Tuesday 5 April 2016

Singapore identity must go beyond material concerns: Chan Chun Sing

By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 4 Apr 2016

Amid concerns over jobs in the current uncertain economic conditions, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing offered reassurances on the outlook while harking back to the spirit of the pioneer generation in urging Singaporeans to foster a national identity that goes beyond materialistic concerns.

Whether the Republic makes it to SG100 depends on Singaporeans’ reasons for staying put “even when the chips are down”, he added, addressing about 200 youth aged between 18 and 35 at a dialogue after a ministerial community visit to Geylang Serai.

“Is your staying in Singapore conditional on certain factors, particularly material or otherwise? Is it contingent — I will stay in Singapore if the following conditions are met; if the following conditions are not met, I won’t stay in Singapore,” he asked. “(What if) somebody else can give you better, cheaper, cost of living? ... If for the next 10 years, we have a serious recession and (it becomes) very difficult to find jobs, you cannot fulfil your aspirations, you cannot find the jobs that you like, will you still stay here?”

Noting that this form of national identity is one that is “transactional”, he compared it to the 1965 generation who had nothing but chose to make Singapore their home nonetheless. “That’s the difference between a real sense of national identity and one that is contingent on all these factors,” he added.

Mr Chan, who is also labour chief, also told the dialogue participants at the Lifelong Learning Institute that he has observed shorter taxi queues on Orchard Road, with those in line carrying fewer shopping bags. While these phenomena point to a changing economy, the minister reassured participants that there is no lack of jobs in Singapore. Rather, the issue at hand lies in matching available jobs with people’s aspirations.

The challenge is in retraining, said Mr Chan, who added that Singaporeans need to acquire skills to take on the jobs of tomorrow.

“But you shouldn’t be downcast because compared to the 1965 generation, you have much more resources at your disposal to overcome these challenges,” he stressed. “The question is not whether you can overcome these challenges — you should be confident — the question is how do we overcome these challenges together as a society.”

When participants raised the topic of welfare for the needy, Mr Chan said he agreed that more help should be given to those with less. But executing this properly could be tricky, he added, since it hinges on whether individuals think that they are entitled to get as much help as they can from the State, or if there is an understanding that some people get more because they really need it more.

Singapore’s cohesiveness depends on which mindset Singaporeans have, he said.

“If every one of us wants to take the maximum for ourselves, because we believe we are entitled to it, then we have a challenge. No matter how much resources we have, it will never be enough,” he added.

While many countries define their national identity through a “backward-looking concept”, such as by their history, race, language and religion, Mr Chan said the Singapore identity can be complemented with a “forward-looking sense of identity” as well.

This includes defining the Singapore identity through ideals such as meritocracy and multi-racialism that can unite people from diverse backgrounds to build a common future.

On how the Government can help youths better understand the rationale behind unpopular policies, Mr Chan said there are many platforms for the authorities to share the thinking behind policies. But the youths also need to be aware of events that are happening outside Singapore, be able to analyse and apply those situations and think about the available alternatives, he noted.

The dialogue capped off various stops he made in Geylang Serai, as part of the first ministerial community visit in this new term of Government. Mr Chan visited the Haig Road Food Centre, Paya Lebar MRT Station and had a closed-door discussion with some religious leaders at the Khadijah Mosque.

“If for the next 10 years, we have a serious recession and (it becomes) very difficult to find jobs, you cannot fulfil...
Posted by TODAY on Sunday, April 3, 2016

Multi-culturalism, multi-racialism and multi-religious were words I heard many times today during my visit to Geylang...
Posted by Chan Chun Sing on Sunday, April 3, 2016

Strong national identity 'key for Singapore to get to SG100'
Youth must think of what they can do for nation, and not just ask what Singapore has to offer them: Chan Chun Sing
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 4 Apr 2016

Whether Singapore makes it to SG100 will depend on whether citizens feel they have a sense of national identity as one people and a shared obligation to help one another, in particular the less well-off, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

And the youth should not just ask what the country can offer to help them, but what they can do to make it better, he told over 200 young people at a dialogue on a visit to Geylang Serai ward in Marine Parade GRC.

Mr Chan cautioned against going the way of other countries that are well endowed, but that are divided and see fights over resources.

Participants submitted questions through their smartphones and voted on those they wanted him to respond to. The top issue: Why should the youth want to stay in Singapore till SG100 when the cost of living is high, prompting many to think hard about settling down.

Mr Chan, who is labour chief and deputy chairman of the People's Association, said most Singaporeans at independence in 1965 were committed to the country "even when the chips are down". They did not adopt a "transactional" national identity that hinges purely on the benefits of citizenship.

"Is your staying in Singapore conditional on certain factors, particularly material or otherwise?" he asked the participants. "How many of you will still stay here if, for the next 10 years, we have a serious recession and you cannot fulfil your aspirations, find the jobs you like?

"Your answer to that question will decide whether we have an SG100," he said. The "1965 generation" stayed put in spite of uncertainties and worked to create a nation, he said."If enough of us stay here 'in spite of', then don't worry about SG100 - even SG1000, we will be here," he added. "But if the majority of us are here only because of what the country can give us, then we will be in a very different position."

Mr Chan also said how cohesive Singapore stays depends on whether people think in terms of getting maximum benefit from the state, or if they can accept there are others who need more help.

He cited an example from his Meet-the-People Session where, at one table, an elderly man earning $1,000 a month had asked for ComCare aid. At the next, a newly-wed couple in their 20s were angry they did not qualify for additional housing grants as their combined monthly income was $12,000.

He said: "We don't want to end up in a situation like some other places where, even when you have resources to share, people fight over them."

Mr Chan noted that Singaporean identity was not defined through markers like race, language or religion, but through ideals like meritocracy and multiracialism.

Republic Polytechnic student Lim Yi Xuan, 18, said the dialogue made her realise there are no easy answers to some tough questions facing Singapore: "It made me realise that distributing aid equally may not be the most equitable way."

Raffles Institution student Muzammil Arif Jabbar, 17, said Mr Chan's comments were a reminder that the youth had to take an interest in issues affecting Singapore and do their part to ensure it survives.

Mr Chan's visit is part of a series of monthly visits to constituencies by younger ministers, and the first since last year's general election.

He also spoke to residents at Haig Road Food Centre and met community leaders at Khadijah Mosque for a closed-door dialogue.

"It's good for our youth to think about the kind of challenges we will be facing - and how each and every one of us can chip in to play a role towards SG100," he told reporters.

"If you look at the energy that our youth are displaying, you can be very confident that we will be able to face the future with confidence."

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