Dec 2, 2012

Singapore - Important to balance govt's key goals for S'pore: PM Lee

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SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the government is adjusting the balance between its key goals to achieve Singapore's future objectives.

Mr Lee, who likened these goals to yin and yang elements that complement each other, said it is important to strike a balance between them.

Mr Lee, who is also secretary-general of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), said this at the party's 32nd conference on Sunday morning.

Stressing that the PAP must set a clear direction, he highlighted three key goals.

First, it wants to achieve a vibrant economy by creating good jobs for everyone, as well as a harmonious society where people can enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life.

Second, it wants a meritocratic system where people succeed based on their effort and contributions, along with special effort to help those who start off with less to do well in school and upgrade at work.

Third, it wants to build a Singapore where citizens belong and feel as one, as well as an open, cosmopolitan city that welcomes foreigners with the skills and talents to help the country succeed.

Mr Lee said the balance between these goals -- just like yin and yang elements -- will change will over time.

The government, he said, is in the process of adjusting them.

He said it is useful to re-examine the goals as Singapore advances as a nation.

Society must continue to be based on meritocracy

Mr Lee said meritocracy is a fundamental principle of the PAP, and that it is the reason why the party fought for a Malaysian Malaysia and left Malaysia in 1965.

He noted that there has been vigorous debate on meritocracy, with the most recent discussions revolving around the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and school rankings.

Mr Lee said: "I think it's right that we examine what we mean by meritocracy but I worry when I read (about) some people say(ing) that meritocracy is wrong, and we shouldn't have meritocracy.

"Because I ask myself, if we are not going on merit, if we are not going to invest in people who are capable, if we are not going to put capable people into important jobs, judging by how able they are doing their job, then how are you going to do it? What are you going to look at?

"You have a choice -- you can look at wealth... connections... you want that? Some countries do that, but I don't think that's a Singapore you want.

"Or you can go by race -- (If) that person is the right race, he gets extra marks in the exam, he gets extra advantage for school, for jobs. Do we want that? Is that the Singapore we have fought to build?

"I think when you think about it carefully, you will come to a conclusion that it's right that meritocracy is one of our fundamental values in Singapore and in the PAP."

Pressing home the point, Mr Lee spoke of how the country's system of meritocracy has allowed people with different talents and the disadvantaged, to move up.

"I believe we must still base our society on merit, but with wide definitions of merit and success," added Mr Lee.

Mr Lee stressed that as the ruling party, it must also lead Singapore; and that after all the discussions, the party must be clear about what it stands for.

Mr Lee said for Singapore to achieve its goals, the country needs good leadership -- and it is the PAP's duty to offer this to Singapore.

PAP to give WP a "tough fight"

Mr Lee also touched on the PAP's plans in opposition-held Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

He said the party is regrouping in the GRC and will give The Workers' Party's (WP) Members of Parliament a "tough fight".

He added that the PAP will support its team in Aljunied.

A branch chairman of a division in Aljunied GRC also shared views on the PAP's plans in Aljunied GRC at the conference.

Mr Victor Lye, who heads the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol branch of the PAP, believes it is not impossible to win back the GRC, even though it will be an uphill task.

He believes what is needed is a five-per cent swing in votes.

He said he is focusing on building a team of activists - different from the grassroots network.

It will be more targeted in its approach and reach out to the PAP's core supporters, as well as swing voters and new voters.

Mr Lye said he understands the odds against the PAP and stressed the need for party activists to win the hearts of the people.

Ultimately, he said, the outcome will also be shaped by national perceptions of the PAP and the opposition.

Mr Lye said while the PAP has made adjustments, the test lies in how connected the people feel towards the party.

The WP team of MPs in Aljunied GRC comprises Mr Low Thia Khiang, Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Muhd Faisal Abdul Manap, Mr Chen Show Mao and Mr Pritam Singh.

It beat the PAP team of Mr George Yeo, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Ms Cynthia Phua and Mr Ong Ye Kung in the 2011 general election.

Singapore's economic growth forecast

In his speech, PM Lee also talked about how the nation needs to balance when it comes to economic growth.

Singapore's growth will moderate over the years and is projected at about 1.5 per cent this year, but Mr Lee said to expect the numbers to be lower.

Mr Lee said: "MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry)'s projection is that growth is around 1.5 per cent. I asked MTI what about means, they tell me means can be higher, can be lower.

"We put in about because we are not confident we can hit 1.5 -- it may well be lower, which I would say, it's wise for us to expect it to be lower than 1.5."

And Mr Lee said he does not believe less growth is better, alluding to calls by some quarters for Singapore to move away from material aspirations.

Mr Lee said: "Who will be affected first? The lower pay workers. Because they are already in a tough spot and it's going to be very difficult for them to move up.

"Young people will be affected because they are looking for opportunities, they are looking for adventure, they are looking for challenge.

"(If there's) no growth, nothing happening and they will be off -- off to Australia, off to America, off to China, India, where the big cities are, where the bright lights are, where the opportunities are.

"And then, we will become an old folk's home in Singapore and we will not achieve our hopes, and we will not achieve our hopes for our children. So I think people who say don't worry about growth, we have our spectacles in the wrong direction, I think they don't appreciate this point.

"We have to calibrate, but we must find the right balance."

The third goal is to strengthen the country's national identity, while managing the inflow of immigrants.

"We cannot close ourselves entirely or freeze Singapore as it is today, or we would become a museum; not a living, vibrant city," said Mr Lee.

- CNA/xq/lp

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