Halimah Yacob

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Halimah Yacob in 2018

Halimah Yacob (born 23 August 1954) is a Singaporean politician and lawyer who served as the eighth president of Singapore from 2017 to 2023. She is the first female president in Singapore's history. Prior to her presidency, she served as Speaker of Parliament from 2013 to 2017 and was the first female speaker in Singapore's history.


  • As a small nation, we must take the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. But we are far from powerless on the international stage by acting together with like-minded partners, both big and small. We remain vigilant and proactive in defending ourselves against external threats. We will continue to build a network of friends to advance our shared interests. We will strive to preserve our sovereignty and the right to determine our own future, as we have done since independence.
  • Against the backdrop of great power rivalry, smaller countries like Singapore are experiencing growing pressures to take sides. We will be subject to foreign influences and disinformation campaigns, aimed at shaping our domestic public opinion, and pressing the Government to adopt certain positions. We must do our utmost to resist such pressures. We have to close ranks and stay united, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation, especially when it comes to core national interests. We must never allow external parties to divide us, and should always stand together as one people to uphold Singapore’s vital interests.
  • Unity will also be important as we push forward against the economic headwinds. Global trade and investment flows are facing growing obstacles. Governments in the major economies are providing substantial fiscal support to develop strategic industries and strengthen their own industrial bases. This creates a more unlevel playing field, and tougher competition for us.
  • We must also re-examine how society rewards different skills and talents, and recognises the full range of pathways to success. We should accord greater value to those who are skilled with their hands and contribute through their technical and practical abilities, as well as those with the social and empathetic traits to excel in jobs such as caregiving or community service. Every Singaporean must have the opportunity to take on work they find fulfilling and meaningful, build on their talents, give of their best, and be rewarded fairly for it.
  • Throughout our nation building journey, we have repeatedly faced challenges and setbacks. We survived when few believed we would. When we started out in 1965, the journey looked so daunting, with so many problems to solve. But with courage and determination, our founding leaders and pioneer generations tackled challenges head-on, one by one, and built this thriving metropolis.
  • The trust between our political leadership and people, and between Singaporeans themselves, is a key strength we must continue to nurture and cherish. In so many societies, this has gone wrong. These societies face deep divides that are difficult to bridge. Instead of bringing people together, political parties aggravate rifts by divisive appeals for support from competing groups. Their political systems are stuck in gridlock. Consequently, trust in government and its institutions plummets, making recovery even harder.
  • Multiracialism has been Singapore’s reason for existence since our independence and is an important component of our National Identity. When we resolved that Singapore will be a multiracial nation, we also accepted and celebrated our differences as a source of strength, and not a cause for division. We valued diversity, which meant guaranteeing that each race and creed would have a space and place as contributing members of our society. Multiracialism has served us well, and today Singapore enjoys relative harmony and cohesion.
  • We must also be cognisant of subtler threats to multiracialism, which may chip away at our cohesion and stability over time. As a small and open economy, Singapore has remained open to foreign talent, as they contribute strengths and expertise that enable us to remain economically competitive. However, living cheek by jowl on such a small island means that it is crucial for them to be able to socially integrate into our local communities. They must recognise that they are part of our society too, and in Singapore we interact with, and live among people who are different from ourselves. Left unaddressed, sentiments among Singaporeans that foreign talents play by different rules, and stick only to their own, may fester. We often cite our origin as a migrant society, to reassure ourselves that we have enough bandwidth to adjust to the challenges of sharing our small city with newcomers.
  • The raison d’etre for meritocracy is clear. The economic advantage that accrues to a person should depend on capabilities and effort rather than family background. Meritocracy allows the most talented to succeed through equality of opportunities and fair competition leading to a more equitable distribution of income and wealth. Meritocracy facilitated social mobility in Singapore, enabling the growth of an expanding middle class. We now agree, however, that the very conditions that contributed to meritocracy can also result in inequality.
  • Meritocracy will continue to function as a filter to identify those who are gifted early and reward them with opportunities which is good for Singapore as we cannot adopt an attitude of pulling everyone down to the same denominator. Our approach must instead be to try and pull everyone up by providing them with the opportunities to do so. At the same time, we need to ensure that the path developed for those who have benefitted from meritocracy does not stifle the growth of late bloomers or those who excel in non-academic areas. We must make meritocracy inclusive and one that does not inhibit social mobility
  • Stewardship includes taking care of one another, and working together to solve the problems we face today. Socially, we have to take care of our ageing population and growing healthcare needs. Economically, we have to prepare workers and businesses for new jobs and opportunities. And in terms of security, we must deal with divisive forces that are sweeping across the world, including the twin threats of extremist terrorism and Islamophobia. But stewardship also means planning for the future, and building for the next generation. We must invest in our economy and our people. This includes infrastructure and hardware, but also education and healthcare.
  • I pledge to continue this journey of service to our country. I call on all Singaporeans to join me in this endeavour. Our goal must be to leave behind a better Singapore for future generations. We must measure our success not just by how well we do for ourselves, but by whether we enable the next generation to do even better. Let us commit ourselves to this task, and together create a brighter future for all Singaporeans.
  • Race, language and religion have been fundamental issues for Singapore from the very beginning of our nationhood. Singapore’s founding fathers held firmly the vision of a multi-racial and multi-religious society, and enshrined it in our Constitution. Their goal was to build a united Singapore for all races, providing all Singaporeans with full and fair opportunities to fulfil their aspirations and improve their lives. Harmony is not achieved easily or by chance. It is the result of continuous hard work and deliberate policies. Although the different races in Singapore continue to maintain their own cultural and religious practices, Singaporeans also see the value of developing a national identity based on our core values such as equality, fairness, meritocracy, inclusivity and care and compassion. We see our diversity as our strength. The different races and perspectives are seen as adding value and providing better and more creative solutions to the challenges we face in a fast changing world. We are especially concerned that the minority communities, who are non-Chinese, are not marginalised, discriminated against, or put at a disadvantage by the majority. Singapore is unique – our population is majority ethnic Chinese, but we see ourselves as a multi-racial country.
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