Life returning to normal but challenges remain, says President Halimah Yacob in National Day message

Kids playing on the water playground at Garden by the Bay in Singapore amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. - AFP

SINGAPORE, Aug 7 (The Straits Times/ANN): Life is gradually returning to normal in Singapore after a two-year long battle against the Covid-19 pandemic but there still are challenges ahead, said President Halimah Yacob on Sunday.

In a National Day message broadcast on Facebook, Halimah said most Covid-19 restrictions have eased and that the country is learning to live with the virus.

Singaporeans are travelling once again, and families can now celebrate significant occasions together, she added.

She said: "Last month, we had our first full scale Istana Open House after two years. It was wonderful to see so many families enjoying themselves."

Sounding a note of caution, she added: "We are not out of the woods yet."

Halimah identified three key pressure points facing Singapore: economic headwinds, social cohesion in Singapore, and long-term commitments like an ageing population and climate change.

She said the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions between the United States and China, the repercussions of climate change as well as disrupted supply chains continue to fuel inflation and drive up the cost of living.

She said: "Slower economic growth will exert tremendous pressure on government budgets everywhere."

Halimah also said the importance of social cohesion cannot be overstated.

"Growing inequalities can divide society, so we must ensure that everyone can make the best use of their talents and skills."

She added that programmes that are in place to support needy children and low-skill workers should be constantly reviewed and strengthened.

"We see extreme forms of nationalism, often based on race and religion, taking root in many countries and dividing societies, and must guard against that," she said.

"Our racial and religious diversity is our strength, but it is not a given. It requires a lot of effort, understanding and empathy to maintain and grow."

While current and urgent issues are tackled, Halimah also said careful planning and implementation is required for issues like an ageing population and climate change.

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