Singapore Government Media Release
Media Division, Ministry of Information and The Arts,
140 Hill Street #02-02 MITA Building, Singapore 179369.
Tel: 837 9666









Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."


The Bill seeks to establish a Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund. This fund was first announced by the Prime Minister in August 2000 in his National Day Rally speech. The Prime Minister said that the Fund would be launched with an initial sum of $500 million from Government’s surplus. It will be built up over the years from future budgetary surpluses to a target size of $5 billion.

The Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund will be used to promote and support lifelong learning in Singapore. It will finance efforts to encourage Singaporeans to engage in lifelong learning, and provide assistance and opportunities for them to do so. This will help Singaporeans to meet the needs of a knowledge-based economy and cope with the threat of structural unemployment. In particular, the Fund will help to enhance the employability of those who are lower skilled or from the lower income group.

The Imperative of Lifelong Learning

Mr Speaker, Sir, the importance of lifelong learning cannot be over-emphasized. Increasingly, knowledge and skills are becoming the key competitive advantage for individuals, companies and nations. Today a CD ROM costs less than fifty cents to produce. But loaded with exciting computer game or office software, the same article can be sold for $50 to $100. It is the software knowledge and skills which created the value added. The rapid pace of technological advancement also means that the shelf life of knowledge and skills is getting shorter. We need life-long learning to remain up-to-date and in possession of skills to drive the economy. That is why the neighbourhood mechanic is facing more competition. The new cars come with computer engine management system. The old mechanics do not know how to service such hi-tech gadgets. Car-owners prefer to send their cars to the agents who have trained mechanics to maintain these new cars. Mechanics who cannot or do not want to be upgraded may have to look for another vocation. To put it simply, lifelong learning is no longer an option but a necessity.

Skills upgrading has a long history in Singapore. It is not a recent discovery. Since 1979, the Government had been providing incentives for worker training through the Skills Development Fund. National training initiatives, such as BEST and WISE, were also introduced to help the lower educated workers.

In 1996, EDB and the NTUC introduced the Skills Re-development Programme (SRP). This programme was expanded in 1998 into a full-scale nation-wide programme to help older and lower educated workers facing retrenchment in the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis. In July last year, we revised the Skills Development Levy to provide more funds for skills upgrading. We also launched the $200 million Manpower Development Assistance Scheme (MDAS), as part of our Manpower 21 action plan.

Our job is however far from over. Lifelong learning is not a one-time effort, but a continual effort. Today, we will be taking another important step towards helping Singaporeans to embark on lifelong learning.

Establishment of the Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund

The establishment of a Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund will provide a secure and continuing stream of income to support our lifelong learning efforts in the years ahead. It is testimony to the Government’s commitment to continuous upgrading and re-skilling of workers. By setting aside part of our budgetary surpluses to build up this Fund, we are investing the fruits of economic growth in the development of our people. This will help to sustain our competitiveness and ensure prosperity. The Lifelong Learning Fund will ensure not only the continuity of existing manpower development programmes, such as the Skills Redevelopment Programme (SRP), but also create opportunities for new programmes to help our workers acquire the skills and capabilities for the knowledge economy.

Size of the Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund

The Fund will be started with an initial contribution of $500 million. Based on the prevailing CPF Special Account Interest Rate of 4%, the initial capital sum will earn $20 million a year to support lifelong learning activities. When the Fund reaches the target size of $5 billion, we should have about $200 million each year.

My Ministry will study the needs of employers and workers and develop programmes which can be supported by the Lifelong Learning Fund. More schemes will also be added as we build up the Fund. The Ministry also welcomes innovative ideas and proposals from community organizations, which want to play a role.

LLF Programmes

For a start, my Ministry and the Infocomm Development Authority have been working with organizations, such as NLB, PA, NTUC, SNEF, and the Self-Help Groups, to develop a National IT Literacy Programme. This programme aims to help Singaporeans acquire basic IT and Internet skills. It will minimize the dangers of widening digital divide disadvantaging Singaporeans who lack such skills. A pilot project will be launched by April this year. About 5,000 adult Singaporeans from various organizations, including selected employers, People’s Association and the various self-help groups, are expected to undergo the pilot program. The experiences of the pilot project will enable us to refine the programme for wider application later this year.

Aside from IT, the LLF will progressively cover other employability skills and widen the supply of training opportunities. Today, we already have an excellent network of community facilities throughout Singapore. This includes community clubs, self-help groups and other voluntary organizations. We will work with these community organizations to bring lifelong learning opportunities closer to the heartlanders. For many Singaporeans, the convenience and proximity to home could make a big difference in getting them to take up lifelong learning. Such community-based learning and skills upgrading is an area which we will study closely.

Provisions in the Bill

Mr Speaker, Sir, let me now address the key provisions of the Bill.


Mr Speaker, Sir, as Singapore transits into the New Economy, lifelong learning will be a key competitive strategy for our success and prosperity. We must nurture the spirit of lifelong learning to equip Singaporeans with relevant skills and knowledge. The establishment of a Lifelong Learning Endowment Fund is an important part of this effort. It will provide concrete support to foster a new spirit of learning among our people. It will enable us to embark on a learning revolution to make Singapore a Learning Nation capable of tapping opportunities in the New Economy. More importantly, it will enable all segments of our population to be engaged in lifelong learning and bring about more active participation in the economy by Singaporeans.

Sir, I beg to move.