education soon, the Defence Ministry has said earlier.
10. The Government will continue to encourage vigorous debates on challenges facing Singapore. But all sides must take a long-term perspective for the common good.
This article was published on May 17 in The Straits Times.
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