• Junwen Chen

Nation Day Rally 2019: Here's What You Need To Know

The annual National Day Rally delivered by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set out the government’s views of current affairs in Singapore and globally, and its priorities and policies in response to challenges and opportunities of today as well as the future.

This year, we reflected on the Singapore’s journey with regards to the nation and its citizens, how US-China relations affects the country’s economy, ways in which the government provides support for companies and the workforce, measures to maintain affordable pre-school and tertiary education costs, as well as the impact of climate change on Singapore.

Here are 7 highlights of the National Day Rally and their significance to us:

1) Building the Greater Southern Waterfront 

The Greater Southern Waterfront project is one of the other major projects to modernize Singapore’s urban landscape. The new place to live, work and play comprises 30km of the southern coastline of Singapore - from Gardens by the Bay East area to Pasir Panjang, which makes it double the size of Punggol and six times that of Marina Bay.


Keppel Club, which is close to two MRT stations and Labrador Nature Reserve, has enough land to build 9,000 residential units (both HDB and private housing). 


The development of more office spaces in the area will mean more jobs. Mr Lee noted that several big companies like Unilever, Cisco and Google have already set up existing offices near Labrador Park. 


Two decommissioned power stations in Pasir Panjang will be redeveloped for recreational purposes.

Pulau Brani’s land is currently utilised by Brani Terminal. When the terminal moves out, new attractions can be built. There will be land designated for the labour movement to build resorts as well.

The Greater Southern Waterfront project presents opportunities for developers and investors.

Experts have concurred that public housing built from this project is set to be at the upper end of Housing and Development Board (HDB) pricing.

This is similar to prices of Pinnacle@Duxton in Tanjong Pagar, a 50-storey public housing development by HDB launched in 2004. Five units were sold at a record breaking $1 million or more in 2015, despite the units not being maisonette, executive or landed units. Apartments here are highly sought-after due to its prime location. Many flat owners have profited significantly from selling their flats for over $1 million, since new five-room flats were initially priced from $345,100 to $439,400.

Likewise, housing prices in the Greater Southern Waterfront are expected to appreciate over time. This is even more so with plans to establish entertainment and commercial activities in the area.

Investing wisely and ensuring profits are all about recognizing and grasping opportunities, and also diversifying your investment portfolio. 

Are we truly prepared to embrace it as opportunities arise?

2) Impact of climate change on Singapore

Climate change is prevalent and continues to worsen as the years go by. We have seen disastrous impacts of climate change in places - like the Amazon in Brazil being on fire. While many feel like such extreme consequences of climate change would probably not affect Singapore as much, that is untrue. Singapore, just as other nations, will experience both direct and indirect impact of climate change in the years to come.

Prime Minister Mr. Lee stated in the National Day Rally that we ought to treat climate change defenses as we would treat the SAF - “with utmost seriousness”. 

He also mentioned that “Work steadily at it, maintain a stable budget year after year, and do it over many years and several generations. That way we can afford it, and when we need it, we will be ready.”

It will cost at least S$100 billion to protect Singapore against rising sea levels.

Mr. Lee acknowledged climate change as one of the “gravest challenges facing humankind” and stated that the impact of climate change on Singapore will likely worsen.

“Our weather is palpably hotter, rainstorms are heavier, and this will very likely worsen over the next few decades, within the lifetimes of many of us,” says Mr Lee.

He listed other risks – rising sea levels, new diseases, more frequent pandemics and food shortages.

It will cost at least S$100 billion to protect Singapore against uncertainties.

How much will it cost to protect ourselves against uncertainties in life?

A simple rule of thumb is to have a protection of 10 times our annual income, not taking into consideration your current assets and liabilities. Certainly as our life progresses and we are at different stages in life, there will be different things to take note of.

When is the last time you have taken measures for your unforeseen circumstances?

Have you done your latest risk assessment?

3) Increase in CPF contributions for older workers

CPF contribution rates for workers above 55 will be raised.

This will begin in 2021 and the entire process will require about a decade, depending on economic conditions. 

Mr. Lee stated that “By the time we are done, those 60 and below will all get the full CPF rates,” adding that the CPF rates will only begin to taper down after 60, and level off after 70.

An increase in CPF contributions are meant to help workers save more for their retirement and CPF Life payouts.

Having said that, an increase in CPF contributions, which are tied to wages, tend to make a worker less attractive to hire.

If we were forced to retire, would we still have sufficient funds for retirement?

How much do you need for your desired retirement lifestyle?

4) Redesigning jobs for older workers

It was announced that the retirement age will be raised from 62 to 65 years old in phases - initially to 63 in 2022, and eventually to 65 by 2030. 

Re-employment age will increase from 67 to 68 in 2022, then to 70 by 2030.

The retirement age increasing to 65 should have been seen as a piece of good news for workers, since it now means that they are able to work to a later age (65) if they want to. Of course, there is nothing to stop them from stopping work at age 62 or earlier if they want to and are financially able to do so.

The question is whether you want to or have to continue working or not working?

Mr. Lee mentioned that it is important for employers to redesign training, jobs and careers by focusing on older workers’ strengths and abilities. There is also a need to adopt the proper mindset that would prime them to be adaptive and ready to take on new or different responsibilities. 

Re-skilling is not exclusive to older employees and those in their 40s and 50s should engage in it too, added Mr. Lee.

The retirement age to be raised is a reasonable move because of improvements in health, and better-educated and higher-skilled workers today.

There is a saying in Mandarin ‘活到老 学到老’ which basically means there is no end to learning. 

Change is the only constant in life. As we progress through life, are we adaptable and flexible towards the changes?

When is the last time you did something for the first time?

4) Increase in government bursaries for university, poly courses

There will be an increase in government bursaries to cover up to 75% of university courses, which is more than the current 50%. Bursary coverage for polytechnic diploma programmes will also be raised from 80% to 95%.

Annual fees for full-time general degree programmes will be decreased from about S$8,000 currently to S$7,500 at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and the Singapore university of Social Sciences.

“We want every Singaporean son and daughter to have the opportunity to receive a good education, and start well in life, regardless of family circumstances,” Mr Lee says.

 “(Students from less privileged backgrounds) should neither feel disadvantaged or inferior comparing themselves to better off classmates, nor should they be deterred from pursuing a course just because of money,” he adds.

 “This is fundamental to maintaining Singapore as an open meritocracy.”

How we start is not how we end.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Many successful stories come from humble beginnings.

Where we are in life is determined by the choices we make yesterday. And today with more bursaries and subsidies to grow and pursue our education, regardless of our family’s circumstances, it is up to us to take the opportunity and take a step forward to a better life ahead.

6) Investment in early childhood education

A significant amount of resources are being channeled towards developing good quality, government-supported pre-school choices available to all Singaporeans.Government spending on early childhood education will double over the next few years, from the current S$1 billion a year.

There are plans to increase the number of government-supported pre-school places from 50% to 80%. The income ceiling for families to qualify for means-tested subsidies will also be raised from S$7,500 to S$12,000 per month, which means that 30,000 more households will be able to enjoy the benefits. 

Additionally, the quantum of pre-school subsidies will be increased across the board. 

Mr. Lee also stated that in the medium-term, the government aims to lower full-day pre-school expenses to about the same cost of primary school plus after school student care. 

The government is investing heavily in early childhood education.

It shows the importance of having a good foundation that starts from young.

How much are we investing in ourselves and our children to have the right foundation in life?

7) US-China tensions: Implications for Singapore’s economy

Tensions between the US and China have affected the world economy and it is inevitable for Singapore’s economy to be implicated as well. Mr. Lee stated that while economic growth has slowed significantly due to weakening global demand, current circumstances do not warrant  

“But if the situation gets much worse, we will promptly respond with appropriate interventions to sustain the livelihoods of our workers,” he says.

“The Government and our union leaders are watching trends closely, we are prepared. We have experienced cyclical downturns like this in the past, and we are confident we can take this one in our stride.”

Mr. Lee also mentioned that it will be detrimental for Singapore in the event that US-China relations continue to deteriorate, and that “deeper and wider” effects will only be felt after some time.  

“Nevertheless, we must start preparing for them now, for Singapore must adapt to these new international realities,” he says.

In times of economic downturn, we expect to find better opportunities where we see lowered prices in a more volatile environment.

How do we make money from investing? We buy low, and sell high.

For long term investing, we can target towards long term growth instead of short term fluctuations.

Every generation has a legend. 

Every journey has a first step. 

Every saga has a beginning.

“All these will not be done in a decade, or even in one generation. There will be space for successive generations to fill with their hopes and dreams. Each new generation will leave their mark on our city, as their predecessors have done.”






This article was first published here.

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