The National Day Rally is one of the most important annual events in Singapore’s political calendar. Delivered by the Prime Minister since 1966, this speech sets out the government’s perspectives, policies, and promises.
Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally 2022 yesterday (21 August 2022) at ITE College Central. Here are five key takeaways that will have a bearing on your financial life.
#1 Further Easing of SMMs: Singapore Will Not Be Taking a Step Back
PM Lee spoke about how Singapore has come a long way in the fight against COVID-19 and its many variants. By spreading out the impact of infection waves, Singapore has managed to protect the healthcare system from the strain of intense spikes in cases, thus saving lives.
With the local COVID-19 situation continuing to remain stable, PM Lee announced that the mask-wearing requirement will be further eased. This is in spite of the knowledge and expectation that we will encounter further variants and waves in future.
During the most recent Omicron infection wave, there were some in Singapore who wondered if/when the government will announce a tightening of Safe Management Measures (SMMs), which never came.
This announcement by PM Lee should leave us no doubt that Singapore is committed to its trajectory of living with COVID-19, and is unlikely to return to restrictions and lockdowns, unless absolutely necessary.
Businesses and workers, especially from those hard-hit by COVID-19, can take heart as they continue to rebuild their businesses and careers, stronger. PM Lee also commented that economic growth in Singapore is expected to be positive in 2022, despite global headwinds and domestic challenges.
#2 Government Will Monitor Closely Rise in Cost of Living
PM Lee acknowledged that inflation and the rising cost of living is top of mind for many Singaporeans. He explained that inflation was already a concern during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Things continued to get worse with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which led to rising energy prices around the world and disruptions in grain supplies.
In response, Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has allowed the Singapore Dollar to strengthen further, which makes imported goods cheaper in Singapore Dollar terms. However, PM Lee cautioned that this has to be managed carefully, since it has the effect of making Singapore exports more expensive, and thus, less competitive.
In addition, the government has already rolled out support measures, especially targeted at lower and middle income Singapore families. PM Lee gave his assurance that the government will continue to monitor the in inflation situation carefully, and is prepared to do more if necessary.
This should be welcome and heartening for the majority of Singaporeans for whom the cost of living have risen and put pressure on their purse strings. We are assured that inflation and the cost of living is an important issue for the government, and that we will not be left out in the cold to fend for ourselves if the situation gets worse.
#3 A Dire Warning About Geo-Political Tensions Around Our Region
One of the many spill over effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific is that it has strained US-China relations. PM Lee says that we can expect more geo-political contestation in the Asia-Pacific region.
As a region that has enjoyed peace for such a long time, it might be difficult for us to imagine that things can be different. But PM Lee called on us to look at Europe as a cautionary tale of how things can go wrong, and ponder whether we can really be sure that things cannot go wrong in our region too. He cautioned ominously, “We must get real, and we must get ourselves prepared psychologically.”
Undoubtedly, a war in Asia-Pacific will have disastrous consequences for Singapore, from a security, sustenance and economic perspectives. Perhaps it is prudent for us not to turn a blind eye to dangers, and instead, actively prepare for it, so we would be able to weather any storms that might hit our shores.
#4 Economic Climate We Enjoyed for the Past Few Decades is Over – And Will Never Return
The past few decades of virtually uninterrupted economic boom is gone –and never to return, said PM Lee. These were driven by globalisation and China’s growth, which led to stable prices, and a period of prosperity.
However, countries now need to grapple matters like with tariffs and build self-sufficient supply chains. These are causing a structural shift and require continued economic transformation and skills upgrading.
PM Lee concluded, “The basic reality is that international economic conditions have fundamentally changed… The recent decades were an exceptional period.”
#5 Singapore Plans to Attract Top Talent with New Initiatives
PM Lee spoke about the fact that talent is a crucial factor that determines the success of a country. Singapore must build a world-class pool of talent right here – this includes fostering our own local talent by enabling every Singaporean to fulfil their fullest potential, as well as attracting top talent from all over the world.
He said that there is a closing ‘window of opportunity’ to attract and develop such a talent pool in Singapore. This is because other countries around the world are also taking steps to attract talent to their shores to study, work, and live. PM Lee cited Germany and the United Kingdom as examples.
“We must seize this opportunity, to secure Singapore’s place in the post-COVID-19 world.”, said PM Lee. Towards this end, the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Trade & Industry, and other economic agencies will soon announce new initiatives.
Singapore’s aim to be a top talent hub is bold and exciting. If successful, it will bring about many economic benefits to Singapore and Singaporeans, creating good jobs, and supporting the growth of many enterprises.
National Day Rally 2022: A Silver Lining Amid Dark Clouds
This year’s National Day Rally is a sobering, but uplifting one. PM Lee acknowledged the many difficulties that Singapore is already facing – and those that are brewing. However, he also set out a vision and roadmap on how Singapore can emerge from this stronger, better, and more prosperous than ever.
We could take a page from what Singapore is doing, and likewise plan far, act boldly, and work towards a brighter future even as we grapple with the challenges of today.