Civil society in Singapore should play a more active role in public debates and discussion so as to let Singapore advance, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on 3 August, Monday.
Mr Tharman made these remarks at the launch of a book, Singapore 2065: Leading Insights on Economy and Environment from 50 Icons and Beyond, which attempts to address the future of Singapore’s economy and environmental landscape today.
“We have more ideas and views coming from scholars, public intellectuals, and a broader range of commentators today compared to even a decade ago,” he said. “There is more active scrutiny of government policies, and more active listening by government.”
“But it will do Singapore good if we also have more debate and peer review within civil society itself, with participants evaluating each other’s analyses and proposals, and pointing to the trade-offs thoroughly and dispassionately. This debate, which does not depend on only the Government responding to arguments being put forward, will help us mature as a society,” he added.
This is not the first time that Mr Tharman vouched for the development of civil society in Singapore.
At an earlier SG50+ Conference, jointly organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the National University of Singapore, Mr Tharman highlighted the role of the government vis-a-vis that of a participatory citizenry.
“The central role of government in any modern democracy has to be to preserve the centre, and to constantly lean against polarising forces to unify the whole.
So it is not just about strategies of social mobility and education and jobs, which is of course fundamental. It is also about how people engage with each other, it is about institutions that encourage that, as well as developing a strong civil society.”
The Singapore 2065 book included contributions from ministers, prominent economists, veteran diplomats as well as business leaders, such as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh, CEO of Banyan Tree Ho Kwon Ping, and Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Professor Kishore Mahbubani.
Mr Tharman said that the book will help encourage a healthy debate on the choices Singapore will make as a nation in the future.
Adapted from media reports.