'Think-tanks crucial' as policymaking gets more complex

'Think-tanks crucial' as policymaking gets more complex

The need for independent think-tanks like the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) is even greater in the more complex policymaking environment now, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said last Tuesday night.

Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the organisation he had envisioned, he said Singapore needs to change the way it governs itself, and think-tanks "can play a crucial role in facilitating the engagement between citizens and the Government".

This involves advancing policy conversations in the public domain in new and innovative ways, he added.

To that end, Mr Goh disclosed IPS is launching a "Social Lab" this month, a polling and research unit that will collect and analyse data on key social challenges.

Earlier, the Lab's deputy director, IPS senior research fellow Leong Chan Hoong, told The Straits Times it will be in the mode of outfits like the National Opinion Research Centre (NORC) in the United States.

NORC is behind the General Social Survey that has tracked changing social attitudes among Americans since the 1970s.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser will head the Social Lab, and its first project will be tracking a representative group of Singaporeans over many years for a detailed picture of income dynamics, social mobility and political attitudes.

These longitudinal studies, often done in other countries, can show what works and what does not over the long term, and thus help the Government make better policy, said Mr Goh.

He was giving the keynote address at the gala dinner at Shangri-La Hotel. Among those present were former president S R Nathan and ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee, who was IPS' founding director.

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