Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2019 National Day Message
8 August 2019
My fellow Singaporeans,
This year, we are commemorating our Bicentennial. Our schools, community groups, religious institutions, clan associations and even businesses have all organised events to tell their own histories. Many of us have been moved by the Bicentennial Experience at Fort Canning. It vividly depicts Singapore’s rich and eventful history down the centuries.
These activities remind us that our history stretches back well before 1965 when we became independent, and even before 1819 when the British arrived. Singapore has drawn from many cultures and traditions, in our journey towards nationhood. We have gone through many ups and downs.
This year, our economy has slowed down. Global demand and international trade have weakened. This has affected our manufacturing sector and trade-related services. In particular, we are feeling the worldwide cyclical downswing for electronics – which performed strongly last year. But other parts of our economy are still doing well. We have experienced such slowdowns before, and we will take this one in our stride. Should it become necessary to stimulate the economy, we will do so.
More fundamentally, the world is entering a more troubled period. We face grave challenges. One – economic uncertainties, with trade and globalisation under pressure. Two – strategic risks, with growing frictions between the major powers. And three – existential threats, with global warming and rising sea levels.
Singapore will not be immune to these global problems. On the economic front, they will disrupt supply chains, alter trade patterns and shift investment flows. We must get ourselves ready for a very different future.
But our past gives us confidence. Throughout our history, when trials and tribulations have beset us, we picked ourselves up, and worked together to overcome them. Each time the world changed, we were able to survive. Each time, we reinvented and renewed our economy, our people and our city, and we thrived again. And this is what we must keep on doing.
For the economy, we are making good progress transforming our industries. We are servicing advanced jet turbines, researching new cures for diseases, and pushing boundaries in fintech services. Our seaport and airport are expanding to meet the growing demands of a dynamic Asia. The two integrated resorts, or IRs, are being enhanced to attract more tourists. Our tech and startup scenes are flourishing. Agencies like Enterprise Singapore are helping entrepreneurs and companies to strengthen, scale up and expand into the international market.
We are also making good progress re-skilling and upgrading our workforce to be future ready. SkillsFuture is building up the skills of tens of thousands of Singaporeans, helping them be more productive and employable, and preparing them for the new jobs being created. All these structural measures will not only address our longer-term challenges, but also help see us through a more immediate downturn.
By continuing to invest heavily in our people, we enable each one of us to take advantage of new opportunities at every stage of life. This is a joint endeavour. The Government will keep on helping every citizen to achieve your potential and contribute your best to Singapore. Each one of us must strive to improve ourselves, do our best, and chase our dreams. And I know parents are making the effort to bring up children well, with the right character and values.
We intend to make preschool and tertiary education even more affordable, especially for lower and middle-income families. To help older Singaporeans, we have protected them for their healthcare and retirement needs. For those who wish to work longer, we will be raising the retirement and the re-employment ages. I will say more about these matters at the National Day Rally.
Finally, we must continue to renew our city. Recently, a foreign leader, visiting us for the first time, told me that as his airplane flew over the island, he knew at once that he was over Singapore. Because, looking out of the window, he could see that every corner of the island had been meticulously thought through and lovingly tended – every housing precinct, every landmark, every patch of park and greenery. The island was a sparkling diamond, with brilliant facets catching the eye. Just like Jewel, at Changi Airport, where I am today.
Many of you have already visited Jewel, to explore its lush gardens, soak in the sight of the spectacular waterfall, and enjoy the unique ambience under the glass dome. Some of you may also work in the many new jobs created here. The Changi team conceived the concept of Jewel nine years ago, when Changi Airport was facing intense competition. Since its opening, Jewel has captured the imagination of both Singaporeans and visitors, and rightly so.
We are very proud of our new gateway to the world. It reminds us what makes this country special. It shows that Singaporeans not only have the creativity and daring to reinvent ourselves, but also the passion and the competence to turn dreams into reality. As you might expect, other cities and airports are already planning to emulate Jewel, and perhaps even do it bigger and better. But we dared to attempt the new, and we did it first.
Jewel is just one of many things we are doing to remake our city. Changi Terminal 5, Tuas Megaport, the Jurong Lake District, the redevelopment of Paya Lebar Airbase, and the Greater Southern Waterfront – all these projects will keep us busy, and create new opportunities for Singaporeans for decades to come.
To stay in front of the pack, we must constantly come up with fresh ideas, always be ready to break new ground. What limits our possibilities is not the physical size of our island, but the ingenuity of our people and the boldness of our spirit.
Our island-story has many more bright chapters to unfold. Let us – today’s Singaporeans – be as intrepid as our ancestors who came from distant lands and made this their home; and be as tough as our parents and grandparents who endured war and occupation and rebuilt their lives. Let us be as resolute as the Pioneer Generation who fought for independence and founded our nation; and be as united as the Merdeka Generation who took up the baton and brought Singapore from Third World to First. Let us continue to work together as one united people to thrive in an uncertain world, challenge ourselves to explore new horizons, and commit our hearts and souls to Singapore and its future.
Happy National Day!