Thoughts over the PM’s Message

Lee Hsien Loong
PM Lee prepares to address the nation next week with the National Day rally.
 
The very first thing that you'd notice about PM Lee whenever you watch him make his National Day message is the impression that he doesn't know what to do with his hands. Maybe his press secretary should've had PM Lee holding a mic because that might allow the PM to look more confident and sure of himself. 
 
Last year PM Lee situated himself at ITE College Central to use it as a metaphor for the progress Singapore has made. This year PM Lee used the Alexandra Park Connector to make the same point about the nation's continuous march to modernity. I wonder from what place will he make next year's national day message from. The National Gallery? Or the Padang? Next year is SG50 so he should play up the nostalgia that nation will be feeling. 
 
Anyway let's get to the meat of this year's message shall we? PM Lee deviated from his usual narrative by dropping the vulnerability narrative. You know, the standard one the G likes to feed us to remind us that we as a nation struggle against the odds and that no one owes a living and how we need to remain competitive. PM Lee made no mention of this oft repeated liner this year. Maybe he avoided the doom and gloom bit because he didn't want to find himself repeating what Minister Chan Chun Sing said in his speech to the Economic Society of Singapore. But PM Lee did repeat the old refrain about how foreigners are impressed with us also known as the Singaporean exceptionalism card. Sorry sir but despite what you say, I'd like to think that it's better for us to stay humble as a society even we have much to be proud of. After all pride leads to complacency and that's a pitfall we want to avoid.
 
PM Lee's speech was pretty forward looking, with a focus on our youth studying within the ITEs and Polys; Reinforcing the notion that the G is leaning more towards practical education that teaches our students relevant skills that they can use to make themselves attractive in the global job market. Did you notice that he didn't say that all the ITE and Poly grads should go on to university? It could well be that the G is painfully aware that the developed world is becoming overeducated and that a degree is fast becoming extremely common these days. Instead, PM Lee chose to say that his team will do its darnest to help us all reach our youth reach their aspirations.  
 
There’s something else that he said along the education line that brought a smile to my face: 
"As Singaporeans, we must judge a person not just by his educational qualifications, but also by his skills, contributions and character. This is how we keep Singapore a land of hope and opportunity for all.’’ 
 
It's about time the G eschews the paper chase and actually look at what each individual has to offer. Here's hoping that they really do keep to this mantra.
 
PM Lee's message had an economic bent as well. He reminded us that our economy has to continue growing at a modest pace so that we can continue to enjoy our current standard of living. He neglected to mention how our economy is coping with the ongoing economic restructuring. Guess it's well known unspoken secret that our businesses are hurting from the drop in PRC tourism and lack of manpower.
 
He did however go on to the elephant that's been in the room: Retirement planning. 
 
“Singaporeans know that they have to prepare for retirement. People are working longer and saving more. For most of you, your HDB flat and CPF savings are key ways to fund your retirement. The HDB flat has allowed Singaporeans to build a home, and to grow a valuable nest egg for old age. Your flat is an asset which appreciates as Singapore prospers. My team is studying how to make it more convenient for retirees to get cash out of your flats, in a prudent and sustainable way.’’
 
“Besides your flat, the CPF has helped you to save for your old age. It ensures you have a stream of income in retirement. The scheme works well for many of you, but it can be improved.’’ Basically he's alluding to an upcoming announcement he will be making during his National Day Rally.
 
So what's coming on the CPF horizon? Your guess is as good as mine. If I had to guess I would say that it has to do with interest rates and investment flexibility since those are basically the only things the G can tweak without breaking the current system. One thing's for sure. PM Lee will definitely NOT talk about Roy Ngerng and the absurd claims the blogger has been making.
 
All and all, this was a very safe national day message without the normal doom and gloom. PM Lee basically set the tone for his upcoming National Day Rally speech with just the right baits to give us all something to look forward to hearing. I'm personally hoping to hear something truly bold and different.
 

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