SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has started delivering his National Day Rally Speech.
The rally is being held at a new venue, the ITE College Central at Ang Mo Kio.
Speaking in Malay, Mr Lee said that in the next few years, three new mosques will be built in Woodlands, Jurong West and Punggol. By 2016, 18,000 additional prayer spaces will be added.
He said Malay Singaporeans share concerns of other Singaporeans in 5 areas -- housing, healthcare, education, jobs and opportunities.
Mr Lee said the government "will extend Edusave accounts and contributions to all students of school-going age, whether they attend madrasahs, study abroad, or are home schooled. This is a signal that we value every child, and will help build a sense of solidarity among the next generation".
He said the community should take advantage of existing training opportunities, upgrade itself and meet the competition head-on.
"Malay Singaporeans have made significant progress over the years. Your household incomes are rising and education levels are improving. Malays are excelling in many fields," he added.
In his Mandarin speech, the prime minister said Singaporeans should continue to work hard so that the next generation can do better.
A new approach is needed, as Singapore will face stiffer competition moving forward, and globalisation and technology will pose more challenges.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face many challenges. Mr Lee said they have tried hard to raise productivity, improve service standards and reduce labour costs. But they have limited resources and cannot do this on their own.
He said the biggest challenge for SMEs is manpower. Many SMEs have businesses but they cannot find workers.
Mr Lee said the government understand the difficulties that businesses have, and will try its best to help. However, it needs to control foreign worker numbers, otherwise it will lead to serious consequences.
The prime minister added that in the Budget 2013, the government rolled out a 3-year Transition Support Package, costing S$5.3 billion to help businesses reduce costs and raise productivity.
There are also many schemes available, but SMEs may not know about them. Mr Lee said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck will be meeting different business representatives to find out how to better support them.
The prime minister said the government has also been helping Singaporeans deal with challenges and coping with stress.
He gave examples of schemes that had been introduced over the last few years to help lower income families. These include the GST Voucher, Workfare and Special Employment Credit.
Apart from helping the needy, the government will also take special care of elderly Singaporeans. It will strengthen social safety nets and revamp the healthcare system by setting up a special package for them to lessen their healthcare cost burden.
"While we are dealing with current problems, we need to take a longer view of the future, to continue to build and find new opportunities for growth," Mr Lee said.
The government's priority over the next few years will be to implement policies to resolve the challenges that people face and help improve Singaporeans' lives, he added. - CNA/al
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