DEPUTY Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday placed personal responsibility front and centre in the Government's approach to building an inclusive society.
He said the Government will continue to tilt its policies in favour of the lower-income groups and expand support for the middle-income. As it does so, the question to ask is how to do so in a way that preserves the social culture and norms that enable Singapore to be a fair society, without reducing its vim and energy.
He was delivering the annual S. Rajaratnam Lecture organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Many developed countries face an uphill challenge in keeping their societies inclusive, Mr Tharman said. While taxes and transfers have mitigated inequality, they have, with few exceptions, failed to restart social mobility.
The biggest looming challenge is a crisis of intergenerational equity as pensions and health-care financing reforms have not kept pace with longer life spans.
He outlined Singapore's approach: "We must do more to help the poor and sustain mobility in each new generation, but do it in a way that reinforces individual effort and responsibility for the family. This paradox of active government support for self-reliance has to run through all our social policies."
He emphasised that Singapore was facing its inclusive growth challenge from a position of strength.
Unlike many other advanced countries, it had not burdened its next generation with crippling debt due to promised pension payments premised on unrealistic investment returns, he said.