In the face of a more competitive economic and political scene, the Government's challenge is to keep up people's high levels of trust in it, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told civil servants on Wednesday.
Doing so is increasingly difficult as there are more competing interests and people's expectations are rising, he said.
Speaking to about 300 civil servants at a promotion ceremony for its elite officers at the Marina Mandarin Hotel, Mr Tharman said the Government has to respond with confidence and consider alternative ideas with an open mind, but keep a "sense of balance and direction".
It has to meet rising expectations by improving public services and innovating where possible, he said, while explaining clearly to the public why some expectations cannot realistically be met.
He outlined three things policymakers must do to retain public trust and govern well.
These are: implement policies well and make sure they work on the ground; include the public in working out solutions; and invest in community life and the intangibles that matter to people's sense of well-being.
To implement well, policymakers must consult widely when crafting a policy, and put themselves in the shoes of the ordinary citizen - a point also made by the Head of Civil Service Peter Ong.
They must also pay attention to details, correct mistakes quickly when they happen, and explain policies in ways that help people understand them, he said.
The Pioneer Generation Package for citizens is a "live case in point", said Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister.
Calling it a "major and complex exercise" to implement, he said it involves reaching out to 450,000 beneficiaries, training health-care workers, and designing and integrating IT systems.
The Government has set up a task force led by Senior Ministers of State Josephine Teo and Amy Khor to coordinate the efforts.
"We must ensure that our pioneers and their families understand the benefits and are assured of the Government's special support for them, so that they never fear going for treatment."
Mr Tharman said there is scope to get more of the public involved in providing solutions, by involving people in giving feedback on local issues, delivering social services and crowd-sourcing for new solutions.
Spring Singapore will pilot an appeals panel comprising business people for several of its assistance schemes, which could be extended to other agencies if successful.
A one-stop portal will bring together various agencies' crowd- sourcing competitions.
The final aspect of retaining the public's trust lies in the intangibles of well-being, he said. Besides good jobs and higher incomes, the Government must also pay more attention to shared green and blue spaces in the neighbourhood and a sense of community.
"These are things that do not have market prices, but they are no less important to the quality of life. We have to focus on the intangibles as we go forward," he said.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.