SINGAPORE - The wealth and range of ideas offered to mark the nation's jubilee next year befit the occasion as it represents both a significant milestone of an eventful road and a pivotal point for Singapore. After arriving economically by many global measures, the nation has to now see through the crucial task of restructuring the economy to take account of ineluctable changes. Social indicators, like health care and housing, are also sources of pride but a decisive swing towards the social sector calls for even more to be done now - to ensure inclusiveness can be made an intrinsic and sustainable part of the social fabric.
The changes afoot are an added reason for the SG50 Committee, tasked to spearhead the celebrations, to engage the broader public in events both big and small, with the focus of "reflecting on how we got to where we are (and) enjoying all that is unique and important to Singapore", as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat put it. Taking stock this way can help to strengthen a common basis for working through the challenges posed by greater social diversity.
Hence, alongside well-organised, large-scale events, there ought to be a flowering of ground-up activities as well, like the "community quilt" envisioned by three photographers who want to capture the mood and colour of eight neighbourhoods with the participation of ordinary people. The SG50 Celebration Fund has been set up to support such initiatives, but all, including companies and associations, should step up to encourage and fund ideas that take root at the grassroots level. A spontaneous expression from the heart, even if it falls short of finesse in some ways, can say much more than a highly polished jingle or slick image. Even a simple effort by an individual can capture the public imagination, like the boy in slippers who determinedly chased the Youth Olympic Games torch in the rain four years ago. The 50th birthday belongs to all.
This article was first published on June 8, 2014.
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