Focus on how to grow S’pore and strengthen harmony: President Halimah’s last National Day message
As Singapore celebrates National Day on Wednesday, the nation should focus on how to grow Singapore, strengthen its harmony and plan for its future together, said President Halimah Yacob in her last National Day message on Monday.
She highlighted economic resilience, harmony and Forward Singapore in her message.
She said that Singapore’s economic success depends on its ability to stay relevant and add value to the world. Hence, Singapore has been consistently punching above its weight despite its constraints.
“Our ability to add value and stay relevant is even more important now in the face of unprecedented challenges arising from rapid technological changes, geopolitical rivalry, increasing protectionism and high inflation and interest rates,” she said. “We must stay exceptional and never lose our edge.”
Even as Singapore innovates and pushes new frontiers, it needs to focus on skills mastery so that its workers can benefit from the new and better jobs in the growth sectors, she added.
Madam Halimah also highlighted harmony, which she said is at the core of Singapore’s existence.
“Our independence was premised on our vision of building a prosperous multi-racial and multi-religious society,” she said. “National Day provides us with an important platform to celebrate our diversity together.”
This is an asset that Singapore must invest in and nurture and cannot take for granted, she added, noting that across the globe, racism and intolerance are rising.
A greater sense of insecurity and fears for their future, she noted, have driven people towards identity politics and to regress into their own separate enclaves, shrinking the space for understanding and peaceful co-existence.
“We have come quite far from the racial riots of the early years but can still do a lot more both collectively and individually to reject all forms of prejudices and stereotypes to reinforce the values of a cohesive and harmonious society,” she said.
“We need to go beyond the superficial and ceremonial and be prepared to have honest and respectful conversations over where we have fallen short.”
Compared to many countries, Singapore still enjoys a high level of social mobility, but the pace is slowing down, said Madam Halimah.
She said this is worrying especially if it results in greater income and wealth inequality, which can over time erode Singapore’s sense of a shared future and its social cohesion.
“Education and work are two key pillars in addressing inequality and efforts are being made to close the gap through reforming our education system and improving the quality of jobs through better skills and higher income,” she added.
“Meritocracy can work for everyone provided we first acknowledge its shortcomings and make deliberate efforts to examine and remove structures that perpetuate the current imbalances.”
Madam Halimah also highlighted Forward Singapore under Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, as a collaborative and cooperative effort to involve all Singaporeans to shape their future.
She said this is a platform for Singaporeans to rally together, as the challenges facing them are not internal but external, and the environment is getting more complex.
“You have a chance to have your voices heard and to make a difference,” she said.
She added that over 58 years, Singapore has defied the odds and created an exceptional nation: “Our forefathers standing at the first NDP at the Padang never knew what would become of Singapore, but they had strong faith and conviction and trusted Singaporeans to stand behind them.”
To move “Onwards as One”, Singaporeans will need the same tenacity, conviction, and support to build a better future for our children and grandchildren, she said.
Noting that this is her last National Day message, Madam Halimah said it has been a great privilege to have served as Singapore’s President for six years. Her term ends on Sept 13.
“I’m particularly grateful to Singaporeans for supporting the many causes that we had championed together, uniting in our efforts to build a more compassionate and caring society. Happy National Day!”