Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong focused on four key issues in his sixth National Day Rally speech this year - the economy, healthcare, social harmony and shaping Singapore together.
On the economy, PM Lee said the eye of the storm had passed and GDP contraction of 6.5 percent in the first half of the year was not as bad as feared. Singapore's labour situation has stabilized, the third quarter 'looks alright', but the outlook beyond that is unclear.
He said we will see some job losses from restructuring, but as companies upgrade their operations, they will create new, good jobs to replace lost ones.
The Resilience Package introduced in January has worked and there was no need for a new prescription now, but the government will review this before the end of the year and decide what we need for next year.
PM expects the global environment to stay subdued for some time. He was optimistic Singapore can grow by serving niche areas, finding new markets and expanding our market share.
PM also singled out local companies that are doing well, such as Hyflux, and new business sectors, such as interactive digital media that is seeing a growing pool of talent. He said Singapore continued to attract multinational investments in high-end industries.
One key strength is the Singapore brand-name, which benefits local companies that venture overseas and gives overseas companies confidence to invest here.
As Singapore transforms the economy, our workers will need to adapt and upgrade themselves. The government will establish two national Continuing Education and Training Centres (CET) in Paya Lebar Central and Jurong Lake District.
He said the global economy will eventually turn around, and by then, Singapore will be all set to pick up strongly again.
PM said the government is gearing up our healthcare system to prepare for an ageing population. He noted the trend of older patients being admitted more frequently. After their acute condition has stabilized, they no longer need intensive treatment but are not well enough to go home.
He said the government is responding to these healthcare needs by putting in more resources. This includes new hospitals in old HDB towns (Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Jurong General Hospital), and increasing the government health budget.
But he said 'more' itself is not enough. Singapore needs to build up step-down care - community hospitals, nursing homes, general practitioners and home care. PM said the health ministry is working on upgrading home care to help caregivers.
Another key step is to link up acute hospitals with community hospitals, so that once a patient has stabilised, he can move to the 'sister' community hospital and receive 'slow medicine'.
PM said the best way to keep health care costs down is to maintain healthy lifestyles. He singled out the Wellness Programme started by Minister Lim Boon Heng as an innovative scheme, which includes medical checkups, regular exercise and social networking, which will be expanded islandwide.
He also thanked healthcare professionals and all involved for their performing their duties under considerable stress in the fight against the Influenza A (H1N1) virus.
Racial and religious harmony
PM Lee said social cohesion was critical to our long term success, particularly racial and religious harmony. Singapore has made much progress in over the past 40 years in building a stronger Singapore identity and visitors are often astonished by what we take for granted.
He noted the global trend of rising religiosity and that Singapore has also been carried along by this global tide. He acknowledged that religion was a positive force in societies, but warned against the risks of aggressive proselytisation, intolerance and exclusiveness by any religious group.
He set out four basic principles for keeping Singapore peaceful and harmonious. He said all groups must exercise tolerance and restraint, religion must stay separate from politics, the government must remain secular and Singapore must preserve the common space that all Singaporeans share.
He urged Singaporeans never to forget what being a Singaporean means - that is not just tolerating other groups, but opening their hearts to all.
Shaping Singapore Together
PM Lee showed the transformation Singapore underwent in the last five decades with a montage of pictures from the past and present -- from housing and community centres, to opportunities available and the Singapore Armed Forces.
He said Singapore continues to renew itself by delivering a first-class education system, a convenient public transport for all, and creating green spaces and a vibrant city centre to make it the best place to live, work and play.
Taking the audience on a 'fly through' video of the Marina Bay, he also gave Singaporeans a glimpse of what the centerpiece of the new city will look like in a few years.
PM said the way we celebrated the National Day showed what sort of nation Singapore is - our commitment to excellence, the ability to organize, mobilize and deliver results and the spirit of the people.
All this was epitomized in the Pledge moment, when all were united in one voice, saying what it truly means to be Singaporean.