“These are things we can work on now…so that Singaporeans can start right, stay healthy, live smart.”
Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech on Sunday, 20 August, focused more on long-term social and personal issues, as opposed to economical and geopolitical matters. These issues are also important, said PM, to maintain prosperity and stability over the long run, and prepare us for the future.
If you missed his speech earlier this week, here is a roundup of the initiatives, opportunities and developments planned out in Singapore for the next few years and beyond:
Improving pre-school education
More available pre-school places
While there were 50,000 more pre-school places created over the last five years, PM Lee noted that there are still shortages in newer towns. To address this, the government will be creating an additional 30%, or 40,000 more pre-school places in the next five years, bringing the total to about 200,000. Priority will go to children up to four years old, the age group in which the shortage is most pressing.
Setting up of Early Year Centres
There will be Early Year Centres in new Housing Board Development (HDB) areas like Punggol, which will be set up by anchor operators such as PAP Community Foundation, NTUC First Campus and EtonHouse International. These Centres will partner Ministry of Education (MOE)-run kindergartens in the vicinity, and the enrolled children will also be guaranteed a place in these kindergartens when they turn five years old.
New centralised training institute for pre-school educators
A new National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) will be set up to train pre-school teachers and carers, akin to the existing National Institute of Education (NIE). This new institute will bring together various pre-school teacher training programmes from polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the SEED Institute.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will offer health check-ups at just $5 to Singaporeans above the age of 40, a substantial subsidy from the current rates of over $100. PM Lee explained that this is to increase the awareness of potential medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Healthier living habits
PM Lee also encouraged Singaporeans to adopt healthier lifestyle habits, like exercising more and eating more healthily – though he also acknowledges that this is ultimately down to personal choice and discipline. The government will support this with initiatives such as partnering NTUC Fairprice to offer special discounts on healthy food options.
Making Singapore A Smart Nation
Simplifications and integrations of e-payment systems
To address improvements in the e-payment space, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is working to integrate the many existing systems into one. This includes the recently rolled-out PayNow system, which allows funds to be sent across different banks to recipients via phone numbers instead of bank account numbers. The National Environment Agency (NEA) will also work on having an iteration of this system rolled out to hawker centres in phases.
The government will also deploy more unified point-of-sales terminals to vendors around the island over the next 18 months, which accepts multiple payment options such as credit cards and mobile phone contactless payments.
Development of new parking.sg app
PM Lee noted that despite having high mobile phone penetration rates and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, motorists are still required to display parking coupons in more than 1,000 car parks. To address this issue, HDB, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and GovTech have worked together to develop parking.sg, a new app for street parking. The app, which will be launched in October, replaces the 40-year old solution of tearing paper coupons, and comes with functions such as notifications, remote extension of sessions, and per-minute parking charges. “[There will now be] no need to rush back to your car to add coupons before the parking lady summons you,” PM Lee quipped.