Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has published his 2023 New Year Message. He shared with us Singapore’s 2022 year in review and his hopes and aspirations for 2023.
It sounds like PM Lee has made 2023 New Year’s Resolutions for Singapore – but it is not in the way you would make yours every year, such as losing weight or eating healthier per se.
From waning COVID-19 measures to upcoming challenges that bestow us in 2023, here is what he wrote in his message.
Looking Back on 2022
PM Lee acknowledged that we Singaporeans have “a lot to be thankful for” last year in his recap of 2022.
We can finally say that things are returning to normal, just like in the pre-COVID-19 days. I am not referring to the new normal the Ministry of Health had told us to embrace during the pandemic.
In 2022, the Ministry of Health removed many COVID-19 community restrictions. We could finally beo our workplace crush’s beautiful smile in the office.
Large gatherings are also finally back after three long years. Concerts are coming back in full swing, with huge artists like Jay Chou and Billie Eilish making their tour stops in Singapore last year. More will come in 2023, including the most prominent K-pop girl group, BLACKPINK, this May.
PM Lee pinpointed two festivities that showcased Singapore’s return to normalcy in 2022.
The first was the National Day Parade we celebrated in August. With over 600 participants and 125,000 attendees at the Floating Platform and Marina Bay area, this was Singapore’s first full-scale NDP celebrations in three years.
The second was the flagship international event of the year — the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, which took place in October 2022. After being cancelled two years in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rumours swirling about Singapore not extending the F1 hosting contracts, the roaring engines were finally back in town. According to CNA, over 302,000 fans were in attendance over the three-day event downtown.
There were other huge events in 2022, including critical international conferences like the Shangri-La Dialogue and the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
Even the New Year’s celebrations last night in Marina Bay attracted a large flock of crowds, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) estimating over 500,000 turnouts in the Bay area. These numbers are similar to pre-2020 crowds. This was a telltale sign that things were finally back to normal again.
PM Lee said that these festivities rejuvenated and re-energised new life into our city with exciting races and live performances, showcasing a strong signal of how Singapore is finally “back in business” on the international stage.
The breathing city is finally alive again.
Looking Forward to 2023
However, PM Lee threw a word of caution about the COVID-19 situation both in Singapore and on the international stage.
He advised all Singaporeans to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and to jab the bivalent vaccines—time for a 2023 5G chip update, everyone. Jokes aside, the booster will be essential in keeping your immunity against COVID-19 up, as the effectiveness of past jabs may wane over time.
It is essential to stay safe and protected against COVID-19, especially since China is reopening their borders starting 8 January 2023. China is currently experiencing a new COVID-19 wave alongside a new and dangerous COVID-19 variant on the rise.
We must still stay vigilant to prevent another wave from happening in Singapore. Or else it will be another year we cannot lou hei with our extended family this Lunar New Year.
On the bright side, PM Lee hinted that the government could finally lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions if the COVID-19 situation remains stable, even after China’s reopening borders. We might finally know if the fellow taking the same train as us every morning is maskfishing us.
PM Lee believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught and prepared Singaporeans for future crises.
He acknowledged the need to strengthen our healthcare system and community networks even more so to prepare for future pandemics to come.
The government will be pushing out the Healthier SG initiative, which will mobilise GPs to partner with Singaporeans to live longer and healthier. Healthier SG will emphasise preventive health and improve care provision to Singaporeans, especially for our elderly population.
With healthcare addressed, PM Lee turned to the economic outlook for Singapore for the year to come.
When we were counting down to 2023, we also counted up our expenses. The 1% increase in GST took effect as of 1 January 2023. Our wallets are going out with a bang this year, for sure.
However, the GST hike was said to be necessary for Singapore’s fiscal position. PM Lee addressed that the rise in GST was needed to help finance our growing healthcare budget.
PM Lee knows that the GST hike will affect our costs of living. So, the gahmen will be issuing free money to us in the form of our favourite Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers, which we can use for utility rebates. Each Singaporean household will receive $300 in CDC vouchers.
Looking beyond Singapore, the international theatre seems not to be doing as favourable as we wanted.
The Russo-Ukrainian War is still in full swing, and the United States (US) and China are still embroiled in tensions. This reminds me of John Lennon’s song Imagine. Imagine all the people, livin’ life in peace.
PM Lee forewarned that major global superpowers, namely the US and the European Union, are on the brink of recession.
These economic challenges will spill over to Singapore, affecting our economic growth. Slower economic growth will likely be the case, as the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is projecting a slower growth of between 0.5 to 2.5 per cent in 2023.
Despite these challenges, PM Lee encouraged Singaporeans to unite to brace for the upcoming uncertainties together. Perhaps we could wave our flags, not just on National Day this time round.
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Not all is gloomy and dark in 2023. Every cloud has a silver lining, even in hot and sunny Singapore.
The government is still “planning and building for Singapore in many ways”, PM Lee shares.
Transport-wise, many new developments are still coming to connect and integrate the Little Red Dot better than ever. No more of the “East side, best side” debacle because it’ll be “Singapore, best side” soon enough.
PM Lee has touched on critical transport infrastructure.
The Thomson East Coast (TEL) MRT Line recently launched Phase 3 of the project last year, opening 11 new stations. The TEL line now connects Woodlands to Gardens by the Bay in just an MRT ride. Fellow Woodlanders rejoiced as commutes to Orchard, and Marina Bay were shortened by at least 15 minutes.
The TEL MRT Line will continue its expansion underway 2023. When fully opened in 2025, the TEL will serve one million commuters daily, connecting residents in the East with the North-South corridor.
Changi Airport’s Terminal 5 development works will likely be well underway this year.
Housing-wise, PM Lee acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused a lot of frustrations for new homeowners due to the BTO construction delays. He reassures that the government is “working hard” to catch up with the slacks and keep public housing affordable and accessible for Singaporeans.
He shared that HDB had launched nearly 10,000 new flats in November 2022, its largest-ever single BTO offering.
Looking ahead to 2023, he projected that HDB would launch another 23,000 new flats. The government seeks to maintain this “high tempo” to meet the demand for housing.
He expects to build up to 100,000 new BTO flats from 2021 to 2025. Maybe it is high time to ask our girlfriends, “ai BTO mai?”.
A More Inclusive Singapore
PM Lee aspires for Singapore to be a more inclusive and progressive society in 2023.
Last year, the government took strides to ensure gender equality, both at home and in the workplace.
They also work alongside unions and employers to secure CPF contributions and work injury compensation for platform workers, including food delivery riders.
They also introduced the Enabling Masterplan 2030, which aims to help people with disabilities to find jobs and live with dignity, just like the rest of us.
The most significant development in inclusivity in 2022 was definitely for the LGBTQ+ community. Section 377A, which penalises sexual intercourse between men, was officially repealed in November 2022.
He added that the Section 377A controversy was a longstanding and challenging issue, with views firmly held on both sides. He was, however, heartened that Singaporeans have responded with restraint and supported the government’s balanced approach – to decriminalise male homosexual acts while still protecting the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman from being challenged in the courts at this moment.
To conclude his New Year’s message, he encouraged Singaporeans to step up boldly and fight for their dreams.
“Even the darkest clouds have silver linings, but only for those bold enough to seize opportunities”, he adds.
He ends his message by wishing us all a “Happy New Year”.
After reading PM Lee’s 2023 New Year message, we can’t help but feel like the patriotic crying man.
Let us all embrace 2023 and its accompanying challenges and uncertainties as “one united people”, as PM Lee encourages.
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