Young Singaporeans well prepared for exciting times ahead, says PM

June 9, 201510:04 am406 views
Young Singaporeans well prepared for exciting times ahead, says PM
Young Singaporeans well prepared for exciting times ahead, says PM

Young Singaporeans may be anxious about change and competition, but they have much to look forward to, being blessed with “enormous opportunities the previous generation did not have”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In fact, they are better prepared than their counterparts in many other countries to deal with the challenges ahead, said Mr Lee in a wide-ranging interview with regional journalists yesterday (June 4), as he touched on challenges the Republic had been tackling, such as housing and immigration.

Young Singaporeans are living in a “very exciting age” when they have resources, a competitive economy that creates jobs for them and a society that values ability and encourages people to do their best. “The next 50 years is actually for the young people to write, and we’ve written our chapter,” said Mr Lee.

Asked about the high price of housing and whether it signalled a wealth divide in Singapore, Mr Lee, acknowledging the periods when Singaporeans had been anxious about property prices and availability, said this is now “well under control”.

“A flat in Singapore costs five times, five-and-a-half times (the) annual income, (which) is about the same as (those in) many developed countries and lower than many cities in Asia,” he said, adding that government subsidies for the lower-income further improve affordability.

And while the Government worries about low incomes not catching up fast enough, the public-housing scheme is one of the ways to “level up”. The lowest 20 per cent of households here have on average about S$250,000 in net worth from their homes — a remarkable statistic, said Mr Lee.

In response to a question on Singapore’s persistently low fertility rates, the Prime Minister acknowledged the “practical issues” Singaporean parents face when they have children.

Singaporeans want to be responsible parents while juggling a career, and the Government is making efforts to provide affordable and high-quality child and infant care, he said.

Asked by a journalist from Myanmar about Singaporeans’ “hostility” towards foreign workers, Mr Lee said, from an economic point of view, migrant workers are needed here in a variety of jobs where there are not enough Singaporeans to fill.

“But if we have too many, then there is a social impact because, then, Singapore feels not quite the same,” he said, adding that a balance must be struck.

When asked to comment on the progress made by the Opposition, which now has more members in Parliament, Mr Lee said it is the quality of the discussion in Parliament that counts, not the numbers. An opposition that raises serious issues, offers citizens real alternatives and debates over the hard choices is a “good opposition”, no matter its numbers in Parliament, he said.

Asked about “what went wrong” in the last General Election for the ruling People’s Action Party — it registered its poorest showing since independence — Mr Lee said capturing 60 per cent of the votes is a good result. In Britain’s recent elections, the winning Tory party earned a third of the votes, while in the United States, “about 50 per cent will win you the presidential election”, he said.

“So that is the way democracy works. I mean there are different views within society. We try our best to bring together people, so that we have a broad consensus of support for the Government. You may not like everything the Government does. But on balance, you are prepared to say this Government is not bad. We vote for it,” Mr Lee added.

As for how Singapore would cope with the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister pointed out that the late Mr Lee retired as prime minister 25 years ago, while he is the third prime minister.

“So, in a way, (the late) Mr Lee has been preparing Singapore for the day when it carries on without him for a very long time,” he said.


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