SINGAPORE - The Singapore economy is holding steady and is likely to grow faster than expected 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent this year, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The full year GDP growth figure was revised upwards from 1 to 3 per cent, as the economy expanded 2 per cent in the first half of the year.
"The economy is holding steady amidst global uncertainties. We are attracting more quality investments. Unemployment remains low," said Mr Lee in his National Day message.
He added that Singapore must maintain investor confidence and keep Singapore open for business even as it tightens up on foreign workers and immigration.
The Prime Minister also signalled a shift in Singapore's approach to nation building, saying that the Government will play a bigger role to build a fair and just society.
It will help everyone succeed, as Singapore and the world experience changes in society and more pressure from technology on jobs and incomes.
Outlining the thinking behind expected policy changes later this month, PM Lee said the Government will do more to help children from less well off families get off to a good start from pre-school, help the elderly cope with healthcare costs, help every family own an HDB flat, and give low-income workers a better deal through the Workfare income supplement scheme.
"In Singapore, everyone will always have a stake in this country, and ample chances to make good in life," he said.
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My fellow Singaporeans
I am speaking to you from the new SAFRA clubhouse in Toa Payoh. This is where SAFRA built its very first clubhouse in 1975. We have just rebuilt it with better facilities for NSmen and your families. It is a small gesture to thank you for your many contributions and sacrifices. It is also an example of how we are upgrading our amenities and environment as Singapore develops, year by year.
We have made steady progress this past year. We have cleared the queue for HDB flats, stabilised BTO prices and tightened up on property speculation and excessive borrowing. We have added more buses and increased the number of bus routes. We are trying out free early morning MRT rides into the city. We will add more trains to the existing lines. Phase One of the Downtown Line will open in December, and more MRT lines after that. We also celebrated several successes in the arts and sports, including our LionsXII team winning the Malaysian Super League.
We are tackling longer term issues too, especially marriage and parenthood, as well as population. The White Paper on Population in January provoked strong reactions, but the debate helped us to understand the issues better. We face difficult choices: We need foreign workers to serve our economy and Singaporeans' needs, and immigrants to make up for our shortfall of babies. But we also worry about crowding and congestion, and maintaining our Singaporean identity. So we are feeling our way forward carefully, conscious both of our needs and our limits, and seeking the best outcome for Singaporeans.
Our economy is holding steady amidst global uncertainties. We are attracting more quality investments. Unemployment remains low. We grew by 2.0 per cent in the first half of 2013, and expect to grow by 2.5-3.5 per cent this year, higher than previously expected. Even as we tighten up on foreign workers and immigration, we must maintain investor confidence and keep Singapore open for business.
The world is changing rapidly and unpredictably. Technology is transforming our lives. Societies everywhere feel under pressure: Jobs have become less secure, wages are rising more slowly or even stagnating, families are working harder, and parents worry whether their children will do better than themselves.
Singapore is changing too. The economy is maturing and our population is ageing. Different groups in society now have more diverse and even conflicting interests. Older Singaporeans worry about healthcare and costs of living. Younger ones aspire to wider education opportunities and more affordable homes.
Our road ahead will be different from the road we have travelled. So we must reassess our position, review our direction, and refresh our strategies to thrive in this new world.
In my Message last year, I said that Singapore should always be our best Home, with Heart and Hope. We launched Our Singapore Conversation to define our shared future together. Many have participated actively and passionately. We heard many valuable suggestions. Thank you for taking part in this effort.
Our Singapore Conversation has helped us crystallise what we aspire to: A Singapore which gives its citizens opportunities to succeed and live fulfilling lives. A nation which defines success in many ways, and offers multiple paths to many peaks. A society with safety nets that give people peace of mind. A community where the disadvantaged get help, and those who have done well in turn do more to help others.
We will set goals and work out plans to realise these aspirations. We must match these aspirations against the world we live in - our competition, our opportunities, and our potential as a people.
Today Singapore stands tall internationally. Many countries admire us. Developed countries and emerging economies want to pick up ideas from us. Every citizen gains from our strong Singapore brand - our workers enjoy a premium in wages, and our people studying and working abroad are welcomed and respected.
At the same time, other countries are rapidly progressing and catching up. We must stay ahead of the competition, and maintain our standing in the world.
To succeed under changed circumstances, we must adapt our basic approach to nation building. We must strike a new balance between the roles of the individual, the community and the State.
We must strengthen our sense of community. We need to give greater mutual support to one another - helping the less fortunate in big ways and small; volunteering for causes that we care about; organising ourselves to work for the common good.
We already do this, especially during crises. When dengue and the haze threatened us, we stood together and took care of one another. That is Singapore - not just separate individuals, but a community with a shared purpose and a sense of collective responsibility, taking the initiative to help one another in good times and bad. We need to strengthen this spirit of togetherness.
The Government will also 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. We will tackle the cost of living, for example healthcare 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.
But remember: Each one of us must still do our best, and be self-reliant and resourceful. Because Singapore can only succeed if each one of us contributes his part.
At the same time, all this is only possible if we are one united people, and not divided by race, social class, or political faction. We must always have able, honest and committed leaders, who can be trusted to serve Singaporeans. We need a good Government that thinks and plans ahead, and more importantly feels for our concerns and hopes. That is the way to build a better Singapore - together.
We have come a long way, but our best years are ahead of us. We have the power to shape our destiny and write a new chapter in the Singapore story. Let us stand together, and dedicate ourselves to building in Singapore a brighter future for all.
Happy National Day!