SINGAPORE - Last night's National Day Rally was, in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's words, not a "usual" rally speech.
It was less an announcement of "goodies" for Singaporeans, but rather, a roadmap for a slew of policy changes aimed at making sure that every Singaporean is taken care of, particularly those who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and low-income families.
In his two-hour speech in English at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio, Mr Lee spoke of a country that is at a "turning point".
He acknowledged the uncertainty and anxiety among Singaporeans about widening income inequality, domestic social stresses and day-to-day problems such as the cost of living. But Mr Lee assured Singaporeans that they "will not face these challenges alone".
He said: "We are all in this together. We will find a new way to thrive in this new environment."
This "new way forward" will require applying progressive shifts to social policies in housing, health care and education, said Mr Lee, noting that individual efforts alone are not enough, especially among the vulnerable.
While embarking on the new strategic direction "is the right thing to do", he cautioned that "this is not without risk".
Mr Lee said: "All good things have to be paid for... We cannot saddle our children's generation with debt so as to pay for our consumption."
Noting that very few countries can plan over such a long term, he pointed out that Singapore has been able to do it. This is what Singapore must do to be here for many years to come, he added.
Mr Lee said: "We must pass on to our children a better Singapore than the one we inherited, and we owe it to them to do so."
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