Sunday 20 October 2013

'Global city or regional centre?'

ESM Goh says S'poreans must decide type of city and its values
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2013

AS SINGAPORE moves into the next chapter of its history, citizens must play a part in deciding the kind of city it should be and the values it should hold, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

He presented two paths the country could choose to take: "Do we want to be a global city, or should Singapore be a regional centre?"

As for values, he said: "Should we have more cosmopolitan values in society? Because that's what we are now, more cosmopolitan. Or do we revert to just merely Singaporean, meaning Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian?"

Mr Goh, who posed these alternatives at the government's feedback unit REACH's forum, noted that in previous waves of immigration, most newcomers were from India, China and Malaysia.

But now, migrants from other places have chosen to settle here, he said in opening remarks at a closed-door dialogue with 170 regular contributors to REACH.

Citing Marine Parade GRC, where he is an MP, he said there are Australians, Italians, Britons and Cambodians living there.

Mr Goh founded REACH's predecessor, the Feedback Unit, in 1985.

Reflecting on it, the 72-year-old former prime minister said: "I've written my chapter. It's now up to Amy Khor, Yaacob and others to write the next one with you."

He was referring to REACH chairman and Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor, and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who were present at the forum.

The theme of the forum was "Embarking on a new chapter of the Singapore story."

ESM Goh also noted that Singapore's future and its challenges are more complex than they were during his time as prime minister.

Picking up on it, Dr Yaacob said: "The question now is 'how can we choose the path that all of us can agree on?'"

Dr Khor said many forum participants, who had earlier been asked to send in their comments on the dialogue's theme, had zeroed in on the issues of values and identity.

They had asked "how Singapore can be a more compassionate society, where more can be done to help those in need, instead of having a 'me! me! me!' culture", she said.

Time for younger Singaporeans to write next chapter of nation’s story: ESM Goh
By Amir Hussain, TODAY, 19 Oct 2013

Compared to five decades ago, Singapore now faces a tougher time in charting the course for the future, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

With just an entrepot port then, Mr Goh said the Government chose to attract investments; and to do so by removing labour strikes, having a “disciplined, hardworking people”, and incentivising multi-national companies to come here. “You could see the direction for the economy,” he said.

“Today, the economy is matured, we try and write a story for the next chapter of the economy, not that easy to write,” added Mr Goh, as he gave examples of how policy-making is similarly more difficult today on both the education and housing fronts.

Speaking at the start of Government feedback unit REACH’s fifth Contributors’ Forum, themed Embarking on a New Chapter in the Singapore Story, Mr Goh said it was for younger Singaporeans to write the next chapter for Singapore together. “I have written my chapter,” the former Prime Minister added.

Noting that Singapore today has “a new wave of immigrants”, who hail from countries different from where its old wave of immigrants came from, Mr Goh also posed two questions to the participants.

“Should we be a global city, or should Singapore be a regional centre? Should we have more cosmopolitan values in the society — because that’s what we are, we’re very cosmopolitan — or do we revert back to just being mainly Singaporean, meaning Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasians?”

The annual closed-door forum saw 170 participants engage with Mr Goh, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim and REACH Chairman Amy Khor.

Mr Goh, who set up REACH’s predecessor — the Feedback Unit — when he was Deputy Prime Minister in 1985, also told participants: “The Government must reach out to the people in order to understand, in order to take your pulse.”

“But the people must also reach out to the Government,” Mr Goh added, reiterating a point he made in a speech last month when he called for trust between the state and citizens to be reinforced as Singapore is at a turning point where policies needed to be updated or overhauled amid a more competitive global landscape.

In her opening address, Dr Khor said the next chapter of the Singapore story will be written not by the Government alone, but by the community at large. Singaporeans will also need to come forward to play a more active role, while the relationship between the people and the Government will also need to be re-imagined and reinforced, so that Singapore can thrive even in adversity, she added.

Dr Khor assured participants that feedback received by REACH “do(es) not end up in a black hole, but have in fact been instrumental in shaping and enhancing our policy-making decisions”. She said: “The Ministry of Manpower’s recent announcement of the Fair Consideration Framework to encourage a level playing field and push employers to consider Singaporeans fairly for jobs and development opportunities would no doubt have been influenced by the feedback given.”

But Dr Khor added: “Policy formulation often takes time and the results of your feedback may not always be immediately obvious.”

And even as all feedback is considered, it is not possible to take all feedback on board, she added, given trade-offs in policy-making to accommodate divergent views and priorities.

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