SINGAPORE - The communication challenge that lies before the Government was set out by several MPs yesterday as they spoke of a need for quicker and more effective messaging.
Otherwise, people will not be able to understand how certain policies could affect them.
And it is in these gaps in information that conspiracy theories spread, said Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC).
"People trust that our Government can come up with good policies," he said. "But their expectations now are whether the Government can show that it cares."
Citing the Pioneer Generation Package - "a popular and meaningful policy" meant to benefit seniors - Mr Zaqy said he was surprised to find out that as many as 40 per cent of Singaporeans were not aware of its benefits. "What this means is that we need to put in a lot more effort to explain policy benefits and issues on the ground," he said on the first day of debate since Parliament reconvened.
"We need to put in even more for policies (in) which citizens will see benefits only in the long term, and those that require more convincing." Without such investment in communication, destructive politics - "especially the politics of envy, and the politics of self-interest" - will arise, he cautioned. "Misinformation and conspiracy theories travel much faster through social media and coffee shop talk because these make for more sensational headlines and tell people what they want to hear," he said.
The authorities need to invest more resources "to reach hearts and minds," he said. "Otherwise, it will always find itself on the back foot and these divisive messages become like a festering wound that refuses to heal."
Nominated MP R. Dhinakaran also urged for better messaging from the Government.
"A lot of cynicism is due to misinformation. If that can be addressed, then we can fix this problem," he said. "There is nothing wrong with a more informed and more involved society." He raised last year's Our Singapore Conversation as an example of the Government "listening to the people and their concerns".
"Policymaking in Singapore has evolved into a two-way process, and I encourage the Government to create as many platforms as possible, to include more Singaporeans in this process," he said.
Fellow NMP Tan Su Shan cited the CPF as an area where the Government could improve its communications. "Just by looking at the huge amount of online media (news) surrounding CPF now - and some are very negative - it is clear we need to do more to educate CPF members."
This article was first published on May 27, 2014.
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