Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Watz Buzzing - PM's NDR 2013

National Day Rally is promising but implementation is key, says WP

National Day Rally is promising but implementation is key, says WP

The Workers' Party has said that the Prime Minister's National Day Rally this year is "promising but implementation is key".

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim said: "The Workers' Party notes the Prime Minister's acknowledgment at National Day Rally 2013 of the need to strengthen safety nets and boost social mobility, in the context of a globalised world and rising inequality in Singapore.

"The Workers' Party has long advocated that the government needs to move in this direction, to give Singaporeans security and peace of mind in an increasingly competitive environment where not everyone can thrive on their own. We are thus pleased to hear of the 'shift' towards a nation where 'we are all in this together.'"

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SPP: PM did not utter a word on Population White Paper

The SPP shares the Prime Minister’s concerns about the global challenges to Singapore in the upcoming years, which the SPP discussed in our National Day message. We support his moves on housing, health care, education – these are overdue, and we urge him to do more for Singaporeans

But the elephant in the room was the Population White Paper. That has been the biggest talking point this year for Singaporeans, but the Prime Minister did not make a single mention about it. Has the government decided to downplay the White Paper, in view of widespread unhappiness from the people? What is the government’s latest vision for the future of Singapore’s population?

The major plans announced tonight to free up land in the heart of Singapore– such as moving Paya Lebar Air Base to Changi – should have been launched long ago, before the government mooted the 6.9 million population figure.

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PM LEE National Day Rally Speech 2013: derided, ridiculed, scoffed, mocked by many

I’ve had my say regarding PM Lee National Day Rally Speech. Surfing the net, I was keen to hear the views of netizens. As expected, most greeted the speech with derision and scepticism. Mad, rhetoric, cried others. One described it as a step in the right direction. Another said the speech was a good cure for insomniacs.

Why the negative reaction?

It all boils down to trust. A large swathe of Singaporeans no longer trusts the PAP government. PM Lee once again confirms this by avoiding hot button issues I mentioned in the preceding blogpost.

related: National Day Rally: too little too late

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This year NDR: The PM tried his best

Every media person was in a hurry. Yahoo posted a pic of the PM upside down but at least they were quick to fix that.

This government finally nearly caved in to every request of the opposition over the years. That's shrewd. The PAP will win big by listening. The worry is we were told over the years we can't afford them, so the question is how will they be paid. The PM admitted as much that the cost will grow over time and Medisave is going up soon. We have seen how it grew in other countries. To me this NDR is more significant for what was unsaid than said. That's is the simplest way to look good. Not much talk about public transport.

The coming change in the PSLE should alleviate academic stress to the very young. It is cruel to make them compete so hard. Time for the tuition industry to make their calculations. Henceforth the business might grow more slowly.

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The most stirring speech of PM Lee's career

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BN Special: Letters to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister... (Image by Ernest Goh)

I thought your speech was brilliant! You steered clear of babies, parenthood and foreigners. You didn’t turn the rally into an economic report card. You didn’t hector those who don’t agree with the G’s policies. Thank you for focusing on us, the people.

You know, this is the first time I have heard any politician use the term “faith” so many times. We’re so used to hearing politicians droll on about costs and benefits, pluses and minuses. On how we should be pragmatic and to calculate every step we make. Oh, and you didn’t use boring charts either. (Many of us like looking at housing prices…)

Okay, you did tell us to do a reality check. That the way forward that you are proposing is fraught with “risk”. I don’t recall the word being used in the way you used it. Usually, the G doesn’t advocate “risk”, preferring a “stable” path – yet here, you are raising the possibility that we might fluff everything and become a country bankrupted by health spending, and with too many unemployed graduates.

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Scoring the National Day Rally Speech: Forward thinking but short of visionary

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2013 National Day Rally Speech was touted to be a landmark one, and that’s a description that wouldn’t be too off-the-mark. It was a big, bold speech.

The most eye-catching announcements that are likely to generate talk in the weeks to come are the extension of Medishield to look something like a universal basic health insurance scheme, and the major infrastructural developments in the East and the South of Singapore.

Pitched in a more low-key manner but no less important is the announcement that PSLE is going to move towards banding instead of t-scoring. Politically, the speech has the potential to win over a large swath of middle ground voters.

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Sermon on the Mount

The original Sermon on the Mount was delivered by Jesus Christ to a massive audience which included his followers and disciples.

So is it not appropriate to equate the National Day Rally speech delivered by the beleaguered PM Lee Hsien Loong to an equally massive captive audience at the Institute of Technical Education's new Ang Mo Kio campus on Sunday 18 August 2013 with Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount? Whilst Jesus Christ discourse was on humanity and how to save the world from iniquity, our PM Lee's audience was regaled with a bombastic discourse on how to avert the PAP from sliding into political oblivion in GE 2016, which even worried the befuddled ESM Goh Chok Tong who called it "mid-life crisis".

So whatever sweeteners the gallant PM Lee offered in his rally speech could only be with the ultimate  aim of restoring public confidence in a decadent PAP Government in time for GE 2016. While there could be no demur from the captive audience, it was quite a different reaction from the discerning Singaporeans outside, especially the netizens, who viewed his discourse with trepidation and scepticism. No doubt some of his offers went down well with some affected Singaporeans like the extension of the housing grant of $20,000 to middle-income buyers of four-room flats, for example.

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Housing grants alone will not solve the public housing problem

The problem with rising cost of home ownership cannot be solved by merely giving more grants. In the 2013 national day rally speech, PM Lee said that families who opt for two-room flats and wish to upgrade to a three-room flat later on in life can qualify for a Step-Up Housing Grant. The Special CPF Housing grant will also be extended to those who wish to purchase four-room flats, and the income ceiling will also be raised to include middle-income households.

However, these measures by themselves will not solve the underlying problem. The cost of public housing in Singapore has risen much faster than the rate of inflation as well as the rate of wage growth. HDB flat prices have become more and more unaffordable despite all these grants. Increasing the grants alone will not help much if prices continue to increase at the current rate.

Currently, the majority of families take out a 25 to 30 year mortgage to purchase their HDB flat. We must ask why this must be so. Such a long mortgage term eats into their savings for retirement and hinders their ability to accumulate wealth for their golden years. If you have to take out such a lengthy mortgage term, it means the home was unaffordable to begin with.

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National Day Rally 2013

I attended the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally 2013 at the ITE College Central campus last night. Many of the initiatives announced were ones that I could agree with and support — not least because some were what my colleagues and I in the Workers’ Party (WP) had been calling for in recent years.
In WP’s National Day Statement two years ago, titled “Honouring our First Generation”, we said:

The men and women in our pioneer generation have borne society’s burdens for the past 46 years and more. They gave the best years of their lives to our nation. Our nation must now give its best in return to them. Even as we strive for progress and economic efficiency, our nation has an obligation to help this generation of Singaporeans live their latter years in dignity, comfort and fulfilment; free from worry and fear for lack of provision.
In last night’s speech, the Straits Times reported:

(PM Lee) specifically singled out a group he called Singapore’s pioneer generation, whom he said had worked hard to build today’s Singapore…
These people, in their late 60s and above, and now mostly retired, said Mr Lee, and had “paved the way for us to live a better life than themselves”, and “had fewer safety nets”.
“We must take special care of this pioneer generation in their golden years,” he said.
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My thoughts on National Day Rally 2013

National Day Rally (NDR) 2013 was much anticipated by many. It followed a year-long nation-wide conversation, termed as Our Singapore Conversation (OSC). OSC was announced at the previous year’s National Day Rally.

Then, PM Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the need to use the exercise for the nation to ask itself “fundamental questions” and to seek Singapore’s future directions. PAP Members of Parliament and OSC committee members had joined in the call that there should be no sacred cows in the review. MP Inderjit Singh urged the government to be willing to make radical changes. He said that ”If the committee comes out with incremental changes which are not significant, we would have wasted our time with this exercise.”

The public was let in on sneak previews of what would come out in the run-up to NDR 2013. Public expectations were high. I was awaiting eagerly to hear what the impending changes to education would be. This is an area I had championed for change even before I had entered politics.

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National Day Rally 2013: All for Singaporeans

This year's National Day Rally speech by PM Lee was all about Singaporeans.  There was nothing on why we needed foreign talent or how we should integrate with new immigrants.  Nothing on the cost of living or transport woes.  Nothing on the growing income gap or the low birthrate.  Instead, it was all about making the lives of Singaporeans better, in the immediate as well as the foreseeable future.  I think the loudest cheers of "District 19 huat ah!" were heard from the people living near the Paya Lebar Airbase on Sunday night.  The military airbase will be moved to Changi, freeing up valuable land and airspace for skyscrapers to be built.

If the speech was made by a member of the opposition party, perhaps the slew of announcements would be branded as populist in nature, but I guess I should just comment on the things that would affect Singaporean parents (this is a parenting blog after all) and not politicise the issue.

In all, I would say that the PM Lee has done his homework and showed that he has finally managed to connect with the ground (since his infamous "mee siam mai hum" days).  His observations on the public sentiments on the Primary One admissions process and the PSLE were spot on.  The proposed changes in both these areas are also significant steps in the right direction.  Of course, the path is laden with rocks that could trip us up if we do not proceed with caution.  Here's how: 

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Not a word uttered on Job Security

This year National Day Rally was conducted in Ang Mo Kio ITE, with the focus on the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) which just started more than a year ago. I believe everyone was looking forward to it. For me, I was looking forward to announcements on what the government will do to help Singaporean.

In summary of the rally speech, the government is looking to enhance three areas which are Health Care, Education and Housing. These three enhancement would probably bring cheer across the board. Although PM Lee admit that there is no fool proof to enhance the three shifts, but the government is still trying to get the best out of it. I felt that this is a step forward to change the way the things are going.

Although much cheers have been given to the rally,  I am very disappointed about the one shift of government policy which is missing in action – Job Security!

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Lee Steps Up Support for Singaporeans as Economic Revamp Bites

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged to improve housing affordability and revamp its health-care system, increasing support for citizens as the economy adjusts to an aging population and tighter labor supply.

In his annual National Day Rally policy address yesterday, Lee also announced changes to the education system and unveiled long-term plans to free up space near the central business district for housing, offices and recreation. The government will provide help to companies struggling as it tightens the intake of foreign labor, he said

Lee, 61, is stepping up measures to help Singaporeans buffeted by infrastructure strains, rising living costs and greater competition for jobs, education and housing. The prime minister said the country, which celebrated its 48th year of independence this month, is at a “turning point” and must make a “strategic shift” in its approach to nation building.

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Singapore unveils master plan for port, airport, waterfront

The Singapore government unveiled a master plan on Sunday to double capacity at Southeast Asia's busiest airport, build a new waterfront city, move its massive port and relocate a military airbase to free up land for development.

The plan announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong follows mounting discontent in one of the world's wealthiest nations over an influx of foreign workers and expatriates blamed for a range of problems - from strained infrastructure to among the highest living costs in Asia.

In an annual National Day address, Lee sought to allay those fears, elaborating on a trove of long-term plans that appear intended to counter a growing voter backlash against the People's Action Party (PAP) that has ruled Singapore for more than half a century.

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NDP Rally speech and Singapore's shores

What are the possible impacts of developments revealed in PM Lee's National Day Rally Speech last night?

Although there is always a concern that developments may impact existing marine life, this is also an opportunity to consider construction that would encourage marine life to settle naturally on artificial structures.

According to today's media articles of PM Lee's speech, most of what was revealed are not new. I could not find an online version of the PM's full speech, nor diagrams or charts of what actually will be affected. So this is just my best guess interpretation of information currently available.

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National Day Rally 2013: Quick take on proposal to move RSAF Paya Lebar Air Base 

The proposal floated by PM Lee is a bold one. It appears recently hatched as the land use map for 2030 released in January 2013 had left PLAB untouched.

The tract of land presently occupied by PLAB in the eastern part of Singapore is enormous. The footprint of the current air base is just one part of the land bank that urban planners can tap on.

Moving the air base would free height restrictions on buildings in the vicinity of its runways, particularly the EOR at both ends of the base which are now dominated by infrastructure for light industries.

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PM Lee: We Will Dream Big

The Sky Is The Limit

The Prime Minister gave an exceptional speech. I think and feel that it was one that spoke sincerely to heart. If you think otherwise, don’t bother reading this to the end – find something else to read.

Sure, some issues were not discussed, such as the Population White Paper, the cost of living and the state of transport. But those are stories for another day and post.

I want to talk about social mobility, as the PM spent great length on the issue by talking about improving the education system to give young Singaporeans the chance to succeed in life.

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Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally – Not enough

Heard Hsien Loong’s Rally speech and what came across were some cosmetic changes that were less than expected after the hype by Heng Swee Kiat. There were great expectations for sure but now the great disappointments. With the strong ground shift and the negative sentiments, many were thinking that this would be a good opportunity for Hsien Loong to make some dramatic changes as preparation to the GE in 2016 or a possible surprise snap election. If these were all that the govt was willing to change to redeem itself and its falling popularity, it was obvious that many would see it as plain inadequate.

First the changes on high cost of healthcare. There will be some savings for the senior citizens at the polyclinics and those using CHAS. The changes to the Medishield scheme to Medishield Life is not as good as it first appeared. This new scheme will cover all the seniors that lived past 90 and at first glance sounded very attractive.

But with this sweeping coverage that most seniors would not need, many would have died, many would not need a heart by pass or major ops, the failure to fine tune the needs of the very senior citizens would mean a huge paper cost to be shared by the rest. Everyone is going to pay for it

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Just Get Rid Of The PSLE!

In his National Day Rally speech last night, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong say that changes is coming for the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). During his speech, the PM says that the PSLE changes will make it more open, holistic and less over-competitive as it has become excessively competitive and it is causing huge stress to young students and their parents.

I have a better suggestion. Get rid of the PLSE altogether!

As I have said many times before, I am totally against the PLSE. In Singapore, children take the PSLE at 12 and this test will basically dictate the rest of their lives. The average age of a Singapore is 77! There is just no need for Singapore to start sorting out children at 12. To me, the PSLE is a system that makes no sense when you compare it to how long a Singaporean is expected to live and the number of years students need to be in school.

PSLE is Dead, Long Live PSLE! WTF?

PM Lee said PSLE is no more, or rather repackaged it a bit some time down in the future. When nobody knows. As PM said, as we all know already from kopitiam uncles to NUS academics, to decide a child's education path and fate at 12 on PSLE results is outright meaningless, however "meritocratic" it is.

Whether it is good or not, depends on whether you think the PSLE is similar to O Levels or not is good. The stress to students and their parents is still there, just that instead of the knee shaking T-score, it is now the nail-biting point system A1 - 1 point A2 - 2 points etc. Smokes and mirrors. LPPL

Anyway, PSLE is just a cultural Albatross around parents' necks. Parents conform to the belief that PSLE is the be all and end all in their children's education what. Even if they claim they don't believe in it, they participate in the chase nonetheless. The reason, if you speak to a friend, uncle, aunty, brother, sister who is a parent of a P6 kid, is that if they don't strive, there is a risk their boyboy or girlgirl would fall behind as other children and parents are way ahead hot housing for 4 A*.  LOL Time to run faster on the hamster wheel.

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Full coverage

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The Singapore Daily

– Five Stars and a Moon: *Gasp* Has the iron fist gone soft?
– TOC: National Day Rally – positive, but the best is yet to be
– Breakfast Network: Letters to the PM: I don’t mind a change of heart
– Breakfast Network: To PM: Would attempts to instil volunteerism in the young work?
– Singapore Affairs: Not a word uttered on Job Security
– New Nation: S’porean superhero priced out of car market, fights crime by taking train
– The Sun Shines on Singapore: NDR 2013: WP’s Old Wine and PAP’s New Bottle
– Yee Jenn Jong: My thoughts on National Day Rally 2013
– Andrew Loh: Nothing epochal – only tweaks

National Day Rally Speech (Housing)
– Sgpolitics.net: NDR 2013: Housing grants alone will not solve public housing problem

National Day Rally Speech (Education)
– Petunia Lee: Every School A Good School. Really?
– SGbangla: Understanding our Education System
– The Wacky Duo: Primary one registration 2015 : Changes and impact
– TOC: Why PM gave little comfort on education policies
– Reflections on Change: PSLE - Does Blurring the Difference Make Any Difference?

National Day Rally Speech (Healthcare)
– Spore & Beyond: Talking about ‘personal responsibility’ to thinking about ‘nation’
– Singapore Armchair Critic: Healthcare Financing: Tweaks or Tricks?
– The Heart Truths: National Day Rally 2013: But How Much Will The Government Pay?
– The Void Decker: Why Must Medishield Break Even?
– Dewdrop Notes: Die Happy, Die Pretty, Die Desperately Clinging to Life
– Where Bears Roam Free: Lee Hsiao Loong’s mad plan to medisuck your funds dry

National Day Rally Speech (Future Developments)
– New Nation: Project Jewel at Changi will be a one-boob wonder

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continue: Tweaks or Tricks - PM's NDR 2013