August - People: Let's build a better Singapore together

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave, what some have called his most impressive National Day Rally (NDR) speech over the last decade, on August 18. While announcing few “strategic shifts”, he also drew curtains to the fourth year-long Singapore conversation in just over 20 years. 

NDR 2013

 PM Lee at NDR 2013, Courtesy: PMO

PM Lee at NDR 2013, Courtesy: PMO

What PM announced were the “shifts” in the government's policies relating to housing, health and education. It included the extension of the Step-up Housing Grants to middle-income households vying to buy a 4-room flat and stepping up supply of BTO flats so that an HDB flat is within reach of all Singaporeans. In healthcare sector, the shift was extending Medisave funds to be used for outpatient treatments as well as relaunching MediShield as MediShield Life providing universal coverage to all Singaporeans even for chronic illnesses. PM Lee also re-emphasised his government's commitment for ensuring that every school in Singapore is a good school.

As regards to housing, about 77,000 build-to-order (BTO) flats launched by HDB in the last three years of ramped-up supply period, tougher loan rules, as well as barring newly-minted Permanent Residents from buying HDB resale flats for three years, have already started taking effect. So much so, that analysts are claiming that home prices could dip a further 20 percent by end-2015.

 Courtesy: Our Singapore Conversation

Courtesy: Our Singapore Conversation

But existential questions of healthcare affordability, especially for low-income Singaporeans, and the society's fascination with Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) T-scores that has led to preferential treatment of schools by parents in Singapore, have remained unanswered. Taking clue from the PM [who said during his NDR that the PSLE aggregate scores will be replaced by wider grade bands, similar to those used in the O- and A-level examinations], the Ministry of Education didn't include the highest and lowest aggregate scores in the results slips of students in this year's PSLE.  

Our SG Conversation

During his NDR 2012, PM Lee announced the decision to start a national conversation on all issues concerning Singaporeans, to be called Our Singapore Conversation (OSC). In the year-long exercise, close to 47,000 people participated in over 660 sessions, and housing, healthcare and job security emerged as the top areas of priority for Singaporeans.