More social reforms lined up: PM

More social reforms lined up: PM

SINGAPORE - In the wake of the well-received Pioneer Generation Package, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has promised "a few more pieces" of social policy to be announced after Parliament reopens in May.

Parliament will be prorogued after its April 14 sitting and reconvene in May, when the President's speech will set out the Government's programme for the rest of its term, Mr Lee told reporters on Saturday after his week-long European visit.

"But the broad scope of it, I already sketched out at last year's (National Day) Rally, which is our rebalancing towards stronger social safety nets, towards making sure the paths upwards are open to helping everyone level up and improve their quality of life as well as the standard of living in Singapore," he added.

"How do we make that into programmes? We've started, we've already got MediShield Life, we've got a Pioneer Generation Package. I think these are two major components, and there will be a few more pieces to come."

He said the policy reforms would have to achieve a "dynamic balance" between free-market economics and social security. Shifts would have to be done "step by step, in order to strengthen the social safety nets while doing our best to maintain that sense of initiative and personal responsibility and family responsibility".

The theme of balance also featured prominently in his acceptance speech after he received a Freedom of the City award in London on Thursday. He noted that while Singapore strives to be a global city like London, its small size with no hinterland meant it had to strike the right balance between cosmopolitan openness and national identity, and between free-market competition and social solidarity.

On the pioneer package, which gives health benefits to those who are 65 or older this year and became citizens before 1987, he told reporters: "I think it has gone down very well."

Beyond the dollars and cents - which he acknowledged not every senior citizen would find crucial - the package made the pioneer generation feel appreciated and "special in our society". "I think that makes a very big difference," he said.

He noted that when he held a pioneers' tribute event at the Istana in February, he could not invite all 450,000 of them. There will be other tribute events, he said, such as at the constituency level, and by the Singapore Armed Forces and others.

He added that at the Istana event, he had mentioned the Singapore vigilante corps, but he should have paid tribute to the People's Defence Forces 1 and 2 as well. "These were the first battalions of volunteers who came, put on uniforms, drilled with whatever weapons they had then, marched with pride on the first National Day," he said.

They included ministers and MPs such as Mr Othman Wok and the late Mr Fong Sip Chee. "I think that was a very special moment in their lives," he said.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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