Speech by President Tony Tan Keng Yam
At the Swearing-in Ceremony of the Seventh President of Singapore
At Istana on 1 September 2011
|Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam|
7th President of Singapore
Ladies and Gentlements,
I am humbled to be given the opportunity to represent our nation, and I am deeply honoured.
The Office of the President is the highest in our land. This will be my most challenging appointment in three decades of public service. I am acutely aware of the heavy responsibilities and expectations before me.
I thank all Singaporeans for their support and their trust. I pledge that I will do my very best over the next six years to serve Singapore to the best of my ability.
The President is our Head of State and has important ceremonial functions. Uniquely, Singapore’s President also exercises vital custodial responsibilities in protecting our financial reserves, and the integrity of our public service.
I will wield this “second key” with utmost care. Our reserves have been painstakingly built up over decades, and should not be compromised.
The world economy remains troubled. Europe, the United States and Japan are unable to grow and are struggling to bring their finances into balance. Their difficulties will affect the global economy, including us in Singapore. We should be prepared for challenging times ahead.
In contrast to the countries facing continuous budget deficits and debt crises, Singapore has built up its savings through prudence. Our government must continue to live within its means, and only draw on past reserves in an exceptional crisis – like the one we faced in 2008. I therefore welcome the Prime Minister’s assurance that the Government will continue to be responsible with our finances. I will play my role to safeguard our reserves, so that they can continue to give us confidence in tough times.
I will also maintain constant vigilance over key public service appointments. I will scrutinise the candidates proposed for these appointments, to ensure that they are persons of integrity and excellence, each driven by the desire to serve Singapore. I will exercise these powers with an independent mind, always putting Singaporeans first.
Our President is not a centre of political power. The office is non-partisan. But our President can be a resource. And our President can be a symbol.
As a resource, our President can draw on past expertise and present outreach to Singaporeans, to offer counsel to the Government of the day. I will offer the Prime Minister my confidential advice on Government policies. I believe that my years in Parliament, as a Cabinet Minister and in the private sector will offer a useful perspective. I aim to forge a constructive relationship with the Prime Minister and his ministers during my term in office. I will seek to work not only with the Government, but also with civil society and community groups to advance the interests of all Singaporeans, whatever their political persuasions.
As a symbol, our President can strive to embody all that is good in Singapore and Singaporeans. I will engage with Singaporeans from all ages, walks of life, and all viewpoints, to understand their interests and concerns. I will strive to strengthen our common bonds and our core values that underpin our society, regardless of race, language, or religion.
Whatever your political views, whatever your station in life, I will strive to the best of my abilities to represent you.
Singapore remains a work in progress. That is true literally, as we engage in land reclamation and redevelopment of our island nation. But it is also a metaphor for the relentless reinvention we have had to pursue in order to stay above water. As an island with no natural resources, we have had to rely on our ideas and our efforts to build Singapore. Now that the world moves faster than ever, we need to keep pace, cultivating creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit. This is true in business, it is true in our political institutions, but it is also true in the daily lives of many Singaporeans.
During my term of office, I hope to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in all Singaporeans. Few of us may actually start new businesses or ventures. But all of us can identify needs or gaps, tinker with new ideas, and create our own opportunities. We can all benefit from such creativity and energy.
We in Singapore are recognised for our industry, our respect for law, and the integrity of our institutions. We must keep this up. Such discipline and pragmatism has served Singapore well, driving our country’s economic growth. With prosperity, we have been able to provide for our families at a level unmatched in the region. Singapore has done well since Independence. But our progress cannot be measured only by our ranking on international tables or the success of our highest flyers. As a society, we must judge ourselves also by how we care for those who are disadvantaged or in need.
I am deeply aware of the challenges faced by Singaporeans who struggle to make ends meet, or feel that they are being left behind. As President, I will work with the Government, community groups, and the entire nation to make Singapore a more caring and gracious society.
Singapore is at an important juncture. At independence 46 years ago, we were bound together by the common challenge of survival. Many wrote us off, but with determination and cohesion, we overcame those obstacles and did well.
Today, new challenges have emerged. The world has reached the end of a 25-year “long boom”, where the advanced countries grew at a healthy rate and inflation was low. As a small, open country, Singapore will face shocks from time to time, which can disrupt our economy and jobs.
As we did in 1965, we need to come together as one people to face our challenges with confidence and build our future together.
The recent Presidential election was one of the largest democratic exercises in our nation’s history. 2.15 million Singaporeans cast their votes, to choose one President from four candidates. Following the Presidential Election and the General Election in May this year, there has been much talk of the need for unity. We must now move forward together as one people and one nation. This is vital for our stability and prosperity.
To the Prime Minister, I offer my thanks for your encouragement and your confidence, and I look forward to working with you.
To my predecessors – President Ong and President Nathan – I thank them for their service to Singapore and for their work in helping define this evolving institution.
To the people of Singapore: I am deeply honoured to be your seventh President, and the third elected to that office. I am humbled by the tasks that have been given to me. I will apply myself to these tasks with all my ability, with all my energy, and with all my heart. With your support, I will strive to be a President of whom you will all be proud.