Another vital ‘act of faith’

SINGAPORE - In his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced many new programmes to strengthen our social safety nets, enhance social mobility and let people share more of the nation's success, together with massive plans to develop the country.

He is confident that the sky is the limit in making Singapore a better place to live in. However, at the end of his speech, Mr Lee also cautioned that "in a deeper sense, these are not plans; these are acts of faith".

Among the examples he gave was the faith that "we can get our politics right" and "stay together as one united people".

The faith or trust the people have in the Government is a complex issue. Introducing tough and unpopular policies sometimes dents the faith, no matter how imperative the measures are. For example, the Population White Paper set out plans to ensure our population remains vibrant in the long term, and that the inflow of foreign manpower is adequate to meet the needs of the growing economy in the future.

Those who opposed it generally paid less attention to mitigating the impact of an ageing population and manpower shortages in the coming decades.

A lack of faith in population policies could erode the people's trust and create new divisions.

Such policies, however, should not be evaluated in isolation or without taking into account the bigger, long-term national interests.

Supporting only "pleasant" policies while shunning the unpopular ones poses the risk of turning us into a populist nation.

"Acts of faith" should include making compromises as part of our efforts to make Singapore a stronger and better home.

-Ng Ya Ken

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