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Foreigners, tuition, social media: 6 things PM Lee talked about in his interview with local media

As Singapore inches closer to her 50th birthday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talked about his decade-long term as PM, his thoughts on the evolving political landscape, and the journey ahead as a nation.

Here are 6 things he brought up during his interview with the local media. 

1. Singaporeans and foreigners both have a role to play in forging better relationships

PM Lee said that it is simply "not practical" to do away with foreigners who build homes and provide services. He said the Government is adapting policies to minimise the impact and side-effects. Referring to Mr Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, the Filipino nurse who was fired from Tan Tock Seng Hospital for his anti-Singapore rants, PM Lee said:

"There will be some people who will behave badly on both sides. But we should not let these bad behaviours affect the overall relationship."

He also added that foreigners, too, should learn the rules, norms and customs here. There is a need to develop norms between native-born Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans, said Mr Lee.  

2. PM Lee's biggest regret: Moving too slowly to cater to a rapidly growing population

Mr Lee conceded that our infrastructure - trains and flats - should have been built faster. 

"At the time, we thought we were doing the right thing - pacing it, measuring it out, building it when we needed it, and not spending resources until we needed to spend them. It turned out that things did not pan out the way we expected," he said. He also added that there is a need to plan "less conservatively" in the future. 

3. Biggest achievement as Prime Minister: Education

He acknowledged that the "continuing and consistent" emphasis on education in his past decade on the job has paid off. Mr Lee said that there are now more pathways and opportunities to the top - through efforts to invest more in early childhood schools and expanding tertiary education.

4. He also cautioned against over-emphasis on tuition

Mr Lee said: "I think that collectively we put too much emphasis on tuition. We think that if we hothouse our children, it will make all the difference. I am not so sure. I can understand the concerns of the parents who want to give their children the best, but we also want to give the children the time and the space to grow up."

5. Vote for the person who is up to the standard that you are expecting: Mr Lee

Mr Lee acknowledged the prominence of the online media saying that "outside of Parliament, voices are influential too."

He added: "There is media and new media, blogs build up a following, and so there is no lack of alternative voices."

But he advises voters: “If you are voting for somebody and you think he is going to be a good ‘check’, make sure that person is up to the standard that you are expecting.

"A person who sits in Parliament and is not competent, is not going to be a check on the government."

6. Engaging on social media

Mr Lee, who constantly posts updates on social media, talks about the importance of balancing light-hearted content like photos of sunsets with more serious fare.

"I went to speak to a civil service seminar about the importance of keeping our system corruption-free. I posted on Facebook and Instagram. I do not expect as many hits as when I put an owl up or even a picture up, but I think it is important that I do that, and I think it has some impact."

Also read TNP reporter Foo Jie Ying's commentary on how to attract the newer "YouTube" generation voters in our print edition on Jan 17. 

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