Nov 10, 2012

Singapore - Country's success cannot be measured just by GDP growth: PM Lee

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SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged Singaporeans to contribute back to society.

He said the country's success cannot be measured just by GDP growth, but also the growth of values such as compassion, altruism and empathy.

He was speaking at the Singapore Children's Society (SCS) 60th anniversary charity gala dinner on Friday evening.

Since it was established in 1952, the SCS has reached out to more than 67,000 children, youth and families in need.

Today, the SCS operates nine centres islandwide, offering services in caregiving, preventing delinquency, abuse or neglect, all-rounded development, rehabilitation, child welfare and public education.

Noting the society's good work, the Prime Minister said Singapore is better - for what the Children's Society and other voluntary welfare organisations have done.

He said: "It is most difficult to bestir ourselves, sacrifice our own time and energies, roll up sleeves, do the heavy lifting day after day, organising, fundraising, volunteering, and doing things which make a real difference to the lives of others. And this is what SCS and many other VWOs have done, and Singapore is the better for it."

Mr Lee noted that more Singaporeans are also giving back to society.

He said volunteerism is on the rise, while donations reached at least S$900 million last year - the highest in 10 years.

He said there is also greater passion and awareness of social causes, especially among youth.

But as the income gap widens and the sense of community changes with social media and the internet, it is important for more to give back.

But it does not mean the government will step aside.

"The government will always do its part to help the less fortunate especially through education, through housing, through financial assistance schemes but also through upholding meritocracy and keeping paths up open," said Mr Lee.

He added: "Whatever your family background, however difficult your family circumstances, if you are working hard, if you have the talent, you can make it and the doors are open and you can go all the way up to the top.

But Mr Lee stressed that the government is not able to do everything for the less fortunate.

He said: "The government cannot, and should not do, try to do everything. It is too impersonal. It can be bureaucratic and help then becomes a matter of social administration, not of care and compassion. And eventually, this fosters an entitlement mentality, instead of a sense of mutual obligation of and of gratitude between the helpers and the helped.

"Ultimately, it is not the incentives which make the difference. We hope Singaporeans will participate and will support such good works because this is the sort of people we are, and because this is the kind of society which we want Singapore to be."

Mr Lee said Singapore "cannot just measure our success by GDP growth, as important as it is, but also by the growth of our values - compassion, empathy, altruism, love for our fellow citizens."

Mr Lee added he is glad that many Singaporeans feel the same.

Mr Lee said the government will continue to encourage Singaporeans to give back to society, such as tax deductions or matching grants. It will also promote volunteerism, especially among the young.

The Singapore Children's Society aims to raise S$1 million through the gala dinner, through the support of close to 100 sponsors, donors and well-wishers.

Fourteen partners were honoured during the dinner.

- CNA/xq/fa

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