Sunday, August 18, 2013

ND Rally: Govt to do more to support individuals & community - Channel News Asia

SINGAPORE: The government will do more to support individuals and the community, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally Speech on Sunday.

He said the government will continue to provide core public services like housing, education and heathcare.

At the same time, it will make three important shifts: 1) do more to give every citizen a fair share in the nation's success, 2) strengthen social safety nets, and 3) do more to keep paths upwards open to all.

"Singapore has succeeded because everyone has shared in the fruits of our progress," Mr Lee said. Incomes have risen across the board, values of homes have appreciated and Singaporeans have achieved growth with equity.

However, he said maintaining equity has become harder, with income distribution widening. The government must intervene more to keep the society fair and just, and it has been doing so in recent years, Mr Lee added.

Housing has been and will continue to be an important way to share the fruits of Singapore's progress with all Singaporeans, and level up poorer households, he said.

The government has moved to help more Singaporeans own their homes. In the last two years, the Housing and Development Board has built a record number of new flats, clearing first-timer backlog. It has de-linked new flat prices from the resale market, thus stabilising Build-to-Order (BTO) prices.

The Special CPF Housing Grant was also introduced to help poorer households buy 2-room and 3-room flats. Singles are also now allowed to buy BTO flats.

However, Singaporeans still worry about rising property prices. The prime minister said he will make sure every Singaporean family who is working can afford their home.

HDB will keep BTO prices stable, while increasing support for lower- and middle-income households. For families who can only afford to buy 2-room flats, the government will give them Step-Up Housing Grants to help them upgrade to 3-room flats later on. 

The government will also strengthen social safety nets like healthcare to give Singaporeans more assurance over life's uncertainties.

It will revamp MediShield to become MediShield Life. MediShield Life will become universal, will not stop at 90 as it is now, and will include those with pre-existing illnesses. Contribution rates will increase over time.

The government will also make outpatient care more affordable -- by enhancing Community Health Assist Scheme and increasing subsidies for lower- and middle-income patients.
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