SINGAPORE needs new ways of building national consensus and unity that foster public participation and a sense of shared ownership, as the country marks its 50th year and enters a new phase of development, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
This will help Singapore address new challenges such as income inequality and an ageing society, and prevent opportunists from exploiting deep-seated issues such as race, language and religion, he said at a China-Singapore leadership development forum yesterday in central Jiangxi province's Jinggangshan city.
"We continue to abide by principles that have worked well for us, including meritocracy, self-reliance and a strong sense of community. But we have steadily evolved our policies and programmes to meet our new challenges, and cater to the needs of our changing population profile."
Mr Teo, who is Minister-in- charge of the civil service, was speaking to some 300 Chinese officials at the opening of the 5th China-Singapore Forum on Leadership, of which the theme is "Forging Consensus with Our People, Building National Unity".
In his speech, Mr Teo described key changes that the Singapore Government has made in formulating policies and communicating them to citizens over time.
Recent schemes such as SkillsFuture, which encourages lifelong learning, and MediShield Life, which will provide health insurance for all Singaporeans for life, take the Government's push to create a fair, just and united society to the next level, Mr Teo said.
The state is also moving from a "government-to-people" engagement style, which relies on public campaigns to build support for policies, to a more consultative "people-to-government" approach, where citizens' views are proactively sought.
This shift "helps strengthen trust between the Government and our citizens", he said.
Large-scale "people-to-people" engagement exercises, including Our Singapore Conversation in 2012 to brainstorm a shared vision for the nation, have also enabled different groups to underone another's views and build a consensus, Mr Teo said.
New channels such as the Internet and social media can also build community spirit, though traditional ways are not discarded, he said, citing how volunteers explained the Pioneer Generation Package in person to the elderly.
At the event, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organisation department chief Zhao Leji stressed the importance of forging consensus and unity with the people.
"Amid changes in today's society, environment, media and culture, the people's thinking is also becoming more independent, selective and fickle. So the methods in connecting with the people must change, but the emphasis on the people can never change for the party," said Mr Zhao, who oversees personnel matters and is part of the CCP's decision-making body, the Politburo.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and the CCP's Central Party School executive vice-president He Yiting were among others who spoke at the event.
Mr Teo met Jiangxi provincial party boss Qiang Wei yesterday before leaving Jinggangshan for Shanghai. He will attend Singapore Day and meet Shanghai party boss Han Zheng today.
This article was first published on April 11, 2015.
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