Monday, August 18, 2008

National Day Rally 2008

17 August 2008

After missing National Day Rally 2007, I told myself I will not miss National Day Rally 2008. Participants were to reach at 5.45pm for refreshments. I reached at 5.30pm. There were already a crowd at the University Cultural Centre @ National University of Singapore (NUS). I caught up with Zul and had some nice refreshments catered from Meritus Mandarin Hotel.

According to a veteran RC member, it's wise to arrive early and queue early to enter the Auditorium. Those that came later would be designated to proceed to levels 2 and 3. Those even later would enter a theatrette to view the Rally from a screen.

As were waiting for the Rally to commence, we looked as the MPs and various VIPs enter from the front side door. It was great to see Mr Chiam See Tong, though he staggered a little, probably due to his recent stroke. As one Grassroots Leader puts it, "The Heart of Singapore is Here!"

In National Day Rally 2008, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong employed the use of IT to illustrate his points. For the first time, there were English subtitles of his speech in Malay and Mandarin on a slideshow. He would later used graphs and other images to bring across his points with the powerpoint slideshow.

PM Lee's speech covered economic issues (specifically inflation and ERP concerns), raising happy families, gracious society, cyber society and writing our Singapore story together.

For economic issues, the audience clapped thunderously when PM Lee revealed that the Government would be dishing out 50% more dividends in October. 3-room flat dwellers would be getting about S$5,000 worth of support from the Government this year. With graphics, PM Lee convinced us that the ERP did not make the average car user worse off than a few years ago. Instead the lowering of other taxes brought in lower net revenue to the Government.

Expressing concern over the low Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of Singapore, PM Lee hinted a possible merger of Social Development Unit (SDU) and Social Development Service (SDS) to cater to a wider group. I thought this was a change that should have been done long ago. At present, SDU focuses on matchmaking graduates while SDS focuses on matchmaking non-graduates. This elitist policy is finally scrapped. The Prime Minister also suggested having a SDU Trust Accreditation for dating agencies so that single Singaporeans can be assured of the quality.

To encourage couples to give birth to more babies, PM Lee called for an extension of Child care leave from 2 days to 6 days. Maternity leave is also extended to 16 weeks! Furthermore, benefits would also extend to the 5th and subsequent child, instead to only 4.

Highlighting the importance of the Government to pay attention to cyber society, PM Lee wowed the audience when he used his mobile phone Quik application to instantly capture us in a video on screen. He quipped, "Here's our first non-political video." After the table tennis match, PM Lee surprised us when he instantly connected to Team Singapore at Beijing and started a web chat.

For politics, the Speaker's Corner would now have the Nparks in charge, instead of the police. Demonstrations and strikes would be allowed within the premise, as hinted by DPM Wong Kan Seng some few months ago.

The overall experience was good. I would rate this National Day Rally as among the best I have heard over the years. Not only has PM Lee delivered his agenda and concerns to Singaporeans, he impressed many of us with his use of digital media and dispelled myths with convincing data to show that the Government is doing its part to help the poor.


Update on 21 August 2008: Reflections

Since I was interviewed by Today Newspaper [], there were some comments and concerns from readers. In this section, I'll seek to address these concerns.

A reader left a comment stating that it is a matter of "integrity" whether or not one should reveal the details of the Rally. I feel that this is too exaggerated. The PM only mentioned not to share his jokes, so technically there wasn't any instructions not to share the information in blogs. The local media can be controlled but not bloggers [participatory journalism]. Besides this is the cyber society that the PM was focusing on. As long as the information is accurate and factual, there should be no qualms about sharing information. Of course, if there were clear instructions to keep the details to ourselves, then I wouldn't be blogging about the Rally prior to the telecast.

First-time readers could read up my featured posts (see right column) to find out the events that I have written on and some "business opportunities" that I exposed.

I would like to also thank some of the readers who sent me compliments.

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