Sgconversation in 2012

Another Singapore Conversation? Another exercise in futility?

By Augustine Low

The government loves to have dialogues with Singaporeans. One conversation after another, seeking views and sharing its own thoughts and vision and what not.

Fresh after the shock Malaysian elections, it was announced in Parliament last week that 4G leaders will conduct a series of discussions with Singaporeans to chart the country’s future.

“The fourth-generation leadership will listen with humility and respect. We will consider all views with an open mind,” said Heng Swee Keat.

Not long after the 2011 general elections, when the People’s Action Party had its worst performance since independence, the government kickstarted Our Singapore Conversation. This involved dozens of dialogue sessions with thousands of Singaporeans.

At the end of it all, 12 perspectives or themes were presented, capturing the essence of the discussions.

Just to recap some of them:

– A society that is affordable to live in
– A society with a greater sense of togetherness
– A Singapore with a more fulfilling pace of life
– A Singapore with a competent and trustworthy government

All motherhood statements that look like they belong to the PAP election manifesto!

Following that, there was SG Future in 2015. Needless to say, it would be a tall order to try and recall any tangible outcomes.

So now, there is yet another series of dialogues with Singaporeans, this time specifically with 4G leaders.

The plea is simple: Do not make it an exercise in futility.

These are some simple, straight from the heart requests:

  1. It’s comforting to talk to the usual suspects and the converted – but do seek out dissenting voices who may have more awkward but more useful views to share.
  2. The less well-off and the marginalised must be included in the discussions – there’s little point in speaking primarily to those who have priorities different from those at the lower rungs of society.
  3. Enough of harping on hopes, dreams and vision – unless the idea is to have intangible outcomes. Steer the conversation to bread and butter issues and the day-to-day concerns, worries and joys of Singaporeans – like cost of living, GST hike, CPF scheme, childcare and children’s education, HDB asset enhancement scheme, and accountability of national reserves.
  4. Accurately reflect views and feedback – this cannot be taken for granted, because the recent Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods provided summaries on the Parliament website which were seen as grossly inaccurate by a number of witnesses.

The hope is that the government does not go through the motion, just so they can declare to Singaporeans we took the trouble to consult you and your voices are heard.

Augustine Low is a proud but concerned citizen. Voicing independent, unplugged opinion is his contribution to citizen engagement. 

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