SINGAPORE - Against the backdrop of major world events, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night warned Singaporeans against the dangers of being overly absorbed with internal issues to the detriment of preparing for the future.
Urging them not to give in to "navel-gazing", he laid out three principles that have helped the country succeed and which would help it maintain its momentum.
These are: Looking outwards and staying plugged in to the world; staying true to good-hearted policies while not shying away from hard-headed realities; and taking heart from the past to embrace the future with confidence.
"We are now at an inflexion point, changing gears, changing pace," Mr Lee said.
"We need not only to navigate the eddies and currents from moment to moment, but to keep in mind basic principles which will help us maintain our momentum, our direction, our purpose."
Mr Lee was giving the National University of Singapore Society's 60th anniversary lecture, titled "Singapore in Transition - the Next Phase".
His comments come after more than two years in which Singapore has had to grapple with more urgent priorities in housing, public transport and medical care.
Acknowledging that these were understandable concerns, even as the Government is putting in place longer-term shifts for these policies, Mr Lee yesterday sought to refocus attention on the big picture and the world beyond Singapore.
"There are major changes in the Asian landscape which are having a big impact on us, more so because we are a small country," he said, citing changes in Indonesia, India and China.
"Unless we understand what is happening... we can't anticipate or respond properly to events."
Mr Lee also acknowledged that while population and immigration policies had to take the heart into account and consider the social impact - and adjustments had been made - hard facts like low birth rates could not be wished away.
He touched especially on the issue of foreign professionals, managers and executives who compete with qualified Singaporeans for jobs, saying that while he could appreciate their concerns, the bigger picture was that allowing such professionals to come in created more good jobs for locals.