Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the MND National Day Observance Ceremony 2018

Aug 8, 2018 14:00

Good morning and I’m very happy to join you at this observance ceremony. Let me start by wishing all of you a happy National Day. 

This year marks our 53rd year of independence and we have much to be grateful for. We will not be here today without the generations before us who have worked hard, saved for our future, built up our city, and passed on something better to the next generation. This was the spirit that drove our nation’s development and how today’s Singapore has been built.

We can see and enjoy the fruits of these labours – be it our unique HDB living, our green city or our beautiful city skyline. Since we are at JEM today, I think it is fitting to look at Jurong as an example. Many of you would know that more than 50 years ago, Jurong was a swamp land. It was Dr Goh Keng Swee who had the vision to make it our foremost industrial estate, creating jobs for many Singaporeans and also a place for recreation with the Chinese and Japanese Gardens.  Subsequently, about 10 years ago, we developed commercial and residential spaces at Jurong Gateway, and you see them here today. Now, we are in a new phase of transformation in Jurong. We are revamping Jurong Lake Gardens into a national garden and we are developing Jurong Lake District as a new regional centre for Singaporeans to live work and play.  

What we see here in Jurong – the transformation taking place – can also be found in many other parts of Singapore, be it in the East, in Tampines and Changi where we’re building a new Terminal 5, or Punggol and Woodlands in the North. The transformation is not only limited to one part of Singapore but everywhere you go. You will always see the city evolving and being transformed. And that’s because we only have this little island which is our home and it’s crucial to keep improving and making it a better home for ourselves and our children. All of you in the MND Family contribute in different ways in this process of transforming Singapore. I would like to thank all of you for your contributions and the work you do in our nation building process. I think we should give a big round of applause to everyone.
This morning, we will be recognising the work of 15 teams in the MND Family whose projects have shown exceptional effort in innovation, collaboration and public service delivery. I’ll highlight three examples because we only have a short time, but there are exhibits of all the 15 projects – you can take a look at them later.

The first is the Smart Urban Habitat (SUH) Masterplan. This was developed in collaboration with the private sector and other government agencies to improve liveability, efficiency and sustainability for our HDB towns. Basically, they are collecting real-time data through sensors deployed around towns and putting it all together into a smart command centre. The data collected can be analysed to transform and improve the way HDB towns are planned, designed and maintained. For example, dashboards can be created to monitor and analyse the performance of key estate services such as lighting, pumps and waste collection. We can then identify patterns and do predictive maintenance issues for upgrading and replacement of systems. The data can also be shared with Town Councils to help them improve and optimise the maintenance frequency and cyclical replacement works. So it truly transforms the way estate maintenance is being done in our HDB towns, through sensors and data analytics. I’ve seen a first version of it. I think it’s potentially a game changer and HDB is working with partners to deploy more sensors so that the entire service can be improved throughout Singapore. Residents can enjoy more reliable estate services, and a better overall living environment.

The second example is a social-health database to facilitate eldercare planning in Singapore. This is a joint collaboration between URA and the Ministry of Health (MOH). Prior to this, information on the elderly in Singapore was quite fragmented – it’s not so easy to find out where the vulnerable elderly were located, particularly the ones who are living by themselves, or whether their needs were met by eldercare services and programmes. To bridge this gap, the team capitalised on geospatial tools and data analytics to put together a comprehensive social-health database on the elderly. The insights provide agencies and stakeholders a better overview of the elderly’s needs across different neighbourhoods and allow us to better understand where more targeted interventions may be required. As a result of all these, we can provide better services and develop new eldercare and healthcare facilities where they are needed. Again, it’s a very useful project which will allow us to provide better services for our residents. 

The third example involves the management and coordination of storm recovery efforts for the farms in Murai. Earlier this year, an unusually severe storm hit the north-western part of Singapore. It caused extensive damage to four farms which resulted in collapsed structures and damaged roofing. The worst hit farm was Chew’s Agriculture, where chickens were trapped under collapsed sheds and several escaped. AVA and other agencies, together with stakeholders in the farming community, came together to deliver a coordinated and prompt response to the crisis. It was a multi-agency effort. For example, NParks cleared road obstructions caused by fallen trees along Murai Farmway within the day. AVA, BCA and SLA came together to help Chew’s have the building closure order on their egg processing plant lifted quickly, so as to minimise the disruption to their egg production. PUB and NEA put in measures to contain and dispose of the storm runoff to ensure that our water resources are safeguarded. All these are just part of the entire recovery effort. There was a lot more that happened, particularly behind the scenes. It was really a combined effort across government agencies together with the affected farmers, and it shows that no matter what problems we face, even if it’s a natural disaster of this nature – not quite a disaster but a natural inclement weather – we do not have to be daunted and we can work together to overcome our challenges.  

These are three examples of projects in the MND Family. They are by no means comprehensive and I encourage all of you to check out the exhibits later to find out more about the other projects.

There are common themes that run across these projects. First, all of them involve collaboration and teamwork – not just within MND but across government agencies, as well as the private sector, voluntary groups and members of the public. It reflects the increased complexity and multi-faceted nature of the issues we face today. So it’s important that we embrace this mind-set of collaboration in our work, so as to achieve better and more holistic outcomes for Singaporeans.

The other theme is about innovation. Technology certainly is an important enabler for innovation and if you look at the projects, many of them involved some aspect of technology. But innovation is much more than going high-tech, because sometimes, the most meaningful change doesn’t require a lot of deep technology. Very often, it’s also about processes, organisational and cultural change, and mind-set change. Ultimately, it’s about the spirit of always striving to do better, asking ourselves if there is a better way of doing things, however small the change may be. 

These are important mind-sets to uphold as we go about our work of transforming Singapore. Sometimes, people will say there’s not much more to do in transforming Singapore because we are already so built up. We have made the big jump from third world to first and everything else from now is just about maintaining the status quo. That’s a very dangerous mind-set to have. In fact, if you look at the plans that we are putting together for our city and all over Singapore, I would say that Singapore will be undergoing its most extensive transformation yet, over the coming decades. There is still much more that can be done, and the possibilities for transformation are limited only by our imagination. So we should think boldly, imaginatively, and develop new ways to make Singapore stand out as a leading city for Asia and the world.  

At the end of the day, it’s also important to remember why we are doing all this, and what we are trying to achieve. Singaporeans, our people, must remain at the centre of everything we do. Every project we undertake must strive to create a better living environment for our citizens and make our city more fulfilling, more beautiful and more sustainable for all to enjoy. Ultimately, Singapore must always be a place where the human spirit will flourish and inspire. 

On this National Day, let’s renew our commitment to shape our future together and to make Singapore a more endearing home that all of us can be proud of. 

Thank you and happy National Day once again.