SINGAPORE - Singapore can remain successful for the next 50 years, but only if it does not take its achievements for granted, said Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang yesterday.
He said the Republic should learn from the lessons of Greece - a high-income country like Singapore, but one that has struggled with high unemployment and large debts since the 2008 financial crisis.
To avoid going down the same road, Singapore must live within its means, generate good jobs and build on the strong relationship between the Government, unions and employers, he said at a dialogue with 280 residents of Braddell Heights during a ministerial visit to the ward.
"It's not very easy to become a high-income country. It's also not very easy to stay there," he said.
Overspending is one way to get into trouble, Mr Lim noted. The Greeks, for instance, "did not collect enough tax, they spent very generously on welfare, and now they have great difficulty readjusting themselves".
In contrast, Singapore's frugal pioneers had built up a sizeable nest egg for the nation, he said.
Now Singapore can afford to invest in more social programmes, such as MediShield Life and the Central Provident Fund scheme.
But ramping up these programmes makes it even more important that Singapore continues to keep an eye on its Budget, Mr Lim added.
To prevent large-scale unemployment, the Government needs to continue creating suitable jobs for Singaporeans, who are now better-educated than before.
Lastly, Singapore should build on the tripartite relationship between the Government, unions and employers, as it is one of the country's biggest selling points to foreign investors, Mr Lim said.
At the dialogue, St Gabriel's Secondary student Hanafi Zulkafle, 14, asked how the Government plans to deal with an ageing population. One in five people will be aged 65 and above by 2030.
Mr Lim replied that the State has been reinforcing its safety nets for the elderly, improving opportunities for seniors to continue to work, and making sure seniors can comfortably age in place.
Amid Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations this year, residents at the dialogue gave their own suggestions on how Singapore can continue its success over the next half-century.
Nanyang Junior College student Ng Chia Wee, 17, called for schools to encourage more creativity, while his schoolmate Chan Si En, also 17, advocated more tolerance between neighbours.
Earlier in the day, Mr Lim visited several places in Braddell Heights, including the new community hub.
Accompanied by the division's grassroots adviser and Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng, he also planted a durian tree and dabbled in some calligraphy.
This article was first published on January 2, 2015.
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