Award recipients, parents, ladies and gentlemen,
Selamat Hari Raya Haji to all our Muslim friends and a Happy New Year to all of you. It gives me great pleasure to be here with you for the Bishan East Edusave Scholarship, Edusave Merit Bursary and CDC/CCC Polytechnic and University Bursary Awards Presentation Ceremony.
Investment in Education
2 The aim of the Edusave Awards is to motivate our students to work hard and to do their best. This year, 777 students from Bishan East are given scholarships, bursaries and Good Progress awards under the Edusave Scheme, and another 30 students will receive the CDC/CCC Polytechnic and University Bursaries. The scholarships, bursaries and Good Progress awards are worth slightly more than $205,550.
3 I congratulate all the award recipients. You have done yourself and your parents proud. I am glad that so many of you have worked hard and shown a strong commitment to your studies. I hope that you will continue to do so.
4 My heartiest congratulations also go to the parents of the recipients. Your child’s achievement is a strong testament of your encouragement and guidance. Every success that has been achieved by your child should be celebrated as it is not only a form of recognition for him or her, but also a source of motivation for your child to want to excel.
5 The Government places great importance on educating our young. It is our investment in Singapore’s future. It is also the best way to give Singaporeans an equal opportunity to level up. Every child in Singapore has access to a good education to help him realise his full potential and achieve his aspirations in life.
6 However, Singapore’s future is dependent not just on how much we invest in education. We need a clean and strong government. We need a hardworking and efficient workforce. We need to maintain our social cohesion and racial harmony. We also need to have enough babies to replace our population.
7 Unfortunately, as we have progressed to become a developed country, we are now facing the similar challenge that many developed countries face, i.e. falling birth rate.
8 In 2005, we only produced 35,500 resident babies. Our total fertility rate was at a low of 1.25 and it has been below the replacement level of 2.1, since 1976. To replace ourselves and maintain our current population size, we should have 60,000 births each year. What makes the problem worst is that our declining birth rate is coupled with an ageing population. By the year 2030, more than one in five Singaporeans will be over the age of 65. If we continue down this road, and without immigration, our economic vitality will be seriously affected.
9 To sustain growth and prosperity, we need to have enough young people to fill our workforce. We must encourage Singaporeans to get married and have more children.
10 However, it is not realistic to expect 60,000 resident births each year. Hence, we have decided to open our doors wider to attract foreigners who can contribute to our economy. Many countries are doing the same. But in order to make Singapore an attractive destination for foreign migrants, we must make them feel welcome, help them integrate into the community and sink roots in Singapore. This is for the long-term interests of all Singaporeans. Many of us have ancestors who came from countries like Malaya, Indonesia, India and China. They were foreigners in this land years ago, but decided to sink roots here. That is how we become Singaporeans. Many foreigners who settled here today will have children who become citizens, do national service and contribute to our economy in future.
11 Once again, I congratulate all the award recipients and their parents, teachers and principals. I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the Organising Committee for their effort and hard work in organising this event. Have a Great Year ahead.