PM outlines 'new way forward'

PM outlines 'new way forward'

SINGAPORE - Singapore will move decisively to shield citizens from the harsh effects of global change, an ageing society and rising inequality, with a new approach to government policy.

- After decades of what others have called "tough love", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced big shifts to:

- Extend help to middle-income households to buy Housing Board flats, and to owners of two-room flats ready to upgrade.

- Widen safety nets to everyone, regardless of age, to deal with health-care costs; and

- Ensure that every child gets the best shot at developing his potential to the maximum, while removing some of the stress in the education system.

Mr Lee delivered his 10th National Day Rally (NDR) speech and chose to hold it at the Institute of Technical Education's new Ang Mo Kio campus for a serious purpose: "To underscore my longstanding commitment to investing in every person, every Singaporean to his full potential, but also to signal a change, to emphasise that this is not the usual NDR."

He added: "Singapore is at a turning point."

Responding to key issues raised by nearly 50,000 citizens who took part in the year-long Our Singapore Conversation, Mr Lee announced key changes in housing, health care and education.

Addressing worries about home prices, he announced that a Special Housing Grant of $20,000 that is now for buyers of two- and three-room flats will be extended to middle-income buyers of four-room flats as well.

Playing "HDB housing agent", he showed that existing and new grants make it possible for some to buy a three-room flat and cover monthly loan payments entirely with their Central Provident Fund contributions. A couple with a household income of $4,000 could buy a four-room flat and pay only $67 a month out of pocket.

"Don't worry," he said to hesitant couples. "Go ahead, plan on it, get married, get your flat."

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