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Prime Minister's Chinese New Year message 2005


On the whole, the Year of the Monkey has been a good year for Singa­pore. Our economy has grown strongly, unemployment has come down, businesses are doing better, and many workers are getting larger bonuses.
Chinatown has been packed with shoppers over the past few weekends, and the shops are reporting much better business than last year. Hotels and restaurants are full. Confidence and optimism are returning.
At Chinese New Year, family members come together to celebrate and to renew family ties. This is a tradition rooted in the central role of the family in Asian societies.
For centuries, the extended family has been a source of strength and support, a life raft that has enabled family members to help one another and survive through bad times. This is true not only of the Chinese, but also of other Asian societies.
Thus when tsunamis devastated Aceh and other coastal regions of the Indian Ocean last December, the survivors instinctively turned to their extended families for shelter, food and comfort. Without this network to fall back on, they would have faced much bleaker prospects, despite the best efforts of governments and relief groups.
The family is also the support that helps couples to produce and to bring up the next generation. When a young couple marries, parents and elders will immediately encourage and persuade the newlyweds to start a family.
And when babies arrive, family members, especially the grandparents, will help take care of the little ones. They give valuable advice to the young parents on parenting, help them to spot problems, and most important, imbue in the children values and attitudes that will stay with them for life.
However, our social norms are shifting. Most new couples prefer to set up their own homes instead of living with their parents. They lead busy lives, juggling their time and energy between work, family and leisure. Globalisation is creating new opportunities and prosperity, but at the same time it is generating new pressures on individuals and families.
This is increasing the pressure on the traditional roles of the family. Extended families have given way to nuclear families. So when somebody loses his job or falls ill, he cannot always depend on the extended family to see him through. And competing demands on young adults have led them to delay marriages, and when they marry to have fewer children, or sometimes none at all.
In these changing circumstances, the Government is strengthening social safety nets to help families protect the vulnerable, and encouraging couples to have more children to live balanced, fulfilling lives.
We are revamping MediShield to improve its coverage, and building up Medifund to help lower income Singa­poreans who fall ill. We are setting up ComCare, a new community care endowment fund, to support schemes and programmes to help families get back on their feet.
We are making Singapore a great place for families. Many couples are already benefiting from the Marriage and Procreation package. It is too early to assess results, but I have met many couples carrying young babies, who tell me happily that they are collecting the Baby Bonus. And the hospitals have reported that this year there are more pregnancy consultations, and many applications to use Medisave for antenatal packages.
The Government will continue to pay close attention to these areas. However, it can only complement the family’s traditional role, and not supplant it. To be a resilient society, we need strong and close families. Ultimately, helping out relatives who are in need, and bringing up children into upright, productive adults, are acts motivated by kinship bonds and emotional ties.
Chinese New Year is a good time to remind ourselves that the traditional role of the family remains relevant in our modern society. As families gather for reunion dinners; as young people visit their elders to pay respects; and as we welcome the Year of the Rooster amidst firecrackers and lion dances; let us keep these traditions alive and look forward to a good year ahead.
I wish all Singaporeans a prosperous Chinese New Year.

Source: Singapore Government Press Release 8 Feb 2005


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Public Holidays CHINESE NEW YEAR is the next public holiday. It falls on 9 & 10 February 2005.


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9 February 2005