Despite global uncertainties, Singapore must continue to grow its economy and refresh its social compact.
This was Singapore President Halimah Yacob’s main message in her address at the Parliamentary session on 10 April 2023.
While acknowledging that the nation must adapt and adjust to meet the challenges ahead, Mdm Halimah stressed that its fundamental foci must remain to thrive in the new world environment.
She explained: “We must stay connected to the world, strengthen our connectivity infrastructure, and entrench our position as a trusted and reliable business hub.
“We must develop [the] talents and skills of our people throughout their careers and continue to attract foreigners with entrepreneurial networks and expertise to help grow opportunities for Singaporeans.
“We must invest in innovation to unlock new areas of growth, including in digitalisation and sustainability.
“Importantly, we must nurture the strong tripartite partnership between Government, businesses, and workers.”
Mdm Halimah recounted that the national Forward Singapore exercise was established to ensure that Singaporeans can enjoy the fruits of the country’s progress.
She revealed that over 14,000 Singaporeans have been engaged through this exercise on fairness, inclusivity, mutual support and giving back to society.
Mdm Halimah elaborated: “We want every person to be treated equally with dignity and respect.
“We want a Singapore where everyone belongs and every citizen has the chance to achieve his or her fullest potential.
“We want a society that values and supports families; where we care for and help one another and pitch in to make a difference to our community.”
She added that there are plans to continue deeper engagements with Singaporeans.
The Singapore President shared that the values of the social compact will continue to shape the Government’s agenda for the remainder of its term.
First on the Government’s list is to expand opportunities for every citizen, regardless of background and circumstances.
With an emphasis on the continued importance of meritocracy, Mdm Halimah cautioned against focusing on individual meritocracy as it would lead to a more stratified, less mobile society.
She thus encouraged a broader and more open meritocracy that allows everyone to prosper.
Mdm Halimah said that Singapore needs to recalibrate its approach to work and education to move towards open meritocracy.
One way is to relook at how society rewards different skills and talents and recognises the many pathways to success.
Mdm Halimah said: “We should accord greater value to those who are skilled with their hands and contribute through their technical and practical abilities, as well as those with the social and empathetic traits to excel in jobs such as caregiving or community service.”
Another way is to enhance support for disadvantaged and vulnerable segments, such as lower-income workers, their families, and persons with disabilities.
The Labour Movement is also uplifting the vulnerable segment as one of its priorities to refresh its workers compact.
In highlighting the Government’s focus on strengthening Singaporeans’ social safety net, Mdm Halimah cited the support for mature workers at risk of skills obsolescence and unemployment during the pandemic.
She said the Government would look at extending such support further.
The President also emphasised the need to strengthen the national SkillsFuture ecosystem to enable Singaporeans to upgrade their skills and remain employable during their lives.
She said the Government would also look after seniors by boosting health initiatives, enhancing retirement adequacy, and expanding care and living options.
It will also ensure that public housing remains affordable and accessible to Singaporeans.
On the Government’s priority to deepen the sense of shared identity and mutual responsibility, Mdm Halimah said it would urge stakeholders to contribute even as it reinforces individual efforts.
She shared the example of involving employers in upskilling their workers and community partners to support vulnerable families.
Mdm Halimah said the Government would also do more to mobilise all stakeholders, especially youth, to play a role in nation-building.
The Labour Movement is also engaging youth as part of its efforts to renew its workers compact.
Mdm Halimah added: “Ultimately, our refreshed social compact is about a shared understanding of how we relate to and support one another in our next phase of nationhood.
“By pooling our individual expertise, experiences and resources, we can achieve better outcomes for ourselves, our fellow citizens and our nation, Singapore.”
The Government will also focus on building a smart and liveable city.
Mdm Halimah concluded that the trust among Singapore’s stakeholders remains key for the country’s future success.
She said: “The trust between our political leadership and people, and between Singaporeans themselves, is a key strength we must continue to nurture and cherish.”