Future Singapore to be more than just about economics: Halimah

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Singapore of the future, 50 years from now, will be defined much more in social terms than economic ones, said Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob on Thursday.

"Economic vibrancy is important, but life has to be more than economics, and countries have to be more than GDP (gross domestic product)," she told some 280 people at the opening of the inaugural Honour International Symposium.

The event is organised by Honour (Singapore), a local charity whose founding chairman is GIC group president Lim Siong Guan.

The two-day conference - the charity's first major event since it was launched by then-education minister Heng Swee Keat in August 2014 - underscored its efforts to promote a culture of honour and honouring in Singapore.

In her speech at the Fullerton Hotel, Madam Halimah noted that while 50 years may seem a long time, it is not too early to start thinking of the kind of society that citizens want to have.

"Economic development can be brought about in a relatively short time by deploying financial resources and technology," she said.

But social development would take much longer, possibly even several generations, because culture and values involve ways of thinking, modes of behaviour and agreed social norms.

"Yet, if we fail to address these factors, we cannot expect to succeed in getting to the Singapore we want in the future," she said.

Apart from having a gracious society where people care about one another, Singapore businesses also need to do their part in order to thrive. They have to compete based on the quality of their products and excellent service standard, to the extent that their customers are willing to pay a premium for the assurance of a good product and service.

The competition of the future will be one of quality and excellence, rather than just cost and price, she said.

"Businesses which honour their word will not only be making a good choice, it will virtually be the only choice they can make if they want to attract and keep their customers."

She devoted a sizeable chunk of her speech to Singapore's late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March 2015, aged 91.

While people will have different views and opinions of him and what he did, no one ever cast doubt on his integrity or incorruptibility, she said.

"(He) did not give his word lightly, but once given, he would deliver on it, even though sometimes it may have required enormous effort in solving unexpected problems and keeping the confidence of Singaporeans," she said.

Mr Lim also paid tribute to Mr Lee, who helped transform Singapore from a third-world economy to a first-world one within a single generation.

"We had to see what Mr Lee was marketing about Singapore, which was trustworthiness. It's on that basis that we were able to get so much foreign investment in Singapore, to attract tourists, and, over a period of time, become a wealth-management hub in Asia. Everything is about trustworthiness, the promises we made and honouring our word."

Honour (Singapore) has four board members and six advisers. Among them are Public Transport Council chairman Richard Magnus, Far East Organisation chief executive Philip Ng, Ho Bee Land chairman and chief executive Chua Thian Poh, and Lien Foundation chairman Laurence Lien.

This article was first published on May 20, 2016.
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