Thursday, 30 June 2022

FORWARD Singapore: 4G ministers to engage Singaporeans in six areas to get views, update policies

Lawrence Wong launches 'Forward Singapore' to set out road map for a society that 'benefits many, not a few'
By Goh Yan Han, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2022

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (June 28) called on Singaporeans to offer ideas to shape the future of Singapore, which he described as at a crossroads post-Covid-19.

Their contributions will be part of a Forward Singapore road map to be released in the middle of next year that will set out both policy recommendations and how various parts of society can better contribute to the nation's shared goals, based on its values of a united people and a society that is just and equal.

"I hope to see a society and system that benefits many, not a few; that rewards a wide variety of talents, not a conventional or narrow few; that values and celebrates all individuals for who they are and what they can achieve; and provides all with opportunities to do better throughout their lives," he said.

Mr Wong, who took on the role of deputy prime minister on June 13, was addressing unionists at a dialogue organised by the National Trades Union Congress at the NTUC Centre at One Marina Boulevard.


The year-long Forward Singapore exercise will be led by Mr Wong and will have six pillars headed by his fellow fourth-generation leaders, in areas such as jobs, housing and health.

This is Mr Wong's first major speech since becoming DPM and since being named leader of the ruling People's Action Party's 4G team in April, paving the way for him to be Singapore's next prime minister.

Mr Wong, who is also finance minister, said that it is important to refresh and update the social compact so that it remains fit for the changing circumstances.

"A social compact that is deemed fair by all segments of society strengthens social capital and fosters trust, and this is what enables us to progress together as a nation," added Mr Wong.

On the other hand, the fraying of such compacts across Europe and North America over the past decade as people felt left out of their countries' progress has fuelled the rise of extremist political parties and caused these societies to turn inward and xenophobic, unable to reach consensus on important national issues, he said.


Mr Wong said he understood the struggles that Singaporeans face - perhaps more so today than in the past - and added that he hopes to have honest conversations about these concerns and how to tackle them together.

Students, for instance, feel pigeon-holed in a system where stakes are high from very early in their lives, while graduates and workers are anxious about their careers and being priced out of the property market.

Older workers sometimes struggle to be considered for new jobs after being displaced or retrenched, he added.

"Sometimes, those who do not meet the traditional yardsticks of merit may find opportunities closed to them. They may feel beaten down by early failure, and feel discouraged from trying again," said Mr Wong.

As the world and society have changed and continue to change, it cannot be business-as-usual as today's stable state of affairs can be easily disrupted tomorrow, he said.

He added: "If our social compact fails, a large segment of Singaporeans will come to feel estranged from the rest of society, believing the system is not on their side.

"Trust in the Government and among various segments of society will plummet. Politics in Singapore will turn nasty and polarised and we will become a low trust society, like so many others in Asia and Europe.

"And Singapore, if this happens, will surely fracture."

"Fortunately, Singapore's situation is not as dire as in many of these countries," said Mr Wong.

The city-state is in better economic shape than most, and has shown a strong sense of social solidarity amid the pandemic.

But the country is now at a crossroads - the Russia-Ukraine war fuelling global inflation; rising geopolitical tensions; disrupted supply chains and a more bifurcated world.

Domestically, Singapore is dealing with a rapidly ageing population, a concern about slowing social mobility, and fears of not doing well enough or being left behind.


Strengthening the social compact means Singapore can turn each set of challenges into opportunities, which Mr Wong cited as a key reason for embarking on this exercise.

Mr Wong outlined four key areas where the social compact can evolve: the economy, meritocracy, social support and solidarity.

First, on how the economy is run, Singapore has always relied on open and free markets to grow, but if left unchecked, the workings of the free market can lead to excessive competition and rising inequalities, said Mr Wong.

"That's why we have always tempered extreme market outcomes and resisted a winner-takes-all economic regime," he added.


For example, staying open means accepting some degree of competition from foreign workers and professionals both here and overseas, which can cause anxiety.

Mr Wong said that Singaporeans are always at the centre of everything the Government does, pointing out heavy investments in skills retraining and upcoming legislation to ensure employers uphold fair employment practices.

In the same spirit, the Government will ensure public housing remains affordable, especially for the young and first-timers, and will continue to uplift vulnerable workers through schemes such as Workfare and the Progressive Wage Model.

The progressive system of taxes and transfers will be further strengthened, so that everyone contributes something but those with more give more to help those with less, said Mr Wong.

Second, on meritocracy, Mr Wong said it is still the best way to organise society, but acknowledged its downsides, such as the rich giving their children more opportunities and the risk of privilege being entrenched across generations.

"We cannot abandon meritocracy, but I believe we can improve it and make ours a more open and compassionate meritocracy," he said.


One way to do so is to do more early in the life of every child, especially those from less well-off families, so that the circumstances of their birth do not determine their future in life, said Mr Wong, who noted that the Government has already invested in pre-school education.

Another way is to broaden the conception of merit beyond academic credentials by recognising and developing talents in diverse fields and providing opportunities for people to advance at multiple stages of their lives.

"The most important change is not something that the Government can legislate into reality, because we must all, as a society, learn to value the contributions of every worker in every profession and every field," said Mr Wong.

Third, technological and economic disruptions call for a review of whether current social support is adequate, said Mr Wong.

The Government will study how it can do more to help workers tide over difficult times and how it can provide better care for the growing number of seniors.

But all this requires more resources, so society has to collectively determine how much more the government should spend, and on what, as well as how much more people are prepared to pay to fund this spending, said Mr Wong.

Lastly, on solidarity - Mr Wong said the evolving social compact should consider how to unite Singaporeans and provide for future generations.

"Some things should not, cannot, can never change - like our fundamental principle of multi-racialism," said Mr Wong.

Singapore's diversity is a source of strength, but it also requires constant adjustments to get the balance right - progressively expanding common space while allowing each community as much room as possible to go about its way of life, he added.

A strong social compact must provide not just for this generation but across generations, and "it is our sacred duty not to squander what we have inherited", said Mr Wong.


Mr Wong said he and his 4G team are sincere and committed to listening to and partnering Singaporeans, to build on momentum gained and to apply lessons learnt over the years.

He called on Singaporeans to participate in the exercise, and noted that the journey to take Singapore forward will not be easy.

"I hope we can all approach this with open minds and big hearts, be willing to give and take, as we negotiate difficult trade-offs, so we may arrive at where we want to be, stronger and more united than when we started."






Leadership style has to adapt to changing society: Lawrence Wong
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2022

Every leader has to adapt his style to the circumstances and needs of society in his time, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (June 28).

And as Singapore faces different challenges and needs, and its society evolves, his leadership style has to adjust, he told union and business leaders and workers.


"And I will continue to help Singapore and all Singaporeans succeed in our next phase of development."


Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking alongside National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and NTUC president Mary Liew at a dialogue at NTUC Centre.

The session followed his speech at the launch of the Forward Singapore exercise, an initiative by the fourth-generation (4G) leadership to engage citizens and refresh the social compact as the new team charts the next stage of the country's development.

Mr Wong said that since he was chosen as the leader of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) 4G team in April and appointed deputy PM earlier this month, he had been asked “a lot of times” what would be different under his leadership.

"Maybe it's on your minds, but you're too polite to ask me that question," he quipped to the 500 guests in the audience.

"I would say every leader has to adapt to the circumstances and needs of society of their time."


Mr Wong said first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the founding generation of leaders led Singapore through revolutionary times, and had to adopt a certain style of leadership that was necessary then.

Under second prime minister Goh Chok Tong and his successor Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the leadership style evolved because society was different and had different needs, he added.

"Likewise, for me... I'm very certain that it would be different challenges, different needs, a different society, and my leadership has to adapt and adjust to it," he said.

Mr Wong said the 4G was embarking on the Forward Singapore exercise - which includes engaging a wide range of citizens from various ages and backgrounds - "because we want Singapore always to be a country for all citizens, not just for a few".

"We want to value every citizen, value all talents, not just those who do well in school, but everyone must be valued, everyone must have a role in our society. That's what we want to achieve through this exercise," he added.

But he acknowledged that the road ahead would not be easy, with the world facing unprecedented trouble and turbulence, and Singapore at a more advanced stage of development.

Citing the Chinese saying that wealth does not last beyond three generations, and the Scottish saying that the first generation has to borrow, the second generation builds, the third generation sells, and the fourth generation has to beg, Mr Wong said it was the nature of things to get more challenging as countries become more stable and affluent and resistant to change.

But, he said he would do everything he could to make sure Singapore remains exceptional, and that in his lifetime, it continues to prosper and that this prosperity is shared among all Singaporeans.


At the dialogue, Mr Wong was asked questions ranging from how companies can become more sustainable to how the Government would help Singaporeans deal with competition from foreigners.

Cautioning against complacency, a sense of entitlement and inertia, which he said are obstacles to progress and change, he urged workers, companies and Singaporeans to embrace challenges.

This mindset has been key to Singapore's success, and is exemplified in how the Republic invented the technology to recycle water amid concerns over water security, and how it developed an agrotech industry to strengthen food resilience, he added.

The challenges posed by climate change can similarly be turned into new areas of growth, he said.

"The challenges before Singapore may appear quite daunting, but if you think about this, this is our karma," he added.

"Singapore has always faced challenges from the day we became a nation. In some ways, the challenges are a very powerful motivator for us to keep on doing better. That is what the Singapore Story has always been about - transform our challenges into our strengths."

Mr Wong was also asked for his opinion on group representation constituencies and the political system.

He said if views on the political system are raised, the 4G team will listen to them and see how best to consider these inputs.

He noted that in many advanced First World democracies with very mature, participatory political systems, politics is polarised and societies are divided when the social compact is eroded, making it impossible to find consensus on major issues.

"What's more urgent for us is to ensure that we have a process to look at these real issues that people face, and find ways to refresh and strengthen our social compact on the issues that I have highlighted," he said.

"It is also very clear to me and the 4G team that our new social compact must be one that will be inclusive and more consultative."













4G ministers to engage Singaporeans in six areas to get views, update policies
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2022

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong will lead a team of fourth-generation (4G) leaders to engage Singaporeans in a new year-long exercise.

Called Forward Singapore, it seeks to understand citizens' concerns, listen to their feedback, explore various policy trade-offs and update policies, so that Singapore society remains united amid future challenges.

Giving details of the initiative on Tuesday (June 28), the Ministry of Communications and Information said the 4G leadership will partner Singaporeans to explore issues along six "pillars".

These are: Empower - on economy and jobs; Equip - on education and lifelong learning; Care - on health and social support; Build - on home and the living environment; Steward - on environmental and fiscal sustainability; and Unite - on the Singapore identity.

The Empower pillar will be led by Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, and Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Sustainability and the Environment Koh Poh Koon.

It aims to empower every Singaporean to have lifelong employability in a more competitive economy amid an uncertain world.


The Equip pillar will be led by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Tan Kiat How.

It aims to equip every Singaporean with the opportunity to thrive, grow and realise their aspirations, regardless of their starting point in life.

The Care pillar will be led by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health Masagos Zulkifli, as well as Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah.

It aims to enable every Singaporean to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, and to better care for themselves and for others around them.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee, Transport Minister S. Iswaran, Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo, and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann will lead the Build pillar.

It aims to transform Singapore's living environment and build a more liveable home for all who stake their futures here.

The Steward pillar will be led by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, together with Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Chee Hong Tat.

This pillar aims to foster a more sustainable way of life that stewards Singapore's resources responsibly for future generations.

Finally, the Unite pillar will be led by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, along with Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health Janil Puthucheary.

Under this pillar, they will aim to grow a sense of belonging to Singapore, commitment to citizenship and a sense of mutual responsibility towards each other.

The ministries said the year-long exercise will build on the ideas gathered and partnerships built across various previous engagements in recent years, including the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations, the Conversations on Women's Development and the Long-Term Plan Review, among others.


In mid-2023, the exercise will conclude with a report setting out policy recommendations to underpin Singapore's refreshed social compact, which refers to shared values and norms and a shared understanding of how people relate to each other.

The report will also highlight how different segments of society can be more involved in contributing to shared goals for the country.

The ministries also encouraged Singaporeans to step forward to offer their views and ideas. Details of upcoming engagements will be on this website.










Welfare policies come with trade-offs, including need to raise taxes: Lawrence Wong
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2022

As Singapore moves to refresh and strengthen its social compact by investing in greater assurance and protection for vulnerable segments of society, it needs to confront the question of how far society as a whole is willing to go, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (June 28).

This means society, including the broad middle, has to decide how much more it is willing to pay in taxes to fund these programmes, added Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.

"Do we want to go as far as the Europeans, where tax rates are very high - personal income tax rates are more than 40 per cent at the top end, and for the middle-income, it is easily over 30 per cent?" he asked.

DPM Wong noted that in Europe, the goods and services tax (GST) is "also easily more than 20 per cent".

"If we say no, that's a bit too far, then how far should we go?" he asked.

The minister was responding to a question from National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew during a dialogue with union leaders at the launch of the Forward Singapore exercise.

The topic of higher taxes for more welfare was a divisive one at the dialogue, according to a poll conducted at the event.

Fewer than half of the respondents - 45 per cent - said they were willing to pay more taxes if this allows the Government to better provide for Singaporeans in need.

Another 26 per cent said they were not willing to do so, while 29 per cent were undecided. Singapore's GST is set to be increased from 7 per cent currently to 8 per cent next year and to 9 per cent in 2024.

Ms Liew had shared an anecdote about a Norwegian acquaintance who told her he was happy to contribute almost two-thirds of his income to taxes as he felt it was the people's responsibility to look out for the less fortunate. She asked Mr Wong when Singapore might reach that stage.

Mr Wong said this was an enlightened way of thinking, as investing in more protection gives people greater confidence to embark on their future.

But it boils down to implementation and details, such as whether additional resources collected for greater social welfare result in a more tight-knit society and a stronger social compact.


Labour chief Ng Chee Meng, who also spoke at the dialogue, said the Scandinavian approach to welfare and taxation is not without its downsides, and there is a trade-off between welfare and a society's dynamism.

"We have to consider whether the overall pie will grow if we go into a mode like the Scandinavian type of welfare. Will it reduce our business partners' drive to create better businesses and our workers' own initiative in forging a better life?" said Mr Ng.

Mr Wong said a balance needs to be struck when implementing social welfare policies so that the end result is not society becoming worse off.

"If we want to spend more, how do we pay for it? If you get overly generous on social welfare, would it create disincentives to work and bring about a less dynamic and innovative economy?" he asked.

Likewise, while the Government wants workers to be paid more, the implications have to be thought through, such as when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises already struggling to stay afloat. Pushing things too far can cause more problems for the whole economy, he added.

While there are no easy answers, the bottom line is to keep the economy growing while ensuring that the fruits of economic growth are shared widely by all Singaporeans, said Mr Wong.

During the dialogue on Tuesday, a union member said he was not comfortable paying higher income tax but would be prepared to contribute more to his own Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts instead. Some of the interest earned could be diverted into national wage support schemes like Workfare, he suggested.

In response, Mr Ng noted that CPF contributions are "personal gains" that come with 2.5 per cent to 6 per cent interest, depending on the CPF account the funds go to.

But for every tax dollar collected, middle-class taxpayers here get back $2 in benefits, while those in the lower-income bracket get back $4 in benefits, Mr Ng said.













Why Singapore needs to refresh its social compact
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong spoke about the internal and external pressures for change as he launched the Forward Singapore exercise at a dialogue organised by the National Trades Union Congress. Here are edited excerpts from his speech.
The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2022

What is a social compact and why do we need to refresh ours?

Broadly speaking, a social compact is a shared understanding of how all of us in society relate to one another. It's about the respective roles and responsibilities of different groups. What should the Government, employers and the community do for workers and individuals? What are our obligations as individuals to one another and to society at large?

A social compact that is deemed fair by all segments of society will strengthen social capital and foster trust, and this is what will enable us to progress together as a nation. This is why it is so important for us to refresh and update our social compact, so that it remains fit for our changing context and circumstances.


Just consider the world around us. Over the past decade, we've seen many examples of fraying social compacts and more fractured societies. Look across Europe and North America, for example. Many people with difficulty coping have felt excluded from their nation's progress.

Their resentment has fuelled the growth of extremist political parties on both the far-right and the far-left. As a result, many societies have turned inwards and xenophobic, and they are unable to find a consensus on important national issues.

Fortunately, in Singapore, our situation is not as dire as in many of these countries. Economically, we are in better shape than most.

Throughout the last two years of the pandemic, we have stayed nimble and adapted quickly, and demonstrated a strong sense of social solidarity. Amid great adversity, we were able to come together, seize the opportunities ahead of us, and emerge stronger.

At a crossroads

But we find ourselves now at a crossroads in our nation's journey. All of us had expected a strong recovery from Covid-19, but now we have flown into stronger headwinds: We have a war raging in Europe fuelling global inflation, and possibly a recession - if not stagflation.

We also face rising geopolitical tensions, especially between the United States and China; disrupting supply chains and ushering in a more dangerous and bifurcated world.

Domestically, too, we have to deal with a number of social trends with long-term consequences: a rapidly ageing population; a concern that social mobility is slowing, with those who have done well pulling further ahead of the rest due to their entrenched advantages; and, with that, mounting anxieties among many of being displaced by others.

These are very real fears in our stressful society - the fear of not doing well enough, of being left behind.

I understand your concerns.

Our students feel pigeon-holed in a system where the stakes are high from very early in their lives.

Our graduates and workers are anxious about their careers; and worry that they will be priced out of the property market.

Our older workers sometimes struggle to be considered for new jobs after being displaced or retrenched.

Sometimes, those who do not meet the traditional yardsticks of merit may find opportunities closed to them. They may feel beaten down by early failure, and feel discouraged from trying again.

I know that these are genuine struggles that Singaporeans face - perhaps more so today than in the past. And I hope we will have honest conversations about these concerns, and how we can tackle them together.

The bottom line is that the world around us and our own society have changed, and will continue to change. So we know in our guts that it cannot be business-as-usual. For the stable state of affairs we now enjoy can easily be disrupted.

And if our social compact fails:

A large segment of Singaporeans will come to feel estranged from society, believing that the system is not on their side.

Trust in the Government and among various segments of society will plummet.

Politics in Singapore will turn nasty and polarised.

We will become a low trust society, like so many others in Asia and Europe.

And Singapore, if this were to happen, will surely fracture.

Conversely, if we strengthen our social compact, we can turn each set of challenges into opportunities. We can find the silver lining in whatever comes our way. We can be a bastion of stability and opportunity in this world. And we can leave behind a better Singapore for tomorrow.

At this juncture - as we prepare for a post-pandemic world; as we navigate an increasingly treacherous geopolitical situation; as my 4G team and I prepare to take on the mantle and lead Singapore forward - let us: re-affirm our fundamental values; re-examine our principles; review our priorities and policies - and chart our new way forward together.

This is what the Forward Singapore exercise is about.

What we hope to achieve

First, on how our economy is run, and whether the system benefits all or just the few.

Everyone knows we have long relied on open and free markets to grow the economy.

That must remain the case - for it is by staying open to investments and talent from around the world that we create wealth, keep our economy innovative and vibrant, and thus provide good jobs and better opportunities for Singaporeans.

But we also know that left unchecked, the workings of the free market can lead to excessive competition and rising inequalities. That's why we have always tempered extreme market outcomes and resisted a winner-takes-all economic regime.

For example, to stay open as an economy means having to accept some degree of competition from foreign workers and professionals.

I know this competition sometimes causes anxiety. That's why we have not left Singaporeans to fend for themselves, or allowed outcomes to be decided by market forces alone.

Instead, we have invested heavily in skills upgrading and retraining - and will continue to do so - so that Singaporeans are better equipped to compete fairly for good jobs.

And we will be passing a new law to ensure that all employers uphold fair employment practices.

At the same time, we will continue to update our policies to manage the inflow of work pass holders, and ensure they come into sectors where we need them the most - to complement, not to displace, our local workforce.

I want to assure everyone, Singaporeans and Singaporean workers will always be at the centre of everything we do.

In this same spirit, we will ensure that public housing remains affordable, especially for the young and first-timers.

We will continue to uplift our vulnerable workers through schemes like Workfare and the Progressive Wage Model. And we will further strengthen our progressive system of taxes and transfers, so that everyone contributes something, but those with more contribute more, to help those with less.


Second, on our system of meritocracy.

People debate about this a lot but meritocracy is still the best way to organise our society.

Why? Because it encourages people to strive and to make the best use of the opportunities available to them, and it preserves upward mobility.

After all, if we do not reward on merit, then what other alternatives do we have? Surely, we cannot do so on the basis of connections - just because I know someone - or networks, or worse, social pedigrees.

But we also know that meritocracy has its downsides. The rich can give their children more opportunities. Those who have succeeded by their merit naturally seek to pass on their advantages to their children by any means possible. So there is a risk of privilege being entrenched across generations.

We cannot abandon meritocracy, but I believe we can improve it and make ours a more open and compassionate meritocracy.

One way is to do more early in the life of every child, especially those from less well-off families, so that the circumstances of their birth do not determine their future in life.

Another approach is to broaden our conception of merit beyond academic credentials: to recognise and develop talents in diverse fields, and give our people opportunities to advance at multiple stages of their lives.

The most important change is not something that the Government can legislate into reality: we must all, as a society, learn to value the contributions of every worker in every profession and every field.

This means respecting all - including those in lower-income jobs - who keep society going in so many ways. Many of these unassuming workers are essential, as we all learnt during the pandemic - our hawkers, cleaning workers, food delivery riders, security officers, and so many more.

Let us all recognise them, treat them with dignity and respect, treat them kindly, never turn up our noses at anyone - and pay them well. This way, we can accord these workers a greater sense of dignity and sufficiency in life, and the opportunity to continue to improve their lives.

This is my deepest belief: I hope to see a society and a system that benefits many, not a few; that rewards a wide variety of talents, not a conventional or narrow few; that values and celebrates all individuals for who they are and what they can achieve; and provides all with opportunities to do better throughout their lives.

Third, on our system of social support.

In the Budget this year, I explained how the Government has been spending more over the years to strengthen our social safety nets.

But new forces of technological and economic disruptions require us to rethink if our current assurances are adequate.

In a more volatile job market, more Singaporeans will find themselves getting displaced and in financially precarious conditions. Or they may choose to take on platform jobs which, though more flexible, do not offer adequate safeguards for their employment, career progression, or longer-term needs.

And as our population ages, healthcare and retirement adequacy will become more critical to help our seniors live out their golden years with dignity.

I believe, as a society, we can and we must do more to provide greater assurances for our fellow Singaporeans.

That is why we will study how we can do more to help our workers tide over difficult times. And how we can better provide for our growing number of seniors.

Of course, all this will require more resources. That's why we must also collectively determine how much more the Government should spend - and on what, as well as how much more our people are prepared to pay to fund this spending.

Beyond that, we must also consider how families, corporates and the community can complement what the Government is doing. For it is only when we all chip in that we can better support one another, especially the most vulnerable amongst us, to weather the storms that may come our way.

Finally, on our solidarity.

Some things should not, cannot, can never change - like our fundamental principle of multiracialism.

Our diversity is a source of strength, but it also requires constant adjustments to make sure we get the balance right: to progressively expand our common space, while allowing each community as much room as possible to go about its way of life.

Crucially, a strong social compact must provide not just for this generation's needs, but it must also provide across generations.

We are fortunate to have inherited a well-endowed Singapore. We owe this to the foresight and prudence of past generations and this was why we were able to pass successive Budgets to fund critical schemes, and help workers and families tide over Covid-19.

It is our sacred duty not to squander what we have inherited.

If we were to use up more than our fair share of fiscal resources today, or neglect taking care of the environment, our children and our future generations will end up paying the price: they will be left with bigger challenges down the road.

So even as we tackle the challenges of today, we must consider the needs of tomorrow - the social compact we forge must be one that is fair and equitable across generations.

Partnering with all

Forward Singapore will be a major undertaking of the 4G team.

You have my word that we are sincere and committed to listening to and partnering with Singaporeans. We will build on the momentum we have gained, and apply the lessons we have learnt over the years.

We will engage in good faith; consider all ideas; and work alongside Singaporeans to achieve our shared aspirations.

Some of you may ask me: what is it that I want to see in the Singapore of tomorrow?

I would say: I want to see a Singapore where opportunities are open to all, no matter who they are or what their background is; where all are assured of access to basic needs like education, healthcare and housing, and everyone can chart their own path to live a fulfilling and dignified life; where we can build the best home, not just for ourselves but for generations of Singaporeans yet unborn.

Where all Singaporeans contribute their fair share to the common good, with those who are fortunate to do well in life willingly contributing more to uplift their fellow citizens with less; where every man and woman is valued, every child treasured, and every senior respected.

This is my hope for the future. But I cannot make this happen by myself. Today, I seek your full support and participation.

This journey to take Singapore forward will not be easy.

It will require us to reflect not only on our aspirations, but also our anxieties. And to see things not just from our own lens, but also from the lens of those with different backgrounds, different needs and different priorities from us.

I hope we can all approach this with open minds and big hearts, be willing to give and take, as we negotiate difficult trade-offs so we may arrive at where we want to be, stronger and more united than when we started.










PM Lee Hsien Loong explains Singapore's approach to dealing with criticism
By Hariz Baharudin, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2022

KIGALI (Rwanda) - In Singapore's case, the Government's main responsibility is to serve its people, to do the right thing for them, and make sure the country grows, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (June 27).

It therefore has to decide what is right, what direction it wants to take, and how it wants to lead the country forward, said PM Lee at a joint press conference with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.



The Government is also mindful that nobody is right all the time, or has a monopoly on wisdom, and it considers criticisms objectively, he said.

PM Lee was responding to a question from a Rwanda Broadcasting Agency journalist, who noted that Singapore and Rwanda have faced criticism as they developed, and asked what allowed them to pursue their national priorities and stay the course that has resulted in their success.

"You may be right, or you may be wrong, nobody is right all the time. Nobody has a monopoly of the wisdom in the world," said PM Lee. "Either, you have to listen to views, or you have to listen to criticisms within your team, within the country. And even if it comes from outside the country, listen to it objectively."

Noting that some will criticise nations that do not fit their model of how countries should operate, PM Lee said each country has different circumstances, histories, cultures and aspirations. Therefore, they would have different values and ways of running themselves, he added.

PM Lee also said that when criticisms are incorrect or unfair, the Government will respectfully disagree and set out its perspective to convince Singaporeans and to prevent any confusion.

Ultimately, elected leaders are responsible to their people and face elections, he stressed.

"If the people endorse what we do, we will continue to serve them with their mandate. If we are not doing the right thing, well, another team will be in charge.

"On that basis, you can accept criticism without being defensive or without being overly swayed by different views and find the right path forward for Singapore."

Responding to the same question, President Kagame said it was important for leaders to understand what their people want and what their aspirations are.

Those in power must make sure that there is a connection between their policies and people, and they have to lay out a vision.

"We keep measuring together whether that progress has been made. And once you allow this to keep going and being the guide of what you want to do, criticisms are things you can live with, you can learn from," he said.

Responding to another question on the Commonwealth, PM Lee said its members work out where they can cooperate and find win-win opportunities to collaborate.

He also held up the way the grouping assists members that are not as developed, noting this was Singapore's experience as well when it received help in the past.

He cited the Colombo Plan scholarships, which saw countries such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand give scholarships to students from Singapore and other members to study at their universities.

People who received these scholarships returned to their countries, and in Singapore, they made considerable contributions in government and the private sector, he added.

Many ministers were Colombo Plan scholarship recipients, and while PM Lee himself went abroad on a government scholarship, he also received a Commonwealth scholarship, which he was grateful for, he said.

"We also got technical assistance, which helped us to master how to upgrade ourselves, develop and improve productivity and the lives of our people.

"If we look at it that way, then the Commonwealth does not do everything we would hope for, but on balance, it is good that we are in the Commonwealth and that is why we still stay there," he added.








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