Amid the chaotic state of world affairs, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s customary Chinese New Year message could not have been delivered at a better time. Mr Lee stressed heavily on the value of family and the role it plays
“Strong families make for a strong nation,” he said. As Chinese families in Singapore gather together in celebration of Chinese New Year, this message of solidarity serves as a helpful reminder that challenges bow at the sight of unity.
“Chinese New Year this year comes amidst anxiety around the world. The headlines are sobering,” he said, then began to mention some of the manifestations of chaos that the world has been forced to watch, including the bushfires in Australia, the flooding in Indonesia, the unrest in states like Hong Kong and France, and of course, the coronavirus outbreak in China. In response to these hardships, Mr Lee extended a hand of solidarity, saying, “We wish these societies well as they heal and recover.” He also expressed his gratitude that despite being surrounded by such chaos, Singapore remains intact. “We also give thanks that Singapore enjoys peace and stability that lets us together, as we do every year, to celebrate Chinese New Year in the warm company of friends and family.”
Mr Lee zeroed in on the role of Singaporean families. “When times are hard, we turn for comfort and support to our parents, spouses, siblings, and later our children,” he explained, following with aspirations he has for Singapore. “Singapore should be a society where families are celebrated and supported, especially young families starting out.”
Recently, the Singaporean government has started initiatives in support of the family unit such as educational subsidies, the promotion of more flexible work hours especially for parents, and subject-based banding in schools. According to a report by the Singapore Government Agency, new initiatives in support of families have been taken by the Singaporean government, such as the Baby Bonus Scheme, the Child Development Account, and a higher CPF Housing Grant, to name a few.
“In Singapore, as long as you work hard, you can be confident of a better life for yourselves and your children,” Mr Lee encouraged. He also expressed his support for young couples who want to start their own families, drawing from his own experience. “[T]here is no greater joy than hearing the laughter of our children and grandchildren, especially on festive occasions like Chinese New Year.”
With regards to the Wuhan virus quickly spreading across Asia, even making its way to Singapore as disclosed by the Ministry of Health during a briefing on Thursday (Jan 23), Lee urged Singaporeans to maintain a united front and to remain calm. “[W]e are well prepared,” he assured. “[W]e have been gearing up for such a situation ever since we dealt with SARS in 2003.”
Reassuring the public that the Ministry of Health is taking steps to combat the outbreak, Lee also reminded people that so far, the Wuhan virus does not seem to be as dangerous as its predecessor, SARS. He also expressed gratitude for workers putting in hours even during the holidays, all to keep Singapore running. “We owe them our thanks,” he said.
To end his annual speech, Mr Lee made a reference to the rat, whose turn is upon the Chinese calendar. “Let us learn something from the proverbial nimbleness, creativity and wit of the rat. These qualities will help us to overcome future challenges, and build a better Singapore for ourselves and our children.”