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Singapore's biggest challenge is to build a "sense of unity" between "huge changes": DPM Heng


Deputy Prime Minister DPG, Deputy Minister of Finance, Hong Sui Kate, said that Singapore should continue to "learn how to develop and improve our systems" and adopt practical policies from other countries.

In the Negev Mountain, which took place last week at the St. Gallen Symposium in 1949, Mr. Heng was interviewed by the Swiss newspaper Noya Zirche and Zeitung on a number of topics, including Singapore's housing policy, state administration and democracy, and the government's role in managing the economy .

When asked about the biggest challenge facing Singapore, Mr. Heng said: "Well, the biggest challenge we have to face is to build a sense of unity within the tremendous changes taking place around us."

This can be done with good governance, maintaining constructive politics and making difficult long-term decisions, rather than short-term benefits. Along with proper governance and "a sense of unity among our people," Singapore can remain strong, said Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr. Heng was on a visit to Switzerland from May 6 to May 10 – his first overseas trip as vice premier – which included visits to a number of Swiss businesses, and the extensive interview was published by the Swiss newspaper on Friday.

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99-YEAR HDB LEASES "National Policy"

Mr. Heng answered questions about the reasons for the 99-year lease contracts for housing and housing units (HDBs).

"It's a rational policy if we believe, if we hope Singapore lasts forever, do not forget, Singapore is more than 700 kilometers above a square kilometer," said the deputy prime minister.

"If we sell land as freedom, and once you own it, you will have (forever) forever, which means that children born in the future will never be home and can not buy anything.

"We have a few free properties, but a very small amount. All the new housing contracts are sold as lease contracts for 99 years, and for industrial development, it's even shorter, that's between 20 and 30 years."

He said the government wanted to encourage young couples to settle and have children.

"Our population is declining, and as our young people are more educated, some have chosen to remain single, this is the same phenomenon that we see in OECD countries" (Economic Cooperation and Economic Development Organization).

"Some of those who succeed say that I want to enjoy my life, I do not want to have a family, I do not want children.

"This is a choice that we should respect but I hope we can encourage more of our young people to find their spouse and have children."

Singapore's democracy

When asked about Singapore politics, Mr. Heng said that "this is not the right understanding" by saying that the government has "all the answers."

"Many of us, I included, have been on record saying that the government can not get all the answers to all the problems and so we need to mobilize our company to solve many of these issues," Mr. Heng said.

"And beyond solving the problem, it is also a sense of ownership as a citizen, I can do what is right and I choose as a citizen to contribute in different ways."

DPM Heng in Switzerland

Mr. Heng Sui Kit wraps up a five-day trip to Switzerland after speaking at the 49th St. Gallen Symposium. This was his first overseas trip as vice premier (Photo: Facebook / Heng Swee Keat)

Asked about the "Western idea" that competition "helps to grow the best," said Hong Singapore has "free and fair elections."

"In the last elections, there were so many opposing parties and as I mentioned earlier in the forum, in 2011 we lost six seats, we lost a few key ministers," Mr. Heng said.

"The minister was formerly the minister of commerce and industry and was our foreign minister, respected all over the world, but lost the election.

"The second finance minister lost the election. A very prominent member of parliament who was in politics for many years, who was supposed to be chairman of the parliament, lost the election because the entire group lost, five of them in the group.

"It's a democracy, it's for me, we respected it, yes.

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In addition, Mr. Heng: "The fact that the ruling party won the election is not because we are oppressive, because we have, as I said in my previous speech, what we promised, that we had the trust and confidence of Singaporeans."

The role of the government in building construction

Deputy Prime Minister said that most Southeast Asian countries came through the global financial crisis better than most people expect that they learned the lessons of the 1997-1998 crisis.

Referring to the free-market approach, Mr. Heng said that "the market-based approach to capital allocation to its most productive uses remains the best mechanism."

"But focusing solely on return on equity will not be enough, especially at a time when technologies are changing rapidly," Heng said.

"In this context, what is important is that even when businesses are restructured and changed, both businesses and governments will have to do more to help our employees be better prepared for the future."

Trade unions, such as the National Congress of Trade Unions (NTUC), evolved from a "clash approach" to a "more cooperative approach."

"We recognize that more skilled, more productive workers make the company more competitive, and a more competitive and efficient company is able to keep workers better able to pay employees better," Heng said.

"This is a sustainable way to increase welfare – both for the welfare of workers and for the well-being of the wealthy."

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Asked whether the Singapore development model was a capitalist model, the vice premier said it was "easy to create a misunderstanding" by putting a label on models.

"The idea that the private market can do anything and therefore create growth, and that open competition alone is enough to ensure a good outcome is not something I believe in," Heng said.

"I do not agree with this. I believe that governments in the world have important roles."

The government should define rules to provide certainty to all investors, to ensure that the "rules of the game" can not be changed halfway.

He added that the government plays a very important role in providing critical infrastructure – such as roads, airports and ports – and invest in education and basic research.

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