Mailbox: Striking a delicate balance

I was present at the opening ceremony of the Pre-University Seminar and I applaud Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin's clear arguments and sincere style ("Pre-U students zoom in on power of stories"; Tuesday).

During the question-and-answer session, he cited racial harmony as an example of a post-independence government policy that was extremely successful.

Indeed, it has led to a more progressive, multiracial society, laying the foundation for our stability and prosperity.

In today's context, Singaporeans want more say in the governance process. How they go about expressing their concerns is beside the point, although attention-grabbing, unsubstantiated criticism is certainly not deserving of any scrutiny.

The main difficulty is to strike a balance between government paternalism and the growth of civil society. They remain at opposite ends of the spectrum but are certainly not mutually exclusive.

This balance affects most of the recent issues raised, such as government management of the Central Provident Fund, and even the regulation of the media and freedom of speech.

Neither side is wrong, and Singapore has to strike a balance between societal self-regulation and the protective policies of a technocratic government.

Also, I am puzzled by our excessive focus on internal issues. Without dealing with external uncertainty, our country will not even have a shot at domestic prosperity.

I hope the Government can shed more light on how we plan to navigate the complex regional geopolitical environment, while preserving our neutrality.

All in all, Mr Tan's frank, down-to-earth style certainly impressed many students. If the Government continues in this current direction, it will gradually include ordinary Singaporeans' views in the decision-making process.

Kuek Jia Yao

This article was first published on June 05, 2014.
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