SINGAPORE: In his Lunar New Year Message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says the best way to strengthen the Singaporean core is to encourage more Singaporeans to marry, and have more children.
He says this remains the government’s top priority.
The Year of the Dragon has been rounded up with the Parliamentary Debate on the Population White Paper and Mr Lee said it was a difficult but valuable debate.
He hoped it has helped Singaporeans better appreciate the country’s demographic challenges and choices.
"MPs aired Singaporeans’ concerns over our population trends, and discussed our choices. We now have a roadmap to safeguard Singaporeans’ well—being and livelihoods, which will be reviewed nearer 2020. The government will also give priority to resolving the current strains on infrastructure, particularly in transport," he said.
Mr Lee said families are the basic building blocks of Singapore society as they shape the identity and sense of self, transmit values and anchor the people in a rapidly changing world.
He said Lunar New Year is an important occasion to celebrate with families. It is a time to thank the elders for their sacrifices bringing children up and when parents shower love on their own children, and teach them to respect their elders and stay together as one family.
Mr Lee said Singaporeans should do their best to keep such traditions alive, especially as social norms change.
He also stressed that the government will continue promoting strong and healthy families.
He said the Marriage & Parenthood package this year was a big step forward.
The government enhanced the Baby Bonus, gave first—timer parents priority in booking BTO flats (Parenthood Priority Scheme), and gave each newborn a Medisave grant.
These hongbaos will help parents cope with the practical issues of raising children.
But more important than financial incentives, he said, is fostering a pro—family social environment, and reaffirming Singaporeans’ mindsets towards having children.
"That is why we also introduced paternity leave and shared parental leave, and strengthened maternity protection for pregnant employees. I hope Singaporeans take advantage of these measures and have more babies. I also hope that over time, young people, couples, employers and society at large will become more supportive of marriage and parenting," he said.
Mr Lee also urged Singaporeans, as they celebrate Lunar New Year, to spare a thought for those who are going through difficult times, such as the less fortunate or families who have recently lost loved ones.
He urged Singaporeans to invite them to their celebrations as they are all part of the larger Singapore family.
Mr Lee noted that the Year of the Snake is said to bring peace and prosperity.
Even so, he cautioned that Singapore’s fate cannot be left to traditional beliefs.
He urged all to work hard to create a brighter future and he is confident that the nation will succeed.
Concluding, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to appreciate what the country has achieved together, and resolve to keep the nation harmonious and prospering.
Mr Lee wishes all Singaporeans a Very Happy Chinese New Year!
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