S'pore's survival depends on staying exceptional: PM

S'pore's survival depends on staying exceptional: PM

Singapore must remain exceptional to survive or risk getting pushed around and shoved aside.

But ensuring that the tiny country continues to punch above its weight and stay exceptional is also the most difficult job for the Government to do, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking at the May Day rally yesterday, PM Lee said Singa- pore's success so far was remarkable, given that it is a country of just five million people.

"Sometimes we forget how unique our position is today... and (our neighbours) believe that we can make a contribution and we have something to add beyond this little island," he said.

Despite its size, Singapore is the largest investor in China today and one of the largest in Indonesia, countries that are much larger than Singapore.

World leaders from the United States, China and Japan, among other countries, came to Singapore to attend founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's funeral service in March.

Australia and New Zealand held special sessions in their Parliaments in Canberra and Wellington and moved motions to pay tribute to Mr Lee, while India flew flags at half-mast on the day of the funeral.

"Would they have done that if Singapore had been an ordinary country, if Mr Lee had been an ordinary leader?" PM Lee said.

"If we just want to be as good as our neighbours, habis liao (that's the end)."

The ingredients to continue keeping Singapore a success are well known: a good education for the young, skills upgrading for workers and adapting to change rather than resisting progress.

"To make all this work - education, training, SkillsFuture - we need outstanding leadership. That's one of the ingredients which brought us here," he said.

"Very few countries can do this. But here in Singapore, we can... deliver results for our workers."

For example, the SkillsFuture initiative which was announced in February is about upgrading "the whole workforce step by step, year by year".

But to make SkillsFuture a success, a mindset change is needed "so that workers learn and improve while on the job, all their lives", said PM Lee.

He spoke about how Mr Seah Keng Tia, a senior technician with Vopak, a logistics firm in the chemical and oil industry, plans to take up a part-time diploma course at the Ong Teng Cheong Institute to contribute more to union work this July.

The 30-year-old bachelor, who holds a diploma in chemical and pharmaceutical technology, said: "I took my studies for granted and failed a couple of courses during my time in Nanyang Polytechnic."

He then bucked up and took supplementary papers that allowed him to scrape through and graduate, he added.

PM Lee said: "If we fail in education and training, our workers' future will be bleak.

"But if we succeed, then Singapore can continue to be exceptional, and our children can live in a country which will be even better than the one we live in today."

awcw@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 2, 2015.
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