PM Lee's NDR2013 speech bold and necessary, say analysts

PM Lee's NDR2013 speech bold and necessary, say analysts

SINGAPORE - A day after the Prime Minister laid out a new way forward for Singapore, economists and politicians praised the shift for being a bold and necessary move in rebalancing the relationship between the State and the Singaporean.

But while Mr Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally (NDR) speech hit the right notes, the specific policy changes he announced drew a mixed reaction.

Some felt they were incremental rather than radical. Others said they were sparse on the numbers and details, leaving them guessing how much of an impact the changes would make and who would foot the bill of say, the new MediShield Life health insurance scheme.

Still, the changes show that the Government recognises the need to adapt its policies to a changing context for Singapore, said senior fellow and economist Donald Low of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

"We have recalibrated the balance between the State, the market and the individual. The orientation is correct now," he said.

"We were in danger of ideologising the earlier social compact and its emphasis on meritocracy, individual effort and the fear of moral hazard," he added.

"But the latest changes are a step in the right direction."

In his Rally speech, Mr Lee unveiled broad changes that would expand health-care coverage, increase housing grants to middle- income families, and make education more open and broad.

Several economists said the moves are an advancement of the shift to strengthen the social safety net that began in 2007. That was when the Government introduced the Workfare Income Supplement scheme for low-income workers who stay employed. Gradually, the scheme was expanded.

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