With the Singapore economy likely to grow at a slower pace this year, the Government, businesses and workers need to focus on preparing for the long term, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Changi Airport in the morning, he said Singaporeans have to ride "the ups and downs" in the short term.
Mr Lee added: "But on the longer term, the focus has to be on upgrading, on productivity, on training, on SkillsFuture.
"These are the skills which we have been doing and I think, if the economy slows down, it's an opportunity for us to take them even more seriously and to work at them."
SkillsFuture is a long-term national initiative to help Singaporean workers build their skills and expertise.
Mr Lee said: "We've now got the training grants. For every adult citizen, we've got $500 and you can use that for something constructive.
"It's really a symbolic gesture to get people to start thinking about upgrading, reskilling themselves."
Mr Lee and key union leaders greeted more than 200 workers at Changi Airport Terminal 2 in a visit led by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) yesterday.
He was accompanied by his wife Ho Ching, NTUC president Mary Liew, NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Josephine Teo and NTUC Central Committee members.
The visit aimed to show the labour movement's appreciation to the workers who keep the airport running 24/7.
One of the workers, trolley assistant Goh Chiew Gek, 58, told The New Paper that she did not mind working on the first day of Chinese New Year.
Miss Goh said: "It's the least I could do to contribute to society. I will celebrate the new year with my family after my shift ends at around 3pm."
Sats customer service agent Ng Yook Woon, 25, who was also on duty at the airport, shared the same sentiment.
Miss Ng said that after her shift ended around 1pm yesterday, she would be driving up to Malacca with her family to celebrate with their loved ones there.
"Of course, one of the highlights of this year's Chinese New Year is that I get to see PM Lee up close," she said with a smile.
This year is also the first time that independent Singapore has celebrated Chinese New Year without its first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March last year.
When asked about how he felt about this, PM Lee, who turns 64 tomorrow, replied: "We mourn his passing, but at the same time, we are twice as resolved to carry on, make Singapore succeed in a way which he would have been proud of."
This article was first published on 9 February, 2016.
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