President's address in Parliament: 5 key areas of focus for Government in new term

President Tony Tan delivering his opening address to Singapore's 13th Parliament on Jan 15, 2016.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

 SINGAPORE - President Tony Tan made his opening address to Singapore's 13th Parliament this evening (Jan 15).

Earlier today 89 Members of Parliament (MPs) and two non-constituency Members of Parliamen were sworn in.

While SG50 was a defining year for Singapore, he set out the challenges in the road ahead for the new Government which was elected in last September.

"SG50 brought us closer together. This solidarity will stand us in good stead as we enter our next half century as a sovereign independent nation, and embark on a new chapter of nation building with the opening of this Parliament," Dr Tan said.

"We are in a stronger position than our founding generation was, and have a deeper sense of nationhood. But whether it is the next five or fifty years, we cannot expect an easy journey," he added.

He highlighted that Singapore remains a small country with no natural resources apart from our people.

Terrorism has become a dangerous and persistent threat, Dr Tan also noted.

Singapore's economy is also at a turning point. He pointed out that as Singapore's economy becomes more mature, it will grow more slowly.

"With limited land and labour, and more severe global competition, we must upgrade our economy to sustain growth. But upgrading means restructuring, which means our people and businesses will need to adapt and change," he said.

The nation is also an ageing society, the President said. By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 or older.

With these challenges ahead, Dr Tan said: "To remain special, we must first resolve to move ahead together."

In the next term, the Government will focus on five key areas.

1. Keeping Singapore safe

Singapore must continue to invest in security and expand our international space through diplomacy, said the President.

"We must resist the impulse to divert attention and resources from security as domestic needs burgeon," he added.

2. Renewing our economy

The Committee on the Future Economy will continue to develop strategies to ensure that Singapore remains relevant and competitive.

Dr Tan stressed that Singapore must continue to invest in education, from pre-school to lifelong, so that Singaporeans will always have pathways upwards.

"SkillsFuture must succeed because only by mastering skills can workers be equipped for the jobs of the future," he said.



3. Caring for one another

Dr Tan stressed the importance of a caring society in the long term.

"We do not want to end up like many developed countries that cannot afford their over-generous welfare schemes," he said.

As such, he said that the Government will keep healthcare affordable, accessible and of high quality by strengthening the primary care sector and building on regional health systems.

4. Transforming Singapore's urban landscape

Walking, cycling and riding public transport must become the default for more commuters, said Dr Tan.

Major infrastructure plans will take several terms of Government to complete, but "these are acts of faith in Singapore's future that will benefit our children and Singaporeans yet unborn," he said.

As Singapore is a compact city, Dr Tan noted that technology will transform the way we live.

He said Singapore can be highly liveable, green, energy-efficient and conveniently connected-up as we improve through more ideas from citizens.

5. Partnership with citizens

In his final point, Dr Tan said the future of Singapore is what we make of it.

"We must foster partnership and collaboration amongst citizens so that everyone plays a part in building our nation," he said.

He cited SG50 as an example of how willing Singaporeans were to contribute and share a part of their lives with one another.

"This spirit was sustained through our SG50 celebrations, and profoundly deepened when we mourned the passing of our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew," he added.

He urged Singaporeans to participate in shaping a common future to strengthen bonds and deepen trust with one another.

Parliament will reconvene from Jan 25 to Jan 29 to debate the President's address.