Monday, 18 August 2014

National Day Rally 2014







PM outlines CPF options for retirement
More support for elderly poor, more flexibility for withdrawals by retirees
By Robin Chan Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

SINGAPORE'S fast-rising number of elderly people can look forward to several changes aimed at ensuring they will have enough to live on during their retirement years.

Addressing the nation at his 11th National Day Rally last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that a new scheme, called Silver Support, will be set up to give lower-income Singaporeans with little or no Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings an annual bonus from the Government. The details will be announced later.

Another change: CPF members who are retired, that is 65 and over, will be allowed to withdraw a lump sum from their Minimum Sum savings if they need. But there will be a limit, perhaps 20 per cent, to ensure they receive monthly payments throughout their later years.

Mr Lee also disclosed that the Housing Board's Lease Buyback Scheme, which allows owners of three-room flats and smaller units to sell a part of their 99-year lease to the Government in return for a regular income, will be extended to four-room flat owners as well.

That means more than half of all flat owners can use their homes to ensure an income this way.

Mr Lee said home ownership and the CPF scheme - Singapore's twin pillars for ensuring that people have enough for retirement - will be improved to better support the poor and be made more flexible for all.

An advisory panel will study these issues and more.

"We will give you greater assurance and more options in retirement," Mr Lee said.



The retirement needs of Singaporeans took up a good part of his address, delivered for the second year running at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central campus in Ang Mo Kio.

He also focused on the pioneer generation, highlighting several remarkable individuals. Among them was Singapore's first president, the late Mr Yusof Ishak, who will be honoured by having a mosque, research centre and university professorship named after him.

And he dwelt at length on upcoming changes to polytechnic and ITE education, showcasing several successful people without degrees to emphasise there are many pathways to the top for those prepared to work hard and upgrade as they go.

Mr Lee quipped that he was playing financial planner this year as he moved on to the issue on many minds: whether people have enough savings for their old age.

He acknowledged the concerns sparked by the increase in the CPF Minimum Sum to $155,000 for those turning 55 this year.

But while he announced that CPF members will be allowed to take out a lump sum, he stressed that the Minimum Sum Scheme will stay.

"If you take out a lump sum, then you will have less left in the CPF, and your monthly payments will be smaller too," he said.

He also revealed that the Minimum Sum will be raised to $161,000 for those turning 55 next July. He said he did not see a need for further major increases.

But other changes could be in store for the CPF system, as the advisory panel to be set up by the Ministry of Manpower will study a range of issues, such as how the Minimum Sum should be adjusted over time to provide an adequate basic retirement payout, or how CPF savings can be invested more widely.





KEY CPF CHANGES
- More flexibility for Central Provident Fund (CPF) members, as they will be allowed to take out a part of their savings as a lump sum during retirement.
- Annual bonus payments for the elderly poor who have insufficient CPF savings, no HDB flat or family support.
-Advisory panel to be set up by Ministry of Manpower to study CPF changes.
- CPF Minimum Sum to go up from $155,000 to $161,000 for the cohort that turns 55 next July, but no need for more major increases.







Naming honours for first president Yusof Ishak
Move to ensure S'poreans hold dear his memory, ideals, values: PM Lee
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

SINGAPORE will honour its first president Yusof Ishak for his contributions to the country by naming a new mosque, a leading think-tank and a professorship after him, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

A new mosque in Woodlands will be named Masjid Yusof Ishak, and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) will now be known as ISEAS-The Yusof Ishak Institute.

A Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences will be started at NUS to enhance research in multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism.

"These are ways by which we ensure that future generations of Singaporeans will hold dear the memory, ideals and values of Encik Yusof Ishak," Mr Lee said.

This recognition for Mr Yusof, whose portrait has been on Singapore currency notes since 1999, comes as Singapore seeks to better acknowledge its pioneers' efforts ahead of the 50th anniversary of independence next year.

Mr Lee paid special tribute to Mr Yusof at the start of his National Day Rally for being an outstanding pioneer who served as Yang di-Pertuan Negara after Singapore gained self-government in 1959, and as president in 1965. He died in office in 1970.



Speaking in Malay, Mr Lee said Mr Yusof was a deeply religious man, and at the same time had close and friendly relationships with non-Muslims and strongly supported multiracial policies.

He was also committed to helping all communities progress via education, and had also helped strengthen Singapore's ties with its neighbours, Mr Lee added.

Turning to Mr Yusof's widow, who was in the audience, he said: "We are grateful for all the contributions and sacrifices made by your late husband to the nation."

Madam Noor Aishah later told reporters she was very grateful for the recognition: "I thought, 43 years, already forgotten, but still they remember him."

She recalled how before Mr Yusof died, he told her he was upset as he felt he had not done enough for the Malay community. But now, with the PM speaking on how Malays have progressed, "he would be very happy".

Mr Yusof, she added, had always wanted to see all Singaporeans progress and work together.

In his speech, Mr Lee said Singapore's pioneers exemplified the spirit of partnership and sacrifice the country hoped to foster.

Alluding to how Malays had the option of crossing the Causeway when Singapore and Malaysia split, he said: "Pioneer Malays had a choice at independence, and you cast your lot with Singapore.

"Your choice enabled Singapore to grow into a unique multiracial and multi-religious society. Thank you for having faith in Singapore, and working with other communities to set Singapore on a path to development."

NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said the professorship will allow NUS to continue Mr Yusof's "legacy of furthering understanding of multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism for an inclusive and progressive society".

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said the tributes were a fitting testimony of how Mr Yusof was "a Singaporean Singaporean, truly reflecting the merits of meritocracy, the principle of multiracialism and other principles we hold dear".







CELEBRATING PIONEERS

THE KING OF CARDS

“Some newspapers have called this red-and-white card the ‘red card’. This is not the red card that everybody has seen at the World Cup, even though it is as powerful! With this red card, you will enjoy more subsidies... And this card has no expiry date so you can use it for life. This is why it is the king of cards!”

– PM Lee, on the Pioneer Generation card that is being distributed to seniors aged 65 and older this year, and who became Singapore citizens before 1987



THANK YOU FOR YOUR FAITH IN SINGAPORE

“Pioneer Malays had a choice at independence, and you cast your lot with Singapore. Your choice enabled Singapore to grow into a unique multiracial and multi-religious society. Thank you for having faith in Singapore, and working with other communities to set Singapore on a path to development.”

– PM Lee Hsien Loong






Meritocracy, multiracialism, modernism
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

AS PRESIDENT of a newly-independent Singapore, Mr Yusof Ishak went down to the ground to reassure citizens stunned by their sudden ejection from Malaysia, rallying them to forge an inclusive multiracial society as part of their new national identity.

He visited constituencies all over the island, standing upright in an open Land Rover, walking for hours in the hot sun.

"He was a president for all Singaporeans," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the National Day Rally. "Encik Yusof showed that in Singapore, you can rise to the top if you work hard. He stood for enduring values that underpinned Singapore's success: meritocracy, multiracialism, modernisation."

Born in Perak in 1910, Mr Yusof was the oldest of nine children of a civil servant. He attended Victoria Bridge School before entering Raffles Institution, where he was one of 13 students - and the only Malay - in the Queen's Scholarship class.

He did not win the scholarship, but got a taste of politics as his father was an active member of the Singapore Malay Union, where Mr Yusof would later become a youth leader.

At 29, he started Utusan Melayu, a newspaper dedicated to Malay issues, and which championed the need for the community to modernise and focus on education.

Even as he gave the community a voice, he spent his years as head of state stressing the need for racial harmony and multiculturalism for Singapore to succeed, right up to his death from heart failure in office in 1970.

Said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim this month: "It was his firm belief in respect and multiracialism that held the nation together in our early years, and it was his drive in championing a progressive Malay/Muslim community that rallied our people together."

Mr Yusof said in his 1968 New Year message: "No man need feel that to belong to a particular religion puts him at a disadvantage or gives him an advantage... This is how things are in Singapore and this is how things must always be in our country. Only in this way can a multiracial society like Singapore live in peace and prosperity."






Heartfelt cheers for pioneers
By David Ee, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

FIFTY citizens from the pioneer generation were special guests at last night's National Day Rally.

They were invited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to represent the nearly half a million Singaporeans born before 1950 who helped transform the island from poverty to success.

Right at the start of his two-hour speech in English, and also in his speeches in Malay and Mandarin, he homed in on this cohort, thanking them for their sacrifices in building Singapore.

"Our pioneers were ordinary people who worked together to do extraordinary things. They overcame difficult and dangerous situations to build a sovereign, independent country," PM Lee said. "They always looked to the future and strove to give their children better lives than themselves."

And they were "rugged" just like leaders from former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's generation, who worked all the time and had no work-life balance.

Among pioneers present were former School Health Service director Uma Rajan, 74, who helped start the School Health Programme, and radiographer Ng Hon Weng, 79, from the Singapore General Hospital.

PM Lee also paid tribute to Madam Wong Ah Woon, 87, who worked as a Samsui woman for more than four decades, building Housing Board blocks and familiar buildings such as the Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Inviting pioneers in the audience to stand, he thanked them and led a rousing round of applause for them. "This is why we are commemorating SG50 next year: to celebrate the spirit of our pioneers, and to commit ourselves to their enduring values as we make our way forward," he said.

He recalled how he thought carefully last year about how to meaningfully thank the nation's living pioneers, before deciding to focus on health care.

Under the Pioneer Generation Package, citizens aged 65 who became Singaporeans before 1987 receive enhanced subsidies for outpatient treatment, additional annual Medisave top-ups and help with premiums for the new MediShield Life national insurance scheme.

He also spoke of a pioneer who is no longer around - Mr Rahmat Yusak, who died two weeks ago aged 95. In the 1960s, Mr Rahmat drove former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew all over as Mr Lee visited constituencies to rally supporters against the communists.

Addressing Mr Rahmat's son, Mr Mohamed Zulkifli, 59, who sat in the audience, he said: "We will never forget your father ...nor the many pioneers who built Singapore. They boldly wrote the opening chapters of the Singapore Story, and paved the way for their children to do better and write the rest."





Impact of conflicts far and near

“The world is in flux, conflicts far away affect us... Russia's annexation of Crimea showed us how important it is for countries to be able to defend themselves. The recent MH17 tragedy shows us that even though Ukraine may be far away, its troubles can strike us uncomfortably close to home...

Nearer home we see tensions in the South China Sea and the tensions are affecting sentiment in the region. It's affecting cooperation between countries, it's having an impact on confidence among businesses, it's even hardening attitudes among ordinary people towards other countries. And every foreign leader I meet asks me about the South China Sea!

We are not a claimant but we have upheld a clear position... to ask all the parties to exercise self-restraint in order to keep the region calm and avoid any mishaps.

There have been some positive political developments in Asia... Mr Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has won the presidential election in Indonesia, and Mr Narendra Modi is the new prime minister in India. They enjoy strong public support, but their tasks are not easy. How their countries fare will affect the whole region and I'm looking forward to working with them, and doing more with Indonesia and India.”

– PM Lee, on how developments abroad affect Singapore








Building opportunities by matching skills to jobs
By Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

INSTITUTE of Technical Education and polytechnic graduates will get a boost to help them match their skills to the right jobs and move up in their careers, with the setting up of a tripartite committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam for this purpose.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed in his rally yesterday that a university degree need not be the only route to a fulfilling career for young Singaporeans.

Having relevant and deep skills can also lead to good jobs that pay well - this lies at the heart of recommendations drawn up by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) committee.

Mr Tharman's committee, which will involve the Government, employers and unions, will put in place the integrated system of education, training and career progression for all Singaporeans as suggested by the Aspire team. It will also harness industry support and social recognition for people to advance based on skills.

Mr Lee noted that drawing up work and study paths for all students on a national scale will not be an easy task, as it involves many stakeholders - students, parents, government agencies, employers and unions.

Young Singaporeans must be persuaded that there are other ways to deepen skills and knowledge and advance their careers.

"Don't go on a paper chase for qualifications or degrees, especially if they're not relevant," Mr Lee said, adding that pathways and opportunities to upgrade will remain open throughout their careers.

Calling it a "culture shift", he said: "Singapore must always be a place where everyone can feel proud of what they do, and is respected for their contributions and character, where anyone can improve his life if he works hard, and everyone can hope for a better future."








Better job prospects for non-grads
Civil service to do its part by placing more emphasis on skills and ability
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

THE public service can and will do more in offering more career opportunities for those without degrees, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally address.

It will put more emphasis on how people perform their jobs and the relevant skills they have, rather than their starting qualifications, he said. The Government, as an employer, will do its part, as it encourages companies to value workers and advance them based on skills.

The public service will also merge more graduate and non-graduate schemes so that everyone will have equal opportunities on the same career track.

And non-graduates will be promoted faster to positions that were traditionally considered "graduate-level" jobs, once they prove they are capable.

Mr Lee highlighted Keppel Offshore and Marine as an example of a company that has provided structured career pathways for its employees, including non-degree holders.

Some government bodies, he said, have also offered fulfilling careers to non-graduates.

For instance, the People's Association, a statutory board, has a single scheme of service for both degree and diploma holders.

Staff advance based on merit, and that has allowed diploma graduates to move on to senior manager positions based on their abilities.

Another example is in nursing, where many senior nurses started out without degrees and worked their way up. "Some of them have earned degrees along the way but as a nurse, we assess you on your knowledge... ability, commitment, and not so much on where you started."

Mr Lee added that he hoped recent moves to give public sector nurses pay rises of between 5 per cent and 20 per cent in the next two years, and better career progression, will help them go further in their careers.

The Singapore Armed Forces also recognises people for their leadership qualities and abilities, and not just academic qualifications, he said, adding that it has "many paths upwards for non-graduates and military experts".

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat welcomed the moves to help Singaporeans gain deep skills on the job, but said in a Facebook post last night that the shift away from a paper chase would not be easy.






Plucky top students lauded by PM
By Pearl Lee and Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

TWO top Institute of Technical Education and polytechnic graduates with perfect grade point averages were cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night as examples of men with great character and resolve.

The first, Mr Divesh Singaraju, 21, battled lymphoma cancer not once, but twice.

He was diagnosed with the disease when he was 10, but recovered. When he was about to enter Singapore Polytechnic to study aeronautical engineering, he suffered a relapse.

The fortnightly chemotherapy sessions put him behind his polytechnic peers by a year. But that did not bother him and he emerged this year as one of Singapore Polytechnic's top graduates, and will go on to study aeronautical engineering at the Imperial College London on a scholarship.

The second was ITE College Central graduate William Tay, 21, who lost his hearing due to an illness when he was four.



While in ITE, he joined the photography club and the Deaf Dragons, a dragon boat racing team. He is now working to start a sign language club with his alma mater. He graduated last year with a Nitec in info-communications technology, and is studying for a diploma in infocomm security management.

Said Mr Lee: "Our students... are great examples of resolve, strength and character."









Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded Keppel Corp for focusing on the skills of its employees rather than their starting qualifications, and offering them pathways to advance. He said Keppel illustrates the shift in outlook that society needs . He interviewed three Keppel employees who have been promoted to leadership positions even though they did not go to university, one of whom dropped out when he was in Secondary 2.


Poly grad rose to become shipyard CEO
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

WHEN Mr Abu Bakar joined Keppel Shipyard in 1990 as a diploma holder, he never thought he could rise to become a chief executive officer.

The Singapore Polytechnic graduate started out as an assistant safety officer and slowly moved up the ranks, working in other areas such as production and marketing.

Today, the 48-year-old has been the CEO of Nakilat-Keppel Offshore and Marine, a shipyard in Qatar, for nearly four years.

"I was blessed, as Keppel guided me and really groomed me, entrusting me with more responsibilities along the way," said the father of two daughters aged 16 and 20.



He held posts overseeing Keppel subsidiaries such as Alpine Engineering Services, as well as its shipyards in Tuas, Benoi and Gul Road.

"It is about having pride in your work and doing your job well," he said. "There is some merit in having qualifications, but that should not be the only way we identify people with high potential.

"People may be late bloomers, or they missed chances to be educated because of bad timing or financial reasons."

"I appreciate that Keppel takes the lead in training and developing staff, and pays us according to our experience and skills," he said, adding he had gone for company-sponsored management and financial courses.

Last year, he completed an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) course with the Singapore Management University (SMU) which was also funded by the company.

This was done with the help of Mr Choo Chiau Beng, the former chief of Keppel Corp, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "He (Bakar) didn't have a degree; he had a poly diploma. The EMBA needed a degree to start," said Mr Lee. "Mr Choo Chiau Beng wrote a letter to SMU vouching for Bakar's experience and capabilities. So, employer support is very important."

Mr Bakar, a brigade commander in the Singapore Armed Forces, was also promoted recently to the rank of colonel as an NSman.

Mr Lee said: "I first met him when he was commissioned in the old Safti parade square 25 years ago on his commissioning parade, and I was very happy to discover on the day I interviewed him, that was the day he was being promoted."

"You do not need a degree to be a good commander," he added.

Mr Bakar said: "Upgrading should not be about getting promoted or higher salaries, but about helping you perform better at your job. Most people think you must get a degree to be successful, but I don't think so. There are other ways for you to get up.

"I tell my daughters this, 'Don't rush through school to get a degree. Enjoy school, build relationships with friends, so that you can understand life and your craft better'."





From school dropout to shipyard manager
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

MR ROY Lim, 57, now draws a five-figure salary every month as a shipyard manager at Keppel Fels.

But the man, who described himself as "playful", was a school dropout. After Secondary 2, he went on to the Vocational and Industrial Training Board, the predecessor of the Institute of Technical Education. But again he did not complete his studies there.

In 1977, after his national service, Mr Lim joined shipbuilding company Far East Levingston, Keppel Fels' predecessor, under an apprenticeship scheme.

He spent the first year working full-time, and the second year as a part-timer, attending classes at night.

"As an apprentice, I learnt skills such as welding, cutting and blueprint reading. Then as a technician, I was involved in building oil rigs," said the father of three sons.

His monthly salary was just $220, which was "just enough for a single man to survive", he recalled.



Thirty-seven years on, he has served in various positions in the company - a technician, a foreman, a superintendent, and now, one of two shipyard managers in the company.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described Mr Lim as "a role model", an example of one who excelled despite not having the academic qualifications. He also thanked Mrs Lim for standing by her husband through difficult times.

"There are many other Roy Lims... in Singapore. They may not have degrees, but are working hard and trying to improve themselves," said Mr Lee.

"So long as you work hard, you can always hope for a brighter future here in Singapore."

Mr Lim's daily tasks now involve going on board oil rigs to inspect them and mentoring junior workers.

"I told myself that I don't want to retire. Keppel is a family to me," he said.



RESPECT FOR SINGAPOREANS

I wanted to go for dinner, so I popped into a restaurant and the guy chased me out. You know what he said? 'You are Vietnamese; you are not allowed to come in.' I looked at the guy and I was stunned for a while; then I thought... I'm Singaporean. (So) I took out my passport, and he allowed me in.

- Mr Roy Lim, on the value of the Singapore passport. The incident took place in Finland when he was an engineer.






Working mum studying for diploma
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

EVERY week, Madam Dorothy Han works five days at Keppel Fels' shipyard in Gul Road, and spends three nights studying in a classroom at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

It is not easy for the mother of two teenagers - a 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son - but she is glad the company is willing to give her the opportunity to upgrade her skills. The 44-year-old is taking a part-time diploma course in engineering (marine, offshore technology). She joined Keppel Fels in 1989 as a trainee draughtsman, after completing an Industrial Technician Certificate in mechanical and electrical drafting and design at the former Singapore Technical Institute.

She left the company in the early 1990s to work as a contract draughtsman, before returning in 2004 as an engineer. She worked her way up, and is now a section manager in the engineering department, overseeing more than 60 people. Her speciality is in piping systems, which involves her team of engineers, draughtsmen and designers working on projects such as marine and drilling systems.



Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked her how she felt about being in a male-dominated industry. She said: "We are equal... if you can prove your capability."

Mr Lee also highlighted how Madam Han quoted a Chinese proverb to him on how "in every profession, there is a top master".

As for Madam Han, she had this to say about her employer: "I'm glad Keppel has a supportive management that looks at how we excel at our job."









No need for big hike in CPF Minimum Sum after next year
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

THOSE who turn 55 from July 1 next year must set aside $161,000 in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts, up from the $155,000 Minimum Sum for this year's cohort.

But after that, there will be no more major increases in this required Minimum Sum, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, although the sum will have to be raised from time to time.

He also sought to address unhappiness over the Minimum Sum scheme by explaining how the amount was "far from excessive".

Indeed, it may not even be enough, depending on how much one wishes to have each month during retirement, he added.

Since 2003, the Minimum Sum has been progressively raised for each cohort, upsetting some Singaporeans who feel that too much of their money is being locked away.

The Minimum Sum has been gradually raised over the past 10 years because the old figure of $80,000 in 2003 was "much too low", said Mr Lee yesterday.

But next year marks the final installment of these increases.

The new quantum of $161,000 is the equivalent of $120,000 in 2003 dollars - the Government's target for the Minimum Sum.

"Beyond this, I don't see the need for any more major increases in the Minimum Sum," said Mr Lee.

But it will still need to be adjusted from time to time, he added. This is to keep pace with rising incomes and spending needs, and to provide for a longer retirement as longevity increases.


This property pledge was one option that Mr Lee highlighted when explaining why the Minimum Sum scheme's requirements were not unreasonable.



Playing "financial planner" to a hypothetical Tan family with a monthly income of $4,500, he asked the audience how much this family would need in retirement: $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 a month.

The majority of the audience chose $2,000.

To get this monthly payout from age 65, Mr Tan would have to set aside $250,000 in his CPF account at age 55 - more than the $155,000 Minimum Sum for his cohort.

If he pledges his property, then he needs to set aside just half of this sum, or $77,500. But that means he will get only $600 in payouts a month.

Those who need more cannot depend on CPF alone, concluded Mr Lee: "You have to think of some other sources of income when you reach 65."

Mr Tan could keep working, rely on his children or draw upon his personal savings.

Alternatively, he could get money out of his house, assumed to be a four-room Housing Board flat worth $450,000.

Mr Lee gave several ways to do this. Mr Tan could rent out one room for $700 a month, or he could move in with his children and rent out the whole flat for $2,500 a month.

He could also sell the flat and move to a three-room flat or a studio apartment. If he tops up his CPF with the sales proceeds, he will get an extra $20,000 in the form of a Silver Housing Bonus.

And if Mr Tan moves to a studio apartment, he will get $210,000 in cash and $800 more a month.

But Mr Lee warned against moving in with one's children and then selling one's flat. He said he had seen "many sad cases" of seniors who cashed out unwisely and were cheated of their money, or even turfed out by their children.

It is better to keep property for assurance in old age, Mr Lee added. One way to do so is through the Lease Buyback Scheme. Mr Tan could sell part of his flat's 99-year lease back to the Housing Board, to get a lump sum of $27,500 in cash and $900 more a month - all while staying in the same flat.





4-room flats eligible for lease buyback scheme
Owners can sell part of lease back to Govt to supplement retirement funds
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

OWNERS of four-room Housing Board flats can now sell part of their lease back to the Government to supplement their retirement income, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced last night.

These apartments are now eligible for the Lease Buyback Scheme, which was previously restricted to three-room and smaller flats.

Introduced in 2009, the scheme lets older home owners sell part of their flat's 99-year lease back to the Government, keeping only a 30-year lease.

The proceeds are used to top up their Central Provident Fund Retirement Accounts, thus enabling them to receive larger monthly payouts under the CPF Life scheme.

The rest of the sales proceeds will go to the home owners as a lump sum in cash.

Mr Lee gave the example of a couple who own a four-room flat worth $450,000.

At age 65, if they have lived in the flat for 34 years, they still have two-thirds of the lease left.

"Let's say you live in this house for another 30 years. Then you really don't need the rest of the lease beyond that," said Mr Lee.

If they sell the remaining 35 years of the lease back to the HDB, they can receive $27,500 in cash and an additional $900 a month in CPF payouts.

The change could improve the poor reception to the Lease Buyback Scheme since its launch in 2009. Up until January last year, only 471 households took part.

The rules were relaxed in February last year, allowing home owners who have enjoyed more than one housing subsidy and previous owners of private property to qualify. Since then, another 312 households have signed up, according to a parliamentary reply last month.

Now, by extending it to four-roomers, more than half of all public flat owners here will qualify to monetise their flats through the scheme.

Flats are eligible if all the owners have reached the CPF draw-down age, which is 65 for those born after 1953. At least one owner must be a Singapore citizen, and the gross monthly household income must be no higher than $3,000.

The move to extend the scheme comes after feedback from the ground, said Mr Lee.

He added that in last year's Our Singapore Conversation exercise, many seniors living in larger flats wanted to be eligible too.

Other options such as selling their flat and moving into a studio apartment were attractive, but these older Singaporeans still preferred to grow old in their own homes.

Mr Lee said he fully understood this. "The surroundings are familiar, your old friends are around you. Your neighbours, you've known them for so long - you don't want to uproot yourself," he said.





Annual retirement bonus for the needy
By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

ELDERLY folk with little financial support will get help from the Government through annual payouts when they turn 65.

The money will help them defray living costs and be handed out as part of a new Silver Support Scheme, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

This will benefit the 10 per cent to 20 per cent of Singaporeans who have not saved up enough in their CPF accounts, do not own flats and are without family support, he said.

The extra money from the Government comes on top of other financial aid programmes such as the Public Assistance Scheme.

Mr Lee said the Silver Support Scheme supplements the payouts from the needy old folks' CPF accounts. This is similar to how the Government supplements the salaries of low-wage workers with Workfare payments.

Mr Lee did not give details on how much the bonus will be and when it will be rolled out.

But he said more details will be revealed in next year's Budget.

The annual bonus is part of the the "new way forward" for social policies, he said.

"Personal responsibility remains important but the community and Government will play a larger role," he said.

In the case of needy old people, "individual efforts are not enough. (The) Government and society must do more to help them in retirement".

Needy old folk said the bulk of their living expenses is covered by monthly public assistance payments. Still, they welcome any extra money from the Government.

Retired factory worker Hon Ka Yee, 76, who lives in a rental flat with his younger sister, said their living expenses are fully covered by the nearly $800 in public assistance that they get every month.

"With extra money, we can save more and go out sometimes to visit tourist attractions. It is nice to have something to look forward to," said Mr Hon.

But social workers like Mr Anthony Teo, a senior programme coordinator at Thong Kheng Seniors Activity Centre in Bukit Merah View, are worried that some elderly people may get cheated by dishonest family members.

"It is important that social workers give them financial advice," Mr Teo said.

Dr Lily Neo, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, said she hopes that needy old folk who are still working will get the bonus.

"Many of them are earning very little as cleaners. Having extra money will give them peace of mind," she said.





ASSURANCES FOR RETIREMENT

THE CPF TRADE-OFF

“How can members have more flexibility to invest their CPF savings, to accept more risks in the hope of higher returns? And for members who prefer payouts to rise over time because we would like to be able to cope with future rises in the cost of living. How can we offer members options to do that? Because there is a trade-off... If you want more in the later years, it means that you have to have less earlier on in the earlier years.

– PM Lee, on giving flexibility in using CPF savings



HARD-HEADED IN ORDER TO BE GOOD-HEARTED

“You must have economic growth to create opportunities for our workers to rise... Our economy must be competitive too. Companies have to be able to prosper, investments must still want to come to Singapore. We must have growth in order to look after our people well. So, we have to be hard-headed in order to be good-hearted.”

– PM Lee, on growth





Lump sum CPF withdrawals to be capped
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

CENTRAL Provident Fund (CPF) members will soon have the option of withdrawing part of their CPF savings in a lump sum after they retire.

But these partial withdrawals will be capped and "cannot be excessive", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last night.

This is because the core purpose of the CPF is to provide a steady stream of income in old age, said Mr Lee, adding that the limit could be 20 per cent of the total savings.

Still, Mr Lee warned that CPF members have to understand the trade-offs involved: "If you take out the lump sum, that means you have less left in the CPF, your monthly payments will also be less."

Currently, CPF members who turn 55 can withdraw their CPF savings after setting aside the Minimum Sum.

The Minimum Sum is now $155,000, but it will go up to $161,000 for those who turn 55 in July next year. Those who cannot meet the Minimum Sum can withdraw only $5,000.

From age 63, workers can start receiving monthly payouts from the savings that they set aside at age 55. The draw-down age increases to 64 next year and 65 in 2018.

Mr Lee acknowledged that the move to allow lump sum withdrawals, besides the monthly payouts, will help CPF members to do things that they have long wanted to do, such as going on a holiday, or help them deal with family emergencies.

"I appreciate why some CPF members want to take more money out... They have been saving up over a lifetime of work," said Mr Lee, adding that the relaxation in withdrawal rules came after it was considered "for a long time".

Member of Parliament Zainudin Nordin, who is also the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, backed the move.

"This will address some of the criticisms that CPF members cannot touch their hard-earned money," he said. "But there has to be a right balance because CPF is still fundamentally a scheme for retirement."

In his speech, Mr Lee pledged that the Government will build more flexibility into the CPF system and give CPF members more choices.

He said that the Manpower Ministry (MOM) has "worked out some possibilities" on the changes, but added that the issues are "very complicated".










New office to tackle estate matters
It will coordinate various agencies' roles in estate maintenance
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

THE longstanding problem of frustrated residents being given the runaround between different agencies over estate maintenance may soon be a thing of the past.

A Municipal Services Office will be set up to get different public agencies to work more closely together, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The office will help serve residents in a more seamless way, especially when responsibilities are split across public bodies, he said in his National Day Rally speech. It is part of making Singapore an "outstanding city" that is planned and run well, Mr Lee added.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu will oversee the new office, which will be under the Ministry of National Development (MND). She will work with MND Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The office will coordinate multiple agencies, such as the Land Transport Authority (LTA), PUB, National Environment Agency (NEA) and the National Parks Board. More details will be given out later.

The move to plug the gaps between agencies comes as residents lament that complaints and requests can bounce between several agencies instead of being quickly resolved.

Some progress has been made on this front, "but we have not arrived", said Mr Lee.

He cited the experience of South West District mayor Low Yen Ling, who had to call and meet several agencies in order to find out why a walkway in Bukit Gombak had been left dirty for some time.

She found out that a fishball stick had been left at the walkway for more than a day because different parts of the walkway were managed by different agencies. NEA managed the slope to the left of the walkway, while NParks took charge of the park connector in the middle, and LTA was responsible for the pavement on the right.

The fishball stick had fallen on the roadside to the right, which was cleaned every two days.

The issue was eventually resolved, but the experience had been "frustrating and difficult" for the mayor.

"Can you imagine if you're an ordinary citizen trying to solve such a problem and running around the different agencies? It's not the way we should be operating and we have to do better," said Mr Lee.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Zainudin Nordin, who is a former mayor and a former town council chairman, told The Straits Times that town councils are responsible for managing common areas in Housing Board estates.

"There are parts inside housing estates that don't fall under the ambit of the town council.

"People don't realise but roads, drains, bus stops are... not part of the town council's responsibility," he said.

He welcomed the setting up of a central office, which he saw as a "cockpit" from which to ensure that nothing falls through the gaps.









Lakeside area will get 'people's garden'
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

RESIDENTS in Jurong can look forward to a more vibrant neighbourhood, starting with an expanded Jurong Lake Gardens that will combine the existing Chinese and Japanese gardens and Jurong Lake Park.

The upcoming "people's garden" will also include a new Science Centre which will be completed around 2020, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

These plans are part of a larger transformation of the Jurong Lake District over the longer term and are about making every corner of Singapore an outstanding environment in which to live, PM Lee said at the National Day Rally.

Last year's rally shone a spotlight on development plans for Changi, Paya Lebar, Tanjong Pagar and Tuas.

This year, it was Jurong's turn.

The district has come a long way from its origins as a swamp decades ago, said Mr Lee. The Jurong Gateway part of the area is now a new commercial region with several institutes and shopping malls.

But the other part of the district, known as Lakeside, houses gardens which look dated and "under-utilised", said Mr Lee, who visited them in June. "I felt we could do much more," he added.

The entire area has potential to be transformed in an ambitious manner, he said. For example, the lake can be reshaped and the gardens merged to "create one beautiful set of gardens in the heartland".

And Jurong Lake Gardens can be a place where community gardeners can create and maintain "show gardens".

The National Parks Board will call for garden design ideas next year, and Mr Lee asked Singaporeans to chip in with suggestions.

The "jewel" of the Lake Gardens will be the new Science Centre, which will be built on the north shore near the Chinese Garden MRT station.

Nearby flats and park connectors, as well as the spruced-up Jurong River, will be integrated with the gardens.

Mr Lee added that the upcoming Jurong Region Line and Cross-Island Line, together with the improved North-South and East-West MRT lines, will improve traffic in the region.

In the longer term, the Ayer Rajah Expressway could be shifted to create more space for lakeside housing, making it as pleasant as living near Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park or Punggol Waterway.

The terminus for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail may even come to Jurong.

Said Mr Lee: "We're discussing with the Malaysians. We haven't settled this yet, but if we get the High Speed Rail terminus in the Jurong Lake District, then that will make Jurong a truly exciting gateway to Singapore."





Opening of Jurong hospital delayed by six months
By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

THE much-awaited 700-bed hospital in Jurong is pushing back its opening by six months because its construction cannot be completed on time.

Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, originally due to open in December, is now slated to open in the middle of next year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed last night.

JurongHealth chairman Lim Yong Wah and chief executive Foo Hee Jug have expressed "disappointment" at the delay.

It was hoped the hospital would ease the bed crunch, with some hospitals facing occupancy rates of over 90 per cent.

Main contractor GS Engineering and Construction, which has to pay a penalty of $100,000 for every day of delay, put the blame on a shortage of skilled construction manpower in Singapore and disruptions at the Thai factory making the facades.

Construction was to be completed by next month, giving the hospital three months to prepare for its opening in December.

But early this year, the hospital management realised things were not going smoothly and, about two weeks ago, made the painful decision to delay the opening.


The priority now, he said, is "to avoid further delays and ensure that overall capacity in the public health-care system is not adversely affected and patient care will not be compromised".

He has asked Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health (MOH), to work with all public hospitals "to ensure we have adequate capacity to meet the needs of our population".

Prof Ong said last Saturday that Singapore General Hospital and the National University Hospital have added about 150 beds this year.

Changi General Hospital will add 30 more when the new building it will share with Saint Andrew's Community Hospital opens at the end of the year.

Another 200 community hospital beds are being added this year.

They will add to the current total: almost 7,200 beds in public hospitals, more than 830 in community hospitals, and more than 10,650 in nursing homes.

Plans to close Alexandra Hospital for two to three weeks for refurbishment early next year - taking 330 beds out of the equation - will also be pushed back.

Ng Teng Fong General Hospital plans to open with 365 beds, and increase this to 550 in its first 12 months, with the rest to be added in the second year.

Prof Ong said successful measures to free up beds have been rolled out to all public hospitals. One is transitional care, where doctors, nurses and therapists go to patients' homes to provide medical and other support.

This has resulted in 1,400 patients going home 2.9 days earlier on average, freeing up about 4,000 bed-days.

Another scheme has seen patients who need intravenous antibiotics treated as day patients, rather than being admitted.

"Hot clinics" will also be rolled out to all hospitals. These involve emergency patients being given same- or next-day appointments at specialist clinics so they can be treated without being warded.

The MOH is also in talks with private hospitals to use their beds. West Point, Parkway East and Gleneagles are already helping the public sector. Next year, five nursing homes with a total of 800 beds will open to ease the squeeze. Work on another seven homes will start next year.








Honouring the pioneers
By David Ee, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014


MR RAHMAT Yusak, who died two weeks ago aged 95, helped in his own way to drive Singapore forward. In the 1960s, he was assigned to drive an open-topped Land Rover carrying none other than former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in the back seat. Mr Lee was visiting constituencies to rally supporters against the communists.

Mr Lee paid tribute to Mr Rahmat in 1980, writing in the People's Association (PA) 20th anniversary magazine about how the cheerful man had sacrificed many weekends for his work. "I cannot adequately express my abiding gratitude... he drove that exposed Land Rover with full confidence, bringing me to all 51 constituencies. (He) understood what was at stake."

For his services, Mr Rahmat was awarded a Public Service Medal (Bronze) by late former president Yusof Ishak. A widower who left behind six children when he died on Aug 5 from pneumonia, he shared Mr Lee's belief in a good education. One of his sons, Mr Afdoli Rahmat, 61, who works in advertising, recalled: "My father's income was not fantastic, but he raised us all well and gave us a proper education... He always said: 'Education is key.'"


WONG AH WOON

MADAM WONG Ah Woon, 87, knows what hardship means. A Samsui woman for 44 years, she helped build staircases in HDB blocks and other buildings including the Singapore General Hospital.

The back-breaking work required her to carry pails of cement and sand, for which she was paid $5.50 a day.

Born in China's Guangdong province, she came to Singapore in 1948 aged 21. She married a clothes-maker but was widowed when she was 26, leaving her with two sons. Three days later, her newborn younger son died suddenly.

She lives in a one-room rental flat in Geylang Bahru. Her son and grandchildren support her financially.


UMA RAJAN

DR UMA Rajan, 74, has played a key role in the health of every child here. In the early 1980s, the then director of the School Health Service came up with the idea to issue every child a health booklet, which kept parents updated on their children's medical conditions. She also developed the health education curriculum and planned immunisations and screenings in schools. On being honoured, she said: "I can't describe how it feels to be recognised for something you did as part of routine work. What we thought was important remains so today, and that is encouraging."








Dramatic progress by Malay/Muslim community
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

THE Malay/Muslim community has "progressed dramatically" in the 50 years since Mr Yusof Ishak was president, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, as he expressed confidence that it would continue moving ahead through education and training.

Speaking in Malay, he cited how household incomes had risen steadily and more Malay/Muslims were making it to post-secondary education and becoming professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

"Each year I look for examples of Malay/Muslims who have excelled in different fields. It's a noticeable trend - there are more and more examples, year by year," he said.

This year, 35 graduates from local universities got first-class honours, and two caught his eye.

Mr Lee cited National University of Singapore law graduate Afzal Ali, 25, now a pupil at top firm Allen & Gledhill, and Nanyang Technological University biological sciences graduate Fauziah Ally, 22, who went to a polytechnic and is now a researcher at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Ms Fauziah later said: "Like many others, I just want to work hard and provide for my family. I found my passion through science. Anyone can do it, once they have that motivating factor."

Despite these positive trends, Mr Lee also highlighted some challenges, citing health in particular.

"Hypertension, diabetes, obesity are all too prevalent," he said, referring to conditions where Malay patients are over-represented.

But he acknowledged there was a greater awareness of health, sharing how those around him at a recent breaking of fast were watching carefully what they ate.

He noted more Malays were making it to university, and more polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education students wanted to move up. He said: "We are helping more of them to do so... By working together, I am confident we can continue to progress. That is how the community has thrived over the past 50 years."








CHINESE CULTURE
New centre to promote 'Nanyang' style
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

SINGAPORE'S distinctive "Nanyang" style of Chinese culture will be advanced by a new centre which has the full support of the Government, the Prime Minister said yesterday in his Mandarin Rally speech.

Sharing a picture of the Singapore Chinese Culture Centre (SCCC), which will be housed in a 10-storey building in Shenton Way, Mr Lee Hsien Loong said that the centre will promote both traditional Chinese culture and the modern variant that has sprung up here.

"After many years of nurturing, Singapore Chinese culture has taken shape as the Nanyang style," he said, highlighting how the arts have come into their own.

In dance, for example, veteran dancer and choreographer Yan Choong Lian has introduced stylistic elements from other cultures to critical acclaim, while the Singapore Chinese Orchestra has also established its own Nanyang style to become a multi-cultural orchestra, he said.

Two men whom he singled out for praise for making the SCCC a reality were the president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations Chua Thian Poh and veteran arts administrator Choo Thiam Siew, who stepped down in March this year as president of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to become the SCCC's first president.

Mr Lee urged supporters of Chinese culture to come forward and help, calling the project a deeply meaningful and far-reaching one for the Chinese community here.

He also said a shared cultural heritage is one reason Singapore businesses have generally done well in China.

"To take advantage of this opportunity, we need to help our young understand their culture better, help them connect internationally, while ensuring they remain rooted to Singapore and our culture," he said.

He also used the opportunity to encourage more entrepreneurs to participate in forums organised by Business China, a government platform that matchmakes local businessmen with their mainland counterparts.

The revival of xinyao - a local music genre - also received mention.

Mr Lee even crooned the first line of a song penned by xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook, Small Stream That Flows Forever. "Who does not dream, when we are young?" he sang, drawing cheers from the audience.



He used the song to speak of Singapore's success, saying "our small stream has flowed continuously", thanks to each person doing his bit and achieving something extraordinary together.

"In Singapore, it doesn't matter if you are young or old, not only can you dream but there are many opportunities to fulfil those dreams," he said.

"Even if you are just an ordinary Singaporean."








Ordinary folk the stars of the Rally
By Chua Mui Hoong Opinion Editor, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

THE nicest moment of last night's rally came at 8.08pm.

That was when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on the 50 pioneer generation guests he had invited, plus all the other pioneers in the audience, to stand.

One by one, they stood. Mr Ng Hon Weng, 78, a radiographer, resplendent in coat and tie.

Madam Wong Ah Woon, 87, struggled to her feet with a cane. The former Samsui woman from Guangdong, China, won tribute from Mr Lee for having "helped build Singapore, brick by brick" - literally.

PM Lee thanked them for their contributions to Singapore, as the audience applauded in approval.

Ordinary people starred in last night's National Day Rally speech. It reminded me of PM Lee's second rally, in 2005.

That was when he started the practice of introducing a gallery of characters in his Rally speech - 19 that year - ordinary people with extraordinary lives. He has done so at various points in the last decade, and most markedly again last night.

In Malay, he paid tribute to Singapore's first President Yusof Ishak. He also told stories of two young Malay men who excelled academically.

But he devoted most of his English speech to people from the masses, showcasing a host of people, young and middle-aged, who did not start with university degrees but had done well.

He showed video clips of a group "interview" he conducted with three employees of Keppel Offshore and Marine.

Ms Dorothy Han graduated from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and now leads the pipe design section of the engineering department, supervising 62 people.

Mr Abu Bakar joined Keppel as an assistant safety officer and is now CEO of Nakilat-Keppel Offshore and Marine, a joint venture shipyard in Qatar. Mr Roy Lim left school after Secondary 2 and is now shipyard manager.

Their employer, Keppel, believed in them, trained them and gave them opportunities.

PM Lee made two points with his stories. One: "Singapore must always give our people full opportunities to achieve their potential."

Two: "Our pioneers showed that we can do anything provided we set our minds to it. And we must build on their legacy, and continue to give every Singaporean the confidence to shoot for the stars."

It was PM Lee's 11th National Day Rally, and he was in his element. Clad in a blue shirt from local shirtmaker CYC, he masterminded a multimedia presentation, zooming in and out of slides and videos with ease, showing the nation via live telecast close-ups of plans for the Jurong Lake area. He even broke into a line from a xinyao Chinese ballad, about dreams, at one point.

He tackled criticisms of the Central Provident Fund head-on but with good humour, role-playing a financial planner to a fictitious Mr Tan and advising him on his retirement options. (Message: The CPF Minimum Sum is necessary and not excessive to meet retirement needs; and don't take out CPF savings too early.)

Mr Lee has often shown a visceral understanding of the need to keep Singapore's pathways to success open and inclusive. It's one reason the venue for the NDR has been the ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio for the last two years, transforming an institution that cynics say stands for "It's the End" for Singapore's least academically inclined students, into an arena of hope and inspiration.

At last year's Rally, PM Lee had promised a "new way forward" - a new governing philosophy where the Government will do more to give people a helping hand to level up in life. This year's Rally builds on that, focusing on ways to help retirees, and helping workers gain deep skills and knowledge to advance in their careers.

Last year, health-care financing was the focus. The result was MediShield Life. In the next year, retirement adequacy will likely be the Government's obsession.

A glimmer of what's in store was seen yesterday, when PM Lee announced the best news of the night: The Lease Buyback Scheme will be extended to four-room flats, and not confined to three-room and smaller ones.

The scheme lets Housing Board flat owners "sell" the last decades of their 99-year leases back to the Government. For a flat worth $450,000 today, selling back the last 35 years of lease gives a couple a lump sum of $27,500 and $900 cash a month. It's good news for over half of all HDB flat-owners who can benefit from this scheme, letting them monetise their flat while living in it.

But Singaporeans must also understand that good property values depend on growth. Mr Lee took pains to stress that growth is necessary.

And growth means keeping Singapore open to foreign labour.

That, in the past, would have meant keeping Singapore open to folk like Madam Wong the samsui woman.

Pioneers built Singapore. And today's Singaporeans have to be "pioneers of our generation", as PM Lee put it, to build a brighter Singapore for future generations.









PM Lee signals the new way forward
Editorial, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech yesterday took up the theme of finding a new way forward for Singapore that he first outlined last year. Just as the pioneer generation of Singaporeans turned the promise of independence into the reality of a nation moving from the Third World to the First, today's generation needs to build sustainable edifices on the achievements of the pioneers. In some ways, this is the more difficult task because unlike in the past, when the choice for an essentially poor country was between survival and disaster, today's prosperous and secure Singapore is also more socially diversified. One important distinction is that between a new generation with impatient aspirations and an ageing population with new social needs.

Mr Lee's speech responded to the concerns of these two social segments, among others. Younger Singaporeans would be enthused by the promise of careers tied less to paper qualifications, although these remain important, and more to recognising skills learnt on the job. The work of the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) committee will help to create new opportunities for Singaporeans through structured education and career paths. That Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will lead a tripartite committee involving the Government, employers and unions to drive the process forward attests to the priority being accorded to it. The public service will make an important difference by giving more weight to job performance and relevant skills rather than starting qualifications. However, no one should underestimate the size or the significance of the change that will be called for, in mindsets in society at large if the new employment culture is to succeed. This cannot be legislated: Singaporeans must learn to value one another less for their academic qualifications and more for the contributions they make to society.

Addressing another segment of the population, Mr Lee responded to its concerns about the CPF scheme. Essentially, he upheld it as a pillar of the Singapore system, but introduced flexibility into its operations. Singaporeans who wish to exercise the option of taking out a part of their CPF savings in a lump sum must bear in mind the trade-offs that this entails, and remember that those savings are meant for their old age, and that they are personally responsible for managing what is, after all, their own money. At a broader level, the extension of the Lease Buyback scheme to four-room flats, and the Silver Support scheme for the low-income elderly, will bring greater peace of mind to Singaporeans. These steps signal a welcome effort by PM Lee and his team to flesh out their new way forward to bring all Singaporeans ahead, together.








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