Buy into common national mission

Above: Banyan Tree executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping

LEADING public intellectual Ho Kwon Ping discussed both politics and governance in his lecture on the future of Singapore ("The next 50 years in Singapore politics"; Tuesday).

While many will grant that the scenarios by which the ruling party may lose power - as painted by Mr Ho - are plausible, any development in that direction should not necessarily alarm the citizenry, given the vagaries inherent in a democratic system.

We may or may not rue the demise of a proven and effective political party - if it should come to pass - but it will be our sworn duty to uphold the democratic outcome of a legitimate election, whichever party prevails.

However, the issue of "governability" raised by Mr Ho certainly should make us all sit up and take notice, as it undoubtedly touches the core of much of the difficulties that we now face as a nation.

Mr Ho observed five trends: erosion of government ability to control information, increasing difficulty in holding the political centre together, diminution in the stature of political leadership, difficulty of maintaining an ethos of egalitarianism in an increasingly unequal society, and absence of a galvanising national mission and a sense of dogged exceptionalism.

The last trend, in particular, can be directly or indirectly linked to citizen discontent over the handling of such hot-button issues as the influx of foreign workers, economic restructuring, population growth and social welfare.

Mr Ho said "the deepening of a shared national identity, the pursuit of a compelling social vision, and the shaping, articulation and moulding of that vision through a collective imagination is the central task of the younger generation".

In fact, all should play a part. It cannot be inspiring to the younger generation that, even among the baby boomers, there is much disagreement on how issues are being handled under our current system of governance.

A viable national mission could be one requiring all to look outwards and strive to be a global city, sharing what we have achieved with other like-minded global citizens who are prepared to sink roots here and contribute to our society, thereby increasing the clout of our little red dot and ensuring our future growth.

There are, of course, other aspirations, depending on the imagination of our people. The point is, unless we converge and buy into a common national mission, we shall continue to pull in different directions and make ourselves ungovernable.

Yeoh Teng Kwong

This article was first published on Oct 23, 2014.
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