these and other projects will create thousands of new jobs
for Singaporeans. They signal firm confidence in
In 2004, our
economy should grow by 3 to 5%.
like this require not just a favourable external
environment, but also a positive domestic response. Here,
we have shown group solidarity to advance our collective
confronted with a weak economy, Singaporeans were united
and resilient. Some started new businesses. Many made the
effort to learn new skills. Everyone accepted the bitter
medicine of CPF changes and wage cuts to preserve jobs and
make ourselves more competitive.
And our group
solidarity was at its best when we faced down SARS as one
people. We put in place tough containment measures,
accepted the inconveniences, and beat the virus. The
partnership between the people and the Government was
total. We are now better prepared to deal with SARS should
it make a comeback.
challenges we have overcome and the changes we have made
to our lives will not be the last. In particular, the
global economy will continue to evolve, and new and
stronger competitors will emerge. Companies must continue
to adapt their business strategies, while workers will
have to adjust to stay employable. We cannot afford to
continue old ways of doing business, or old terms of
service which are no longer viable.
To make these
adjustments, harmonious industrial relations are vital.
Employers, workers and the Government must trust one
another, in order to have consensus on how companies, and
hence employees, can grow and prosper. A strong tripartite
relationship has always been Singapore’s forte. It is
our unique competitive edge, which we must do all we can
Take SIA. SIA
is a metaphor for Singapore: its success, strengths,
vulnerabilities and challenges mirror those of Singapore.
SIA may have recovered from the SARS outbreak, but it is
not back to status quo ante. The airline industry is
undergoing profound changes worldwide. Low-cost carriers,
longer-range aircraft and new airports in the region
present SIA with formidable new challenges.
these challenges will require the combined efforts of
everyone in the company – management, pilots, cabin
crew, engineers, ground staff, all workers. If the pilots
refuse to fly, the airline will be grounded. Without the
cabin crew’s excellent service, SIA will be no different
from any other airline. If the engineers do not make the
planes safe, and ground staff do not co-operate, the
pilots have no planes to fly. If the management look only
after their own interests and overlook those of the other
stakeholders, they will lose the support of the pilots,
cabin crew and other staff, and SIA will flounder.
companies face similar challenges of restructuring and
adaptation. They must solve these problems constructively
and harmoniously, so that we can build a vibrant and
dynamic economy in which everyone has a fair share of the
fruits. No group of employees in Singapore should act
without regard for the impact on others, or hold the
company and fellow workers hostage to their narrow
self-interests. This is especially so of skilled workers
like pilots, who have benefited from heavy investments in
training, and thus occupy well-paid positions in their
Finally, if we
draw only one lesson from SARS, terrorism and the events
in 2003, it must be that we live in an unpredictable,
volatile world, and that we have to stick together to
overcome these uncertainties.
else owes us a living. We have achieved a good life only
because we have learned to survive and thrive as one
people, always placing collective good over individual
the years since the 1997 Asian financial crisis have been
trying. But Singaporeans have not allowed themselves to be
browbeaten, or deflated. We have stood together, and held
our heads high. A younger generation of Singaporeans has
shown its fighting spirit. It is not daunted by tough
challenges. That is why I am upbeat about our future.
The future is
what we, together, make of it. Singapore is our home. This
is where we and our families can fulfil our dreams. Let us
always work as one people to improve our home.
I wish all
Singaporeans a happy New Year.
* Includes the
researcher who was infected in September 2003.
Singapore Government Press Release 1 Jan 2004