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Part 1: Speech from National Day Rally 2010

Full text of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2010. -AsiaOne

Mon, Aug 30, 2010

This is the full speech of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2010.

PM Lee: Fellow Singaporeans, good evening.

On the Economy

Our economy has shaken off the recession and is now booming. In the first half, our GDP grew by 18% year on year. Lots of jobs have been created and unemployment has gone down.

Singaporeans can look forward to higher wages and good bonuses. Last year, Singaporeans were very worried about the future. But we have come through the crisis much better and much faster than we expected.

Everyone contributed - the unions, the workers, employers and the government as well did a little bit. So thank you all for a job well done!

While we've come through, we shouldn't forget what has happened.

We better learn some lessons from how we managed the downturn, because despite all our preparations and precautions, some time somewhere something will happen again and there will be future crises and we should be ready for them.

The NTUC attends the International Labour Organisation meeting in Geneva every year in June (ILO). Many unionists have been. And this year the ILO invited NTUC to share with the other delegates how Singapore coped with the downturn and rebounded so quickly.

And their presentation talking about Jobs Credit, on training programmes, on the Resilience Package and so on, generated a lot of interest.

The delegates wanted to know, first, how did we pay for it without having to borrow money, and secondly, how did we build the trust and confidence amongst all the key parties, the unions, the employers, the government.

And in fact these two questions point to the root of our advantage and competitiveness. First of all we built up reserves for a rainy day.

So when the rain came, we could fund our programmes - SPUR and so on - drawing on these reserves with the President's permission but without needing to borrow.

Unlike the Europeans, unlike the Americans, unlike the Japanese, all of which have run up huge deficits, continue to run big deficits and now face very serious problems.

Secondly, we built up our trust over a long period through many shared trials.

And each time there was a crisis, we worked together and we became more confident in each other.

And therefore in this crisis, the workers could accept the sacrifices which were necessary because they were confident that the employers would play their part and both sides were confident and trusted the Government to do the right thing and to take measures which would work.

So together, the tripartite partners pulled Singapore through.

The NTUC is often asked to explain why, how Singapore works, the Singapore way, to other countries, because other people can see how our system works, they want to understand it.

They may be able to understand it but then they want to be able to do it, and that's not so easy. NTUC once invited a delegation to Singapore from one of our neighbouring countries.

We had some Singapore Inc projects there and we wanted to bring the unions on board. So we explained to them how we did it.

And at the end of the visit, the unionist told NTUC: "The day my government behaves like the Singapore government, that is the day my union will behave like NTUC."

So I think that will take some time.

For this year, our growth forecast is 13 to 15 per cent.

It's very very good, but we cannot expect to grow like this for the long term. And also if you see this growth in perspective over a longer time frame, it's not quite so significant as all that.

Let's just take three years - '08, '09, '10.

08 we were +1%, 09 we were -1%; 10 if we're lucky =15%. Plus 1, minus 1, plus 15 is plus 15.

Divided by three to average it out, that means on average we've made over the last 3 years 5% growth. It's not bad but it's not spectacular as what we thought and it's a realistic target of what we can sustain.

So for the next 10 years, if we can make 3 to 5% growth on average every year, I think we're doing well.

So therefore please be careful with wage expectations and have wage flexibility and bonuses but remember, tomorrow it may rain again.

Previous << >> PM Lee: "We have to keep growing to generate resources

PM Lee on productivity

PM Lee: We have to keep growing to generate resources, to upgrade our city and improve our lives and to enable each Singaporean to have a secure job for a good standard of living and get a good future for his children.

Therefore we need to raise productivity. And that's just a matter for workers working harder. In fact, it's not a matter of working harder.

It's working smarter. But workers have to make the effort. Employers have to make the effort. And the government also must be productive.

So let me give you some examples of what I mean by productivity. First, at the worker level, it means upgrading knowledge, skills, doing a wider rage of jobs, becoming more valuable to your firms.

I give you one concrete example: Tong Shiang Wee, who is working for a company called Cameron, which makes equipment for the oil and gas industry.

He's now in his late 40s. He joined the firm when he was 21 years old with no school qualifications, started at the bottom as a trainee fitter. But his attitude was "must try, no harm trying."

So over the years, he kept learning on the job and attended courses to upgrade himself. And today, his job title is Manufacturing Specialist, and he oversees 70 technicians and four production supervisors.

And that's what job upgrading and job enlargement means from doing your own work to being able to watch over many other people's work and make sure that many other people are productive too.

Secondly, employers also play a key role because for the worker to be productive, the employer must create the right biz environment, must find the right business opportunities, and then they can develop expertise in this business, create value and grow a competitive and profitable business, which can hire productive workers.

I give you one example. Our shipyards, Keppel and SembCorp Marine. They have developed deep specialist knowledge and skills in their biz, which is to make jack up oil drilling platforms.

Two of them are the market leaders in the world. And together, they produce 70% of all their jack up oil-rigs in the world. These are oil rigs which go and drill for oil in very deep waters.

Recently you might have read of a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Deepwater Horizon owned by BP exploded, sank, caused a major disaster in the sea and all along the Gulf coast, millions of barrels of oil were spilled.

I was in Houston recently in Texas, which is near where the spill happened. And I met a Keppel exec there. He was overseeing their plant in Texas at Brownsville.

So I asked him,  "Did we build that oil rig which exploded?" He said, "No, but we built the rig from which they are mounting the rescue operations."

And that's a very interesting story which let me try and explain to you.

This is not a class but just trying to make myself clear. Deepwater Horizon used to be here drilling for oil here 18,000 feet below the surface of the sea. It exploded, there was a mishap, sank, oil pouring out.

The platform from which they were mounting rescue operations, sending in submersibles, trying to close it off and doing all the complicated things - Q4000 - was made by Keppel.

But there are two other platforms in this picture.

They are drilling two relief wells from here and from here to try and join up with the borehole deep under the sea so as to do a "bottom kill" - to seal it off with concrete.

You imagine they've got to go all the way down and drill through 18,000 feet and find this right spot and join up just there.

Why am I explaining this to you? Because this one is built by Keppel and this one is built by Sembcorp.

So let me show you, Q4000, this is the rescue platform and in the background you can see DD III which is also the Keppel one, it's called Development Driller III and on the other side we can see the DD II, the white one.

So not bad for a country which has no oil but we are there.

And, therefore, the two companies pay good bonuses in good years; I hear a rumour that last year they got nine months, and we get something because several hundred million dollars of taxes to the Government.

That's productivity.

My third example of productivity you may not expect though many of you would be familiar with it and that is from the public sector because the Government also must do the right thing and make sure that it spends money wisely, it spends time wisely, it uses its resources well and gets results.

It's harder to measure government outcomes because it's not always in dollars and cents but it's still important for us to seek out efficiency gains and to do the best we can.

And I give you an example which all the men here should know about - IPPT for NSmen.

It used to be a very manual process: PTIs, stopwatches, clipboards, pieces of paper, queuing up, waiting, hurry up and wait.

But now it's a highly automated process. If you go to one of these IPPT centres and you do your chin-ups or sit-ups, they got sensors to count the number of chin-ups and sit-ups you complete, so you don't have to argue with a PTI.

And then when you run 2.4 click you carry an RFID in your number, it's like what you do when you run the marathon and automatically your time is logged.

When you cross the finish line they know.

And you get good service too because with this RFID the NSmen can go and check their scores and their status at the computer.

There you are, he's got his number, the ID is inside here and he can see his results anytime.

Result: save manpower.

Results: NSmen's time saved and results: also a sense of purpose and efficiency because then the NSmen can feel that I'm going there, I'm achieving something, I've done it, I'm off, no faffing around, no standing around and waiting and that's what all government departments must learn to do.

Productivity has to be the responsibility of all of us: To keep learning and upgrading, to increase our value and contribution and that is the way Singapore can stay ahead of the competition, our firms can do well and all of us can improve our lives.

Previous << >> PM Lee: "We will definitely need more foreign workers"

PM Lee on immigration

PM Lee: This year with a booming economy we will definitely need more foreign workers so that we can create our jobs in Singapore.

A few months ago I mentioned to the press that we could need more than 100,000 foreign workers more this year.

There was a big ooh which you could almost hear.

Well, since then we've recalculated, maybe we'll get by with a few less, perhaps 80,000 workers.

But I said this to highlight the trade-off which we face and which we cannot avoid.

You want higher growth which will benefit our workers, that also means accepting more foreign workers to come and work in Singapore.

You choke off the foreign workers, the economy is stifled, growth is not here, our workers will suffer.

This is a very hot topic in Singapore, foreign workers and also immigration.

And we've held many dialogue sessions with the grassroots, with the residents and I think that Singaporeans understand logically if you argue it out with them why we need foreign workers, why we need this immigration.

But they are still concerned about competition for jobs, about crowding, competing for houses or for transport on MRT and deeper things like the character of our society.

And of course there's the psychological aspect too, the sense that they want to be valued, that make sure that Singaporeans are more valued than foreigners.

And these concerns comes through many other channels as well.

Well, we talked to the union leaders, they will reflect some of them, you read in the newspapers columns, the letters which are written, sometimes this shows up, when we build workers' dormitories we have to be very careful.

We remember the sensitivities which can be aroused.

Serangoon Gardens two years ago got very upset because things were not explained well enough.

I understand these sentiments because these are legitimate concerns which we take seriously.

We don't brush them aside but we have to weigh them against the plus side of having the foreign workers and immigrants, why it is necessary for us to let in a controlled inflow so that we can derive benefits from it.

So tonight I can't solve the whole problem, I can't explain all aspects of this problem but I will try and explain why staying open it is going to benefit us and how...and benefit us meaning all Singaporeans and when there are problems what we can do to address these problems.

We are not the only country grappling with this issue, where citizens are queasy about foreign workers and immigration. There are many countries now which host significant foreign or immigrant populations.

So people are coming into contact, mingling who didn't used to mingle, there are frictions, insecurity and political pressures which build up.

So the issue has become hot in many places, many countries, even in Japan which has very few foreigners, in Australia, in Britain, in France, in Germany, Netherlands, even Switzerland, even the US.

The US is one of the most open societies in the world.

They build themselves on immigrants.

But Americans have also grown uncomfortable with the influx and especially of illegal immigrants - people who are there informally, working, no papers but if they all leave America is in trouble.

In Houston in Texas where I was, the Greater Metropolitan area has five million population, about the size of Singapore and many immigrants which contribute to a vibrant city.

They have about a quarter million Chinese immigrants, maybe same number of Indian immigrants, Latins.

But it's a lively city and at the leading edge for medicine and research.

The Texas Medical Centre is one of the largest centres who are doing research and advanced treatment in the world: cancer, RandD, all sorts of things, 49 hospitals, universities, research centres all clustered around Houston, full of foreign researchers.

In every lab, one of the researchers told me, somewhere you will find somebody from the PRC, and I'm sure there will be somebody from India and others, too.

But they are there, they are making it happen.

I met business and city leaders in Houston and they said that the Texas political leaders have shown courage, keeping the state open to immigrants.

And whenever neighbouring states like California and Arizona clamped down and tightened up and pushed out the immigrants, Texas would collect some of the good ones and would benefited.

Doesn't mean that Texas doesn't face problems because of this, but overall because they've stayed open, it's been a plus for them. And they hoped that Texas would continue to stay open.

I also met Bill Gates of Microsoft on the trip. Microsoft is an IT company that you will know about it.

The kind of biz which we want to be as Singapore. Knowledge intensive, innovation intensive, depending on talent and looking to the future.

So I asked Bill Gates, ""Where do you do your research?" And he told me: "I'll show you the map."

I'll just show you the dots. And if you study the map, you will find very interesting where they have gone to do research.

They have research centres in America because Microsoft is an American company. They have research centres elsewhere in the world, because you have to tap talent everywhere. Where are they in America?

Redmond. Washington state up in the northwest. Why? because the Microsoft HQ is there. And it's a good place to live. Where else are they?

Down in Silicon Valley where the brain power is. Lots of IT talent, lots of Indians and Chinese and others. They've gone tracing them. They are in Cambridge (New England).

That's where Harvard and MIT and other universities are, like Princeton.

Overseas where are they? Cambridge (England) because of the University of Cambridge, Bangalore, India, because of the IT companies and the Indian IT talent. And we are there too.

We have an IT, JTC has built, what do they call it? The Bangalore IT, it's a tech park for the IT biz here in Bangalore.

And in Beijing because they got Tsinghua, they got Beijing Da Xue and they got all the talent from China in Beijing. So they go where the talent is.

But there's one more interesting pt about this slide. If you zoom in carefully on Redmond, you will find there are 2 spots.

One on the American side of the border in Redmond, the other one on the Canadian side of the border in Vancouver.

Why are they in Vancouver?

Because the Americans restrict visas for professionals.

So when Microsoft wants to bring in IT talent to Redmond, they can't get enough H1B visas, which is what professionals need to work in America.

So instead they go to Canada, because Canada welcomes these skilled workers, open arms. And if the person has a hundred thousand Canadian dollar job offer, which is about US$100,000, then practically stapled to that job offer is an offer of a Canadian green card. So because of the difference in policies, America has lost out, Canada has gained.

Bill Gates told me that globally, 1/3 of their researchers are Chinese in Microsoft, 1/3 of their researchers are Indian ppl.

Recently, he attended a presentation of awards to 12 top Microsoft employees, those who have the top confidential report staff assessment rankings.

Out of the 12 names, he could only pronounce - Chris Jones - without help. All the others were foreign born and many of them were Asian. So what's the lesson for us?

That immigration and foreign talent are difficult issues everywhere.

They pose very real political problems and social problems. But if we can manage these political and social challenges, then the benefits to us are substantial.

Previous << >> Important for Singapore to stay open

Important for Singapore to stay open

PM Lee: So let me sketch you briefly why it's important for us to stay open. First, because we need talent. We need to gain talent.

It makes a tremendous difference to us doing critical work in our economy, helping Singapore to become an outstanding city.

We have very good people but never enough. And therefore we need to draw from all over the world, to supplement our local pool.

You take professionals, for example architects. There are lots of of talented young architects in Singapore.

Recently, URA held an exhibition 20 Under 45 and they published a little book showcasing the outstanding works by 20 young architects below 45 years old.

The majority of the architects are native Singaporeans, although quite a few are foreign-born. And the foreign born ones include the 2 architects who built the Pinnacle.

Husband and wife team. The husband, Mr. Khoo Peng Beng, is from Ipoh, now a PR. The wife, Belinda Huang, is from Selangor, now a Singapore Citizen.

They won a design competition to build on the Duxton Plain site and the result is one of the most sought after HDB projects in Singapore.

In fact, we don't have enough Pinnacles and so voters and residents want us to build some more.

For the local architects you might consider this "foreign competition, too fierce, unfair." But for Singaporeans, and especially for the residents of Pinnacle, we benefit.

We get a better living environment, we get a more beautiful city and I think even our own architects benefit because from the competition, from that stimulus, we will do better and we will produce better works too.

Take sports talent as another example. We are grooming our own. Our young sportsmen have done very well in the YOG, the Young Olympians. And in some sports we are near the top in the world rankings like sailing or bowling.

This is Jasmine, who's the women's champion two years ago, and last year was our Sportswoman of the Year.

But in other sports we still need to draw on new citizens, like table tennis. We are very proud of Isabelle, who won a silver medal at the YOG. But we have too few Isabelles. And so we have topped up And our women's team has done very well.

They won the Silver at the Beijing Olympics. Here you see them receiving the medals. In Moscow at the World Team Table Tennis championships, they beat China to win the Gold medal. And here you see Feng Tian Wei celebrating. Our team players may not have been born here.

I don't think they speak good Singlish, but they have chosen this place to be their home.

They are playing for Singapore, flying the flag for Singapore, and when they win, the band plays Majulah Singapura.

So we should cheer for them, just as we cheer for all of our national sportsmen. So that's the first reason for needing this. Talent is critical to us.

The second reason is we need reinforcements to grow our economy and create better jobs for Singaporeans.

The foreign workers supplement our ranks and enable us to build successful companies. You take Keppel and SembCorp again. They are world beaters.

Together they employ 20,000 people in Singapore, of whom 5,000 are Singaporeans. The other 15,000 are foreign workers, professionals. Without the foreign workers, the Singaporean jobs wouldn't exist.

Of course the converse is true too. Without the Singaporean brains working the system and bringing the foreign workers together and organising them, the foreign worker jobs wouldn't exist either.

So they are complementary to each other. The shipyards employ foreign workers and professionals from many countries all over the world. You just take a look some of the flags where the countries are.

Asia, we will not be surprised. Europe, you will not be surprised. Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Chile.

So because they come from all over the world, they bring a wide range of skills, experience, knowledge about different countries, different markets and therefore they have become world beaters - Keppel and Sembcorp. And it's good for us.

The final reason we need immigrants is to make up for our shortfall in babies. Our efforts to produce more Singaporean babies have not yielded results, not yet.

Two years ago I made a long speech in the NDR about new measures.

Last year we produced fewer babies than in 2008. So for this type of productivity, please work harder.

But I think we should make an important distinction between foreign workers and immigrants, which means immigrants meaning PRs and citizens.

Foreign workers are transient, we need them to work in the factories, in the banks, hospitals, shipyards, construction projects.

When the job is done they will leave. When there are no jobs here they will go.

So temporarily economy is hot, I think we can accept higher numbers.

For the longer term we are pushing to raise productivity so that we can rely less on foreign workers. But meanwhile we want to build flats, MRT lines, IRs, so please bear with the larger numbers for the time being. That's foreign workers. Immigrants: the PRs and the citizens are far fewer.

We are very careful whom we accept. Not only must they contribute to our economy but they've also got to integrate with our society and strike roots here.

We've moved quite fast over the last five years. We've accepted a larger inflow, both foreign workers and we've taken in more new citizens and PRs. Conditions were good, we caught the wind, we moved forward.

But now I think we should consolidate, slow down the pace. We can't continue going like this and increasing our population 100, 150,000 a year indefinitely and we should give Singaporeans time to adjust and our society time to settle and integrate better the new arrivals.

But we must not close ourselves up. The basic principle for us is always citizens come first and that's how our policies are designed: citizens before PRs, PRs before other foreigners and non-residents.

Last year, we reviewed the policies, we changed the subsidies to make this distinction sharper, so education fees, health care subsidies, housing subsidies all adjusted so that it's quite clear that the Singaporeans get the best deal.

But not everything is reduced to subsidies and dollars, there are other less tangible issues, too, which I will also talk about, not to dismiss them but to explain how we can manage the problems and enjoy the benefits of the inflow by limiting the down side.

Read also:
» Part 2: Speech from National Day Rally 2010
» Part 3
» Part 4

For more stories on the National Day Rally speech, click here.

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