On 29 Aug 2021, Singapore’s leader, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took to the stage for the annual National Day Rally.
Thankfully, for all of us, he wore a red shirt for the occasion.
Now, if you don’t have an hour and 25 minutes to watch the entire speech, you can read on for the breakdown of what he said.
From an update on the COVID-19 situation in Singapore to a new approach to racial harmony here, here are ten facts about PM Lee’s NDR speech you need to know.
S’pore Did Better In The Fight Against COVID-19
Now, if you’ve been doing your part for Singapore by getting vaccinated when told to and going out only when necessary, you’ll be happy to know that you’ve done your part for Singapore.
According to PM Lee, Singapore has done “better than many other countries” fighting against the virus which brought the whole world to a standstill.
80% of the population here, he pointed out, has received two doses of the vaccine.
An Endemic COVID-19
While COVID-19 cases have risen over the past week, the number of seriously ill people was kept constant, and it is key that Singapore must maintain that.
With the Delta variant running rampant in Singapore, it is no longer possible to keep COVID-19 cases to zero, PM Lee stated, even if a lockdown is implemented.
Now, Singapore will have to live with a situation where COVID-19 is constantly present, and its people “COVID-19 resilient” with the vaccination shots and other measures.
While the brakes have to be tapped from time to time, he says, they’ll avoid a massive “jam brake” situation as much as they can.
For those who are wondering what an endemic virus is, you can watch our video explaining the phenomenon below:
A Change in Gear
Singapore has “survived” its worst economic crisis since independence, PM Lee says.
Unlike the past two years where Singapore was drawing upon its reserves (read: savings) to survive, the island nation must now “change gear” and work towards a sustainable future.
“It is about generating new growth, jobs and prosperity for the future.”
In other words, Singapore, over the past two years, was like an unemployed person who’s drawing on her rainy day fund to survive.
Moving forward, she must now be able to “work” and generate income.
How Will It Do That?
And how does Singapore plan to do that? By:
- Continuing to be a business hub
- Grow its own companies and entrepreneurs
- Attract more foreign investments
I know what you’re thinking: Is it a return to square one where foreign talents “snatch” our jobs again?
A Watchdog With More Bite
After COVID-19 happened, the government’s watchdog started baring its teeth at companies engaging in unfair employment practices, especially regarding nationality.
And it seems that the situation’s not going to change anytime soon. In fact, it’s going to be enforced even more.
The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment (TAFEP) existed to ensure a fair playing field for all employees.
Previously, they provide guidelines for employers to follow.
Soon, these guidelines will become laws, which will encourage both employers and employees to work harder to resolve a dispute.
S Pass & Employment Pass Criteria
In Aug 2020, the salaries for both S Pass and Employment Pass holders were increased substantially in a bid to “encourage” companies here to hire locals, among other measures.
You can read more about the changes here.
These changes, PM Lee assures, will be here to stay, and be tightened over time.
This way, Singaporeans will be assured that they have a fighting chance in the ring against foreign talents for jobs, and ensure that Singapore does not get more foreign talents than they can handle.
Progressive Wage Model (PWM)
Another focus of the government in the upcoming year, PM Lee says, will be on the lower-income workers.
These workers, he pointed out, are on the frontline during the COVID-19 outbreak last year, and they are the most stressed by the potential loss of jobs.
The Progressive Wage Model (PWM) will be rolled out to more industries, including retail, food services, and waste management, covering specific roles like admin assistants and drivers.
You can read more about the Progressive Wage Model here.
Besides the extension, the PWM model is also being equipped with one more “weapon”.
Companies that provide progressive wages to their employees will be awarded the Progressive Wage Mark.
Moving forward, PM Lee announced, the public sector will only purchase from companies carrying the mark.
Local Workers To Get At Least S$1,400
The PWM isn’t the only avenue to help our lower-income workers out.
If you remember how Jamus Lim argued with PAP for a minimum wage of S$1,300, it’s been sort of implemented.
Companies that employ foreign workers will be required to pay all of their local employees the Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) or a base salary of S$1,400.
In addition, the Workfare Income Supplement (Workfare) Scheme will be enhanced in two years’ time to give higher payouts and qualify younger workers.
These measures will help improve the lives of eight in ten lower-income workers, PM Lee says.
Focusing On Delivery Workers
If you’re a delivery rider in Singapore, I’ve got great news for you. You’re now another group of concern to the government.
This group, PM Lee says, works with online platforms such as foodpanda, Deliveroo, and Grab, and yet, they do not have employment contracts with them.
This means that delivery workers “lack basic protections such as workplace injury compensation, union representation, and employer CPF contributions”.
This means, too, that they’ll have a harder time preparing for their retirement or even afford their own homes.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will be looking into the matter.
New Racial Harmony Law
Racial harmony has always been the utmost priority for Singapore since the racial riots back in the 1960s.
And to maintain our current status, the government will be introducing a Maintenance of Racial Harmony Act.
Other than harsh punishments, the new laws will also carry “softer, gentler touches”.
This includes giving the government the power to order people to learn more about the other race and “mending ties” with them.
This way, PM Lee says, it’s hoped that repentance and repayment will heal the hurt instead of leaving resentment.
Tudung Allowed In Public Healthcare Sector
To our Muslim friends who have chaffed at not being allowed to wear tudungs at work, there’s an update for you.
From November 2021, nurses in the public health sector will be allowed to wear their tudungs with their uniforms, if they wish to do so.
According to PM Lee, people here are now ready for the change.
School students and Muslims in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the police, and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will not be allowed to wear tudungs.
For school students, wearing the same uniform “regardless of their financial background, religion and race” helps enforce similarities and help them bond in their early years.
As for those serving in the uniformed services, personnel must be seen as impartial and carrying out their duties in a fair manner.
“They must always be seen to be doing so without fear or favour. Therefore, everyone wears the same uniform.”
So there you go, ten highlights of PM Lee’s National Day Rally. Which one was your favourite update so far?
- Another COVID-19 Cluster Emerged in a Bus Interchange; Total of 7 Bus Interchange Clusters Now
- Health Minister: 80% of the S’pore Population are Fully Vaccinated As Of Today (29 Aug)
Feature Image: YouTube (PMO)
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