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     FrontPage Edition: Sat 28 Jan 2006

Prime Minister's Chinese New Year Message 2006



The Year of the Rooster ended on a high note. After a slow start, the economy grew strongly in the second half of 2005. Businesses across the board have done well.
Wages increased and many workers received larger bonuses. Most importantly, we created many new jobs and brought our unemployment rate down significantly.
The Year of the Dog looks promising.
The global outlook is positive: the US, China, India and Japan are all doing well. The investments we have brought in will generate more new jobs.
I expect our economy to continue prospering. The general feel in the market is that things are looking up. Hotels and restaurants were fully booked in the festive season. Retail sales have picked up as Singaporeans are in a more confident mood, and spending more than last year.
However, we know that some older Singaporeans and lower income families still find the going tough. We will ensure that they too have something to cheer about in the New Year.
As we usher in the Lunar New Year, we celebrate and renew our family ties, and remember the legacy and values of our forefathers.
New Year traditions like the reunion dinner and visits to our elders strengthen our ties to those closest and dearest to us.
Nowadays, more Singaporeans travel and work overseas, away from home and often from family. Despite email, SMS and internet chat, nothing can replace the warmth and intimacy of face to face human contact.
I am happy that many Singaporeans who are overseas make an effort to return home for the reunion dinners. Let us keep these traditions alive to strengthen our families and preserve the extended-family network.
Families are the cornerstone of our society. They surround us with love and acceptance, and gird us with enduring support and strength. They give us a sense of purpose and fulfilment in life.
No amount of wealth or material success can substitute for a happy family. We must therefore nurture the ties of kinship every day, and not just during festive occasions. This requires a special effort to maintain a healthy balance in our lives, managing the demands of work without compromising time and attention for the family.
We must also look after the elderly in our families. Most young couples today set up their own homes instead of living with their parents.
Fortunately, many live nearby in the same neighbourhood or estate, and visit their parents regularly. Grandparents are a great help in looking after grandchildren.
At the same time, the old folks appreciate the companion­ship and attention of their children, now grown up but always still their children, whom they care for and worry about. We all have a responsibility to look after our aged parents, and return the love and care that they showered on us as children.
Our society will have to make many adjustments as our population grows older. We need to put in place policies and programmes to enable Singaporeans to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives in their golden years.
We must review issues such as elder-friendly housing, barrier-free access to buildings and public transport, and affordable medical care during old age. These issues will become increasingly important to the growing numbers of senior citizens. The Committee on Ageing Issues (CAI) has been studying them and will publish its report soon.
In addition, the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers has just put out its recommendations to make it easier for older workers to stay employed. The Government supports these recommendations, and will work with its tripartite partners to help older workers upgrade their skills, find jobs, and contribute in productive ways to our society.
In this time of celebration, we should also remember the needy and less fortunate in our midst.
Last year, the Government launched ComCare to provide a safety net for the minority of Singaporeans who face hardships. We also set up the Ministerial Committee on Low Wage Workers, which has recommended a comprehensive package of measures to help the lower income. The Government will respond to these recommendations in the coming Budget.
Finally, we are all members of the ˇ°Singapore familyˇ±. We must continue to strengthen the ties between the different races. Singaporeans grow up together in Singa­pore, studying and playing together in our schools.
We do National Service, work and live side by side. Year by year, we have strengthened our inter-racial understanding and harmony. But it would be a grievous mistake to take this for granted, especially when we, like many other countries, face the threat of terrorists who seek to destabilise our society.
An attack can tear apart our social fabric. In fact, we must step up our efforts in multiracial integration, and not just keep things as they are. This is why we are developing a comprehensive Community Engagement Programme to strengthen community networks at all levels, and keep our society cohesive and united.
As the majority community in Singapore, the Chinese play an important role in promoting and protecting harmonious community relations.
The Chinese community should reach out to the other ethnic communities, bring everyone closer together, and make the minority communities feel comfortable and at ease. Chinese Singaporeans have to make sure that the minorities never feel overwhelmed by the majority.
This New Year, I encourage Chinese Singaporeans to make an extra effort to involve their non-Chinese friends and neighbours in the festive celebrations. Let us work together as one happy Singapore family, to keep our nation safe and secure.
I wish all Singaporeans a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year.

Source: Media Release 28 Jan 2006

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Public Holidays CHINESE NEW YEAR is the next public holiday. It falls on 29 & 30 January 2006.