With Finance Minister Lawrence Wong’s appointment as 4G Team leader and Deputy Prime Minister, the 49-year-old is in the pole position to become Singapore’s next Prime Minister (PM).
If that becomes a reality, Mr Wong will be leading the team that will govern Singapore in the near future.
Speaking at a National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) dialogue on Tuesday (28 Jun), Mr Lawrence Wong shared his vision of what he envisions Singapore to be like moving forward.
Launching the Forward Singapore exercise, Mr Wong outlined several features he hoped to see in our society, including equal opportunities, inclusivity, and graciousness.
Answering questions about what he hopes to see in the “Singapore of tomorrow”, Mr Wong said,
I want to see a Singapore where opportunities are open to all, no matter who they are or their background.
He said Singaporeans must have access to basic needs such as education, healthcare, and housing so they can chart their own paths and live fulfilling lives.
They should also be able to build a home, not just for themselves but for “generations of Singaporeans” yet unborn.
He hopes that all Singaporeans will be able to contribute their fair share of the common good, with those who “do well in life” willingly contributing to fellow citizens with less.
His hope for the future, he said, is one where “every man and woman is valued, every child treasured, every senior respected”.
But this cannot happen by himself.
Addressing NTUC unionists, Mr Wong said he seeks their full support and participation to offer their ideas and energies to shape our vision so it’s representative of the aspirations and concerns of all Singaporeans. He also hope that they’d work together with the government to turn this collective vision into a reality.
Mr Wong admitted that the journey won’t be easy, as it involves reflecting on our aspirations and anxieties. We must also see things not just from our own lens but also from that of different backgrounds, needs, and priorities.
What will help, said Mr Wong, is if we approach the task with open minds and big hearts, and be willing to give and take as we negotiate tradeoffs.
In his speech, Mr Wong also mentioned the term “social compact” multiple times.
He defined the term as a “shared understanding of how all of us in society relate to one another”. It refers to the respective roles and responsibilities of different groups, as well as what the government and community can do for workers and individuals.
It also entails the obligations we have as individuals, as well as to one another, and the society at large. A social compact that’s deemed “fair” by all segments of society will enhance social capital and build trust.
Additionally, Mr Wong highlighted the importance of refreshing and updating our social context in order to fit the changing circumstances.
Looking around the world, DPM Wong said that there are many examples of fraying social compacts and fracturing societies where individuals find it hard to cope and participate in their nations’ progress.
Thankfully, this hasn’t happened in Singapore where we’ve achieved inclusive growth, unlike many other developed countries. Even during the pandemic, Singapore reacted nimbly and adapted quickly, displaying a strong sense of solidarity.
Despite our progress, Singapore cannot be complacent. In the unfortunate event that our social compact fails, many Singaporeans will feel estranged believing that the system is “not on their side”.
Politics then will become “nasty and polarised”, said Mr Wong. Our society will also fracture and Singapore will become a “low-trust” country like other countries in Asia and Europe.
But if we manage to strengthen Singapore’s social compact, we can turn challenges into opportunities and find the silver lining in whatever problems we may face.
A strong social support system must be in place to strengthen Singapore’s safety net — an area that the government has been spending more on.
However, given the new types of disruptions presented, there’s a need for our nation to rethink if our current suite of measures is sufficient.
A volatile job market and our nation’s increasingly ageing population also present their fair shares of challenges, such as employment safeguards and healthcare adequacy.
In the face of such challenges, Mr Wong said it’s important for us to provide greater assurance for Singaporeans. This way, they’ll know and feel that they’re not alone when the times are hard.
As our current leaders gradually hand over their responsibility to the 4G Team, it’s heartening to see the latter stepping up to the task.
By working and having such dialogues with fellow Singaporeans, we hope all stakeholders can work towards a collective goal of what they hope to see in the Singapore of tomorrow.
What kind of country would you like to see Singapore become in the future? Let us know in the comments below.
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