SINGAPORE, Aug 30 — While the Malay community has made significant progress in the past decade, there are still “worrying trends” among the Malay community here, particularly in the areas of home ownership and education, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday during his National Day Rally speech.
Pointing to the latest national census in 2020, Lee said that while most Malay families own their own homes, the proportion of Malay households in rental flats has increased.
While this could be due to young, married couples wanting to live independently before they are ready to buy a flat, this could also be attributed to those facing financial constraints.
“(There) are some who may have suffered sudden changes in family or financial circumstances, or be facing complex challenges and have difficulties planning for their future,” said Lee, who spoke first in Malay.
“Home ownership is not merely about having a roof over your head. It is also for Singaporeans to secure a better future.”
The 2020 national census data shows that the number of Malay households in one- and two-room rental Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats grew from about 9,100 in 2010 to about 18,600 last year.
At the same time, the number of Chinese households in rental flats grew from 28,000 to 28,700 over the same period, while this figure was 4,600 to 6,800 for Indian households.
Lee said that while some Malay households have been able to move out of their rental flats to buy their own homes with the help of the Government, more must be done to help households in rental flats.
This includes helping them recognise that renting is a temporary solution and encouraging them to stabilise their income to move towards home ownership and progress with the rest of society, said Lee, who was speaking to a live audience at the Mediacorp studio at One-north, as well as to 2,000 participants over video-conferencing platform Zoom.
Lee’s last National Day Rally speech was in 2019, with last year’s rally being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s rally was also postponed by a week from Aug 22 after stricter measures were imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus in Singapore last month.
Turning to the topic of education, Lee said that it is key to the Government’s endeavour of building an inclusive society.
The Government must also pay extra attention to students who are falling behind, he said.
“They may be lacking self-confidence and motivation. Or sometimes, family problems hinder them from doing well,” said Lee, noting that a task force was set up to provide early and sustained support to disadvantaged students across all races to improve their educational outcomes.
Malay-Muslim organisations and the M3 network are complementing the efforts of this task force, added Lee.
The M3 network is a tie-up between self-help group Mendaki, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the People’s Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council.
Highlighting the example of polytechnic graduate Siti (not her real name) and her siblings, who were supported by various government and community organisations, including self-care group Mendaki, throughout their schooling years, Lee said he was happy to see students benefiting from national and community programmes and eventually thriving in school.
“With holistic support from various parties, Siti’s siblings have thrived in school. They received bursaries and awards for good academic achievements and exemplary character.
“The experience of Siti and her family shows that the right care environment and support can make a big difference,” said Lee.
More Malays with higher qualifications
Lee also highlighted the “significant progress” that the Malay community has made over the last decade, noting that more Malays across all age groups are attaining higher qualifications.
The proportion of Malay university graduates has also doubled in this period.
In 2020, the proportion of those aged 25 and above who are university graduates stood at 10.8 per cent for Malays, while this figure was 5.5 per cent in the 2010 census.
Lee also noted that the proportion of Malays working as professionals, managers, executives and technicians has also increased.
“As a result, Malay household incomes have gone up, too,” he said.
Lee cited the example of Samsiah Suliman, the managing director of satay manufacturing company Jumain Sataysfaction, as a Malay individual who is doing well.
Samsiah, who was present at the Mediacorp studio during Lee’s speech, expanded her family’s satay business by diversifying into non-meat options such as mushroom satay.
Lee also spoke about Aarman Yazeed, an employee of medical device maker Thermo Fisher Scientific who joined the company after completing his National Service and worked his way up to become manufacturing manager.
“Good employees like Aarman are one of the reasons Thermo Fisher decided to expand its facility to make vaccines here,” said Lee.
“I hope success stories like Samsiah and Aarman will inspire the community.” — TODAY