Signs point to landmark National Day Rally

Signs point to landmark National Day Rally

SINGAPORE - Anyone who has followed recent Cabinet statements should expect substantial announcements in the Prime Minister's National Day Rally on Sunday night.

In his National Day message, Mr Lee Hsien Loong said the Government will play a bigger role to build a fair and just society. "We will do more to enable every Singaporean to succeed, through education and lifelong learning. We will keep avenues to rise wide open to all. We will help those from families with less get off to a good start in life, beginning from pre-school," he said.

"We will tackle the cost of living, for example health-care costs, especially for the elderly. We will foster a more equal society, by helping every family afford their own HDB flat, and giving low-income workers a better deal through Workfare. In Singapore, everyone will always have a stake in this country, and ample chances to make good in life."

Singapore, the Prime Minister added, had to "strike a new balance between the roles of the individual, the community and the state".

He will likely elaborate on Sunday night, but it sounds very much like the Government is ready to move decisively to address looming storm fronts.

Of course, what it touts as significant shifts may still fail to impress some sections. Effects of good policies typically take time to be felt on the ground, and programmes that cost hundreds of millions of dollars at the macro level can seem paltry when they trickle down to households.

This is why the People's Action Party (PAP) has always had an allergy to over-promising. When it advertises its goodies, it quickly magnifies the fine print to moderate expectations. We saw it again last week, when Mr Heng Swee Keat, overseeing the Our Singapore Conversation consultation process, sought to clarify that any ensuing changes had to fit a strategic long-term vision. Translation: We are not populist.

All these caveats aside, though, it is clear that the Government has for some years been grappling with fundamental challenges shared with other economically successful countries.

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