SINGAPORE is not a country just for the rich, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
It cannot be. Otherwise, the government would lose elections because there are not enough rich people around to vote it in.
Instead, Singapore has to be a place where the majority of the people enjoy a high quality of life, he said at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum on Friday night.
He was responding to a National University of Singapore student, who feared that he, as a middle-income person, might be squeezed out here and that the country is increasingly for foreigners, tourists and the rich.
Said Mr Lee: 'Singapore has to be a place where the vast majority of Singaporeans will enjoy a high quality of life and be able to have jobs, where you can earn well and do well for yourself.
'You may not be able to do well as the top-most successful banker or lawyer or property developer, but you do well for yourself, your career. You have good schools for your children, good healthcare for your parents, good leisure for your family, good opportunities for your future.'
He stressed that if Singapore was a society where everybody was equal, it would be a 'recipe for poverty'.
Inequality is unavoidable, but the Government must make sure most people have a good standard of living.
With the job market thriving, he told the 900 students at the forum that a job awaited them when they graduate.
I'm told that it used to be that a student would wait six months to get employed. Now the employers are waiting six months to hire the students. Six months before you graduate, sign you up,' he said.
He was speaking at an hour-long dialogue that saw students quizzing him on a range of issues, from human rights to the Government's attitude towards public consultation.
The dialogue came after a speech in which Mr Lee sketched the challenges that Singapore faces in the years ahead.
The country was poised to remake itself in the next five to 10 years by transforming the economy and creating a more vibrant and open society. It was doing so against a backdrop of an Asia on the move, fuelled by the rise of China and India.
Encouraging the students to take advantage of the promising future, he added: 'You're in the middle of a period when Asia is going to do very well. Singapore, I think, is going to do very well.
And you should be looking at the opportunities and saying, I want to be up there succeeding with them. And I think you can do that.'