Everything About PM Lee’s National Day Speech Summarised for You

Every year, you can count on three things in happening in Singapore:

  1. Our National Day Parade
  2. Residents gathering like a mob outside a new bubble tea store
  3. PM Lee giving his National Day Speech

1 and 2 may not be happening this year, but nothing will stop our prime minister from putting on his snazziest shirt and addressing the country before National Day.

In a two-toned purple shirt, PM Lee took to the Symphony Lake in the Botanic Gardens yesterday (8 Aug) and spoke about four important issues that residents are currently facing.

Here’s what he said.

COVID-19 – Goal is to Protect Both Lives & Livelihoods 

Of course, no speech these days would be complete without addressing the rather large elephant in the room: COVID-19.

“Our battle against Covid-19 has seen many ups and downs,” Mr Lee said.

“In Singapore, each time we think we are getting it under control, it has surprised us.”

The prime minister noted the disappointment felt by residents when we had to return to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) after the discovery of the rapid-growing Jurong Fishery Port cluster.

As PM Lee, said, it felt like a setback.

“But our goal was always to protect both lives and livelihoods. We have tried to strike this difficult balance through a combination of public health measures, social discipline, and financial support for families, workers and businesses,” he said.

Due to the “heroic” efforts of healthcare workers and those supporting them, the authorities have managed to keep everyone in Singapore safe, he added.

“Thankfully, very few lives have been lost to COVID-19”.

With our vaccination rate increasing by 1% daily, and 85% of elderly residents at least partially vaccinated, Singapore is now in a more resilient position, PM Lee said.

“We can now look forward to a careful, step-by-step reopening of our economy. This is how we can move into the new normal.”

However, as PM Lee said, the pandemic has strained fault lines in our society and brought up difficult issues that we need to deal with.

This includes lower-wage workers, anxieties over foreign workers, and race and religion.

Progress Needed for Lower-wage Workers 

Lower-wage workers have felt the impact of the pandemic “acutely”, PM Lee said.

Naturally, while many residents have had to deal with job losses and pay cuts, lower-wage workers are not as well equipped to cope.

“We have therefore given them more help in this crisis,” PM Lee said.

Since we need an “increasingly skills-based economy”, he said, there will be a need to support these workers and improve their lives and prospects.

This is why the authorities will work on boosting their incomes and creating new opportunities for upskilling and job progression.

Foreign Workers Needed to Complement Workforce

PM Lee also touched on the anxieties some Singaporeans feel over the influx of foreign work pass holders, such as the competition for jobs.

“Sometimes the locals feel unfairly treated, for instance when they miss out on being hired or promoted. Outside work, from time to time there are also social frictions, because some work pass holders and their families have not fully adapted to our social norms, nor fully integrated into our society.”

“I understand these anxieties and problems. The Government is addressing them,” PM Lee said.

He said the authorities are adjusting their policies to manage the quality, numbers, and concentrations of foreigners in Singapore.

However, “turning inward” would be against our fundamental interest, PM Lee said.

“It would damage Singapore’s standing as a global and regional hub. It would cost us jobs and opportunities.”

“Most importantly, it goes against our values of openness, and of being accepting of others who are different from us. We uphold these values, because they have anchored us, and helped us progress over the years as a nation,” he added.

Racist Incidents Are “Worrying” But Not the Norm

As PM Lee stated, maintaining racial harmony takes work.

Since social norms evolve with each successive generation, we need to constantly reinforce, reaffirm, and refresh our racial harmony.

The prime minister brought up the fact that several racist incidents have gained public attention lately, amplified by social media.

Such incidents are worrying, PM Lee said, but not the norm.

“Many more happy interracial interactions happen every day, but these seldom go viral.”

“The negative incidents do not mean that our approach is failing. However, they illustrate how issues of race and religion will always be highly emotive, and can easily divide us. Therefore, such issues will always need close attention,” he said.

However, it’s still helpful to bring up and acknowledge these sensitive issues, as long as it’s done “candidly and respectfully”.

It took several generations to bring people of different races and religions together, PM Lee said, and we must not give up on this “hard-won and delicate” balance.

“As our society evolves, we have to continually adjust this balance to maintain our social harmony.”

“It is the Government’s duty to manage these issues on behalf of all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion. To do this, we will need your cooperation, support and trust.”

You can read PM Lee’s full speech here.

Read Also: 

Featured Image: Youtube (Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore)