SINGAPORE: The committee spearheading a national conversation about Singapore’s future has been unveiled.
It comprises a mix of cabinet ministers, academics and ordinary Singaporeans like students and a taxi driver.
Headed by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, the 26—member team includes Chia Yong Yong, president of the Singapore Society for the Disabled; Ismail Hussein, head of the Islamic Banking Unit of Maybank Singapore and cabbie Patrick Teo.
Mr Teo said: "I’m concerned about COEs (Certificates of Entitlement for vehicles). If the COEs keep going up, to S$200,000, how do you imagine taxi drivers will survive?"
Banker and father of three, Ismail Hussein, said: "(Like most Singaporeans), I do have a concern about the rising food cost, housing and transportation costs. But I’m particularly concerned about my children and the future generation of Singapore.
"I have three children and I hope through this initiative, we will be able to know about the aspirations and hopes for the younger generation —— what’s their motivation, what makes them tick and hopefully we have a Singapore where they are happy to live in, in the future."
The oldest member is 61—year—old actress Lim Ru Ping. She said: "Maybe, I can reach out to senior citizens, who don’t go online, don’t know how to read, and don’t write.
"Through my job, because I am hosting... through this channel, I can hear them, about what they need, and to help out."
Accountancy student and entrepreneur Stanley Chia is one of the youngest members, at 25. He said: "Youths —— I’m really interested to see how this conversation can bring out their concerns about the society and how they can contribute."
The youngest member is 19—year—old polytechnic student Teng Zi Ying.
Government representatives include Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Education Sim Ann and Member of Parliament Indranee Rajah.
Education Minister Heng said the committee members have been drawn from all walks of life to reflect the diversity of society.
He said: "This is not a partisan exercise and even committee of 20—odd people cannot represent the whole of Singapore. Members are not chosen on the basis of functional representation."
Mr Heng said the committee’s role is to "catalyse the conversation" and reach out to all Singaporeans, even those who are usually silent.
He added that the committee would make use of three main platforms to reach out to Singaporeans.
First, is the online interaction through its Facebook page and the committee’s website, which was also launched on Saturday.
Next, will be the citizens’ dialogue where about 30 dialogue sessions are being planned. Each session will involve 50 to 150 people.
Participants will also be further grouped into 8 to 10 people per group session with a facilitator to allow for a richer and deeper discussion.
These sessions will also be held in different languages and dialects so that no one will feel intimidated.
When asked how inclusive the dialogues will be, Mr Heng replied: "Well, I think every Singaporean is welcome to provide their views, including members of the opposition, and ... the committee will be happy to receive their feedback and ideas."
The dialogue exercise is expected to take at least one year. But the committee said timing will remain flexible, and the process will be extended if necessary.
MP for Tanjong Pagar, Indranee Rajah, commenting on why this exercise is so important, said: "In 50 years, we’ve managed to do the most improbable, unlikely thing.
"We’ve taken this group of people from different races, very different cultures and made something of ourselves, such that small as we are —— you can’t even find us on the map —— this tiny little thing, and we’ve been called a little red dot which was meant disparagingly, but we have taken on as a badge of honour as a mark of pride.
"That’s who we are —— this red dot. And we want to make sure in 20 years time, this red dot is going to be there —— big, bright and shining, still red, hopefully with plenty of stars around it, and you’ve got to have choices to get there.
"We want many things. When you listen to feedback, we hear ’I want this, this, this, this’. Then we have to ask, how do we achieve that?"
She added: "So this conversation is about ’how are we going to achieve our future with confidence, yet without arrogance?’. How are we going to paint a picture for ourselves that’s visionary yet realistic? How do we make of ourselves as one people and invite others in? How do we be nationalistic without being xenophobic?"
The third outreach programme is a national survey which is targeted at 3,000 to 4,000 Singaporeans.
Mr Heng said the survey hopes to find out issues that matter most to Singaporeans and is planned for November or December this year.
The national conversation is aimed at getting Singaporeans to think about what sort of home they want in 20 years time as the nation grapples with challenges of globalisation and a declining birth rate.
Mr Heng said what is important is to forge a deeper understanding of the sort of values Singaporeans hold, their key concerns, and for citizens to agree on some areas that will form the basis of future policies.
He said: "I hope to see this as a sincere, authentic and respectful conversation. Our conversation should be grounded on reasons and facts and we must respect each other’s views.
"Now when we have a conversation involving thousands of Singaporeans, there will be many different viewpoints. Some of these viewpoints will differ from each other and it will not be possible for every view to prevail and every suggestion to be taken up. So we need the spirit of give and take.
"What is important is that we must listen with an open mind and we must listen with our hearts so that we can have a deeper understanding of our concerns and hopes, and make wise choices together as a people so that we can create a better future together."
To participate in the dialogue sessions, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE SINGAPORE NEWS
Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn
French special forces and local troops raid an army base in northern Niger, ending a hostage seizure by Islamist fighters who had staged twi... More French special forces and local troops raid an army base in northern Niger, ending a hostage seizure by Islamist fighters who had staged twin suicide bombings that killed at least 20 people. Duration: 00:34
Date 2 hrs ago, Duration 0:34, Views 0