SINGAPORE: Over the last two weeks, the public has been invited to send in their questions for a '"live" forum with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Here is what he has to say on issues ranging from retirement adequacy to education.
8.57PM On Singapore's future: We are a small country. We used to say we are a sampan, now maybe we are a boat with a motor, self-propelled. The seas are unpredictable. We didn't expect to come this far. In the next 50 years, we hope to go as far. Things can go wrong, and we must be be prepared for that. You must have that steel in you. We have to take the setbacks, and move on, and move on together.
8.55PM On redeveloping Mandai: We have something in mind to make the zoo much better, and bigger. There is space - land is available next to the nature reserve. If you can extend the zoo to those parts, I think that would be very interesting. We have something in mind - green, improved, that will enhance the nature reserves while not infringing on it. Why not move the Jurong Birdpark to where the zoo is? You want an attraction like Gardens By The Bay, with public areas where you can wander around, watch the sunset. It can be a very beautiful place. By 2020 we should see something. We have been talking to some of the nature groups, and I'm sure they will help us to refine and improve the plan.
8.47PM On space constraints and heritage: We have ideas for putting plants, factories underground. We will explore that further. We cannot keep everything undisturbed, but important things we have to keep - like Chinatown, Little India. From time to time we have to make tough choices. We have to build in Bukit Brown, but we can try to disturb fewer graves.
8.45PM On future leaders: Will there be a female PM? I hope there will be one. I shouldn't be PM when I am 70. Our young ministers are good and promising, and with time a leader will emerge.
8.42PM His childhood ambition: In Primary 3, I wrote an essay about being a pilot. Each time I go on an aeroplane. I peek in the cockpit and wonder what it would be like. Maybe it will be my hobby. My childhood heroes included Superman and Tarzan. I didn't like Batman very much.
8.40PM PM Lee shares parenting tips: I did change diapers, and in those days we used safety pins so you have to be very careful. As the child grows up you have to be his friend, his guide, his role model. Spend time with them, engage them. It's a very trying time for your wife when the baby is born, so support her.
8.35PM On NLB controversy on withdrawn children's books: It is an illustration of social tensions, and we have to bridge those differences. We are never going to be single-valued, single-cultured Singapore. We are diverse - that is our strength, provided we don't let it tear us apart.
8.33PM Will there be more MPs who are ITE and poly graduates in the future? I hope so. We will try very hard to look for them. Whenever we find a good man or woman we will field them. Charles Chong, Liang Eng Hwa - we didn't choose them because they were poly graduates, we chose them because they were good. We are casting our net very wide, we are inviting a lot of people to tea.
8.32PM Is there a glass ceiling for diploma-holders in the civil service? It should depend on your performance. Whether you are a graduate or not should not be so critical - for many jobs degree- and diploma-holders work side by side.
8.30PM PM Lee answers more questions on education: When you study for a degree, you have to be sure the degree is rigorous, and there is a market demand for it. Government universities, we make sure the standards are there, and the right courses are there in the right numbers. In private universities, you have to be careful. We can't say every degree or diploma is worth exactly the same and will be able to guarantee you a job. What counts is what skills you have, what contribution you'll be able to make.
8.25PM On the importance of PSLE: We have been grappling with the PSLE for a while. It's important because we use it to know how well we've done, and which secondary school you can get into. In other countries with no PSLE, the school exam is important and pressure is there. We have one good exam, PSLE, to decide which secondary school you go to, but we try to make every school a good school. PSLE won't be the last time you have to prove yourself. But beyond the PSLE, other things come into play.
8.20PM More questions come in about extending the retirement age: Australia has made the age 70, and they are taking many years to phase this in, it won't happen till 2030. I think Singapore can take a similar approach.
8.17PM On CPF: We want to make sure everyone has the basic provided for in CPF, which is why we said if you want to you can take out 20 per cent, but you don't have to. We should allow people to put more into CPF if they want to.
8.15PM On retirement age: We would like people to work as long as they are healthy, to stay active and stay connected. We have pushed the re-employment age to 65, and we would like to push it further. On a voluntary basis, we would encourage companies to keep re-employing people as long as they are fit. We are working towards raising the retirement and re-employment age, but that may take a few years.
8.11PM: What kind of growth should Singapore aim for? Growth that creates good jobs, that Singaporeans can benefit from. We used to grow more than 10 per cent a year when we were taking off very fast, then we slowed down. Looking forward, I think we have to get used to maybe 2 to 3 per cent a year.
8.00PM PM Lee answers questions on cost of living in Singapore: Expectations have changed. Today people have fewer children, but people put more pressure on themselves and for their children. Cost of living is on many people's minds. Yes, things have become more expensive, but incomes have gone up faster than prices. - CNA/xy
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