28 October 2016
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans to make state housing more affordable. Photo: Bloomberg
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans to make state housing more affordable. Photo: Bloomberg

General elections to be called soon, Singapore PM says

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he will soon call for a general election as he announced plans to make state housing more affordable and raise the re-employment age for elderly workers, Reuters reported.

The People’s Action Party, founded by the Prime Minister’s father, the late Lee Kuan Yew, has ruled Singapore since independence but it won its lowest ever share of the vote in the last polls in 2011, with many people unhappy about the cost of living and immigration.

“Soon I will be calling elections to ask for your mandate, to take Singapore into this next phase of our nation building,” Lee said in his annual speech as part of the National Day celebrations.

“If you are proud of what we have achieved together, if you support what we want to do ahead, the future that we are building, then please support me, please support my team.”

He has been prime minister since 2004.

There is widespread speculation in the media and blogs that elections could be called next month, as the ruling party wants to take advantage of Singapore’s 50th year celebrations, the news agency said.

The legacy of Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23 and who oversaw the city-state’s rapid rise from a British colonial backwater to a global trade and financial center, is also fresh in the minds of voters.

Lee said the government will introduce a new state housing scheme for second-time Singaporean buyers and will also make more citizens eligible for public housing by raising the existing income ceiling.

These measures add to the government steps in recent years to help the elderly with healthcare costs, increase the supply of public housing and curb previously surging property prices.

However, Lee said there were no easy choices in regard to immigration.

“If we close our door to foreign workers, our economy will tank,” he said.

He said the government has slowed down the inflow of foreign workers and tightened up on applications for permanent residents and citizenships, to make sure that Singaporeans are fairly treated at work.

The curbs on foreign workers cut inflows to 26,000 last year, excluding domestic helpers. That’s a third of 2011.

Fewer babies and an ageing population mean the number of citizens aged 65 and above will nearly double from 440,000 today to 900,000 in 15 years’ time, government projections show.

Lee said the re-employment age for elderly workers will be raised to 67 from 65 by 2017.

He said the government would enhance incentives to encourage families to have more babies, including extending paternity leave.

“Right now fathers get one week of paternity leave, I think fathers can do more. So we will add one more week of paternity leave, making two weeks,” Lee said in a move that won loud applause.

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