Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his annual National Day Rally speech at the University Cultural Centre last night.
From his speech which was focused more on issues at home, I was glad that he spoke on an issue that has caused a sore point with Singaporeans.
The issue at hand is the competition that local students faced from foreigners in getting a place in a local university and local professionals who face stiff competition from foreigners for jobs.
After acknowledging that the difficulty in getting a place in a local university because of the intake of foreign students is a major bug-bear for parents and students, PM Lee announced that local universities will add 2,000 places over the next four years. All 2,000 places will go to Singaporeans.
He added that though the Government will always put Singaporeans first with it’s ‘Singaporeans First’ approach, he appealed to Singaporeans to look upon the presence of foreign students as ‘healthy competition’ that will raise the standards of local students and prepare them for the real world.
As for stiff competition in the jobs sector, PM Lee announced that the salary levels for foreign professionals to qualify for an Employment Pass (EP) will be raise again, the previous increase was in July, to pacify discontented white-collar Singaporeans.
He also added that the educational qualifications for foreign professionals seeking to apply for an EP will be tightened to make sure that they will have ‘real skills’ valuable to Singapore.
At the recent General Elections, PM Lee admitted that the Government was not doing enough to ‘listen to the ground’.
If last night speech, which at times was in a conciliatory tone, is a move by the Government to show that it has learned from it’s past sins and is ready to change, I would say that the problems PM Lee addressed was a small step forward in gaining back the trust which the Government had lost over the past few years.
PM Lee ended his speech by asking what kind of a country Singaporeans want Singapore to be in 20 years.
After listening to PM Lee’s speech yesterday, I want a Singapore which in 20 years time, doesn’t need a Prime Minister to give another speech to promise changes to the system in order to gain back the trust of Singaporeans.
I believe I speak for all Singaporeans when I say that for the next 20 years, we want a Government that listens to it’s own people.