Singapore's success was built on its founding fathers' governing principles of "excellence, meritocracy, pragmatism and incorruptibility", National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday as he called on the country to build on this legacy for a "brighter future".
He said during his ministry's National Day observance ceremony at the Jem office tower in Jurong East that the Republic needs good leaders and a seamless public service that consults its people when formulating policies.
"We owe what we have to our pioneers," said Mr Khaw, referring to late leaders such as Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam and Mr Lim Kim San.
"We are reaping the fruits of their efforts and sacrifice."
He lauded their contributions in transforming Singapore through efforts such as cleaning up the Singapore River and resettling slum residents into Housing Board flats.
Mr Khaw also thanked pioneers from the construction industry for helping to build the country.
A group of 17 of these builders were present at yesterday's event, including two retired Samsui women - Chinese labourers who wore red cloth hats in the earlier days.
One of them, Madam Ng Moey Chye, 83, recalled working 12-hour days, carrying cement and bricks for just $3 a day.
"It was not easy earning a living then. Work was tough, just look at my hands," she said, stretching out her rough, wrinkled palms.
"A lot has changed. Now there are machines to help with the building. We used to worry about not having enough to eat, now we talk about nourishment and eating well."
Mr Khaw presented the biennial Minister's Team Award to 15 projects helmed by his ministry's agencies. The award recognises team-based projects that are considered significant and innovative.
He also launched 50 Years of Transforming Our City, Our Home, a Ministry of National Development (MND) exhibition showcasing milestones in Singapore's urbanisation and public housing journey over the past 50 years.
The roving exhibition, now at Jem's Level 6 foyer, will pop up at six other locations including the MND Complex in Maxwell Road, where it will be located permanently from December.
This article was first published on August 7, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.