DPM Teo Chee Hean: Addressing people’s aspirations for better lives central to role of governments

In a time of rapid change, higher aspirations and diverse needs, “addressing people’s aspirations for better lives is central to the role of governments”.

This is one of the comments made by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean during the opening of the seventh Singapore-China Forum on Leadership in the city of Yan’an, Shaanxi on Sunday (14 April).

The forum acts as a platform for political leaders and senior officials from both countries to exchange leadership experiences and development since 2009.

“While we are guided by time-tested principles, we have to think creatively to design new policies and programmes that will meet the aspirations of our people as we enter into a new phase of our development journeys,” said DPM Teo.

Singapore can achieve this by regularly reviewing and improving policies.

“No policy is perfect or can last for all time,” said DPM Teo. “Even if a policy is optimal at the point when it was introduced, its relevance and effectiveness might wane, or there could be unintended consequences over time.”

An example of this statement is the topic of healthcare in Singapore, as the lifespan and needs of people increase. DPM Teo said that Singapore is building more facilities and transforming its healthcare model to empower citizens to take greater responsibility for their health.

Programmes like SkillsFuture is created by the government to harness people’s ideas and develop future generations. At the political level, DPM Teo said the country needs to develop a future generation of leaders ahead of time.

“This is why we have nurtured a strong team of 4th Generation leaders with a commitment to serve the people, and complementary skills and competencies, as well as diverse backgrounds and viewpoints,” said DPM Teo.

“Stable political leadership is the foundation that allows us to forge a common vision, execute long-term plans and share the benefits of growth.”

DPM Teo added that the large delegation of political office holders and senior public officers participating in the forum is the reason behind the importance of forming strong links among a new generation of leaders.

Some of them accompanying DPM Teo included Ministers Chan Chun Sing and Grace Fu, Senior Ministers of State Dr Janil Puthucheary and Edwin Tong, as well as Senior Parliamentary Secretaries Sun Xueling and Tan Wu Meng.

“We need to constantly expose our future leaders to new ideas, give them opportunities to learn from the experiences of others, and to make friends with future leaders from around the region and the world,” said DPM Teo, “on why platforms like the Singapore-China Forum on Leadership have such enduring importance.”

DPM Teo said the forum has become a premier platform of bilateral cooperation, with both countries having a long history of close partnership deepened “from generation to generation”, tracing back to the foundation laid by then paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in the 1970s.

He added Singapore has hosted three of China’s top leaders last year, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.  Singapore President Halimah Yacob has also accepted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to visit China later this year. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is also visiting China later this month for the Belt and Road Forum.

During the forum, Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing also highlighted the importance of being a constructive member of the international community, stating that Singapore’s success relied on the stability of the global system.

“We believe all countries – big or small – have a part to play to contribute towards this,” said Mr Chan. “We will continue to work closely with like-minded countries to uphold the global trading system, multilateral institutions, and a rules-based global order.”

Mr Chan also said that Singapore will play a constructive role whenever possible even though it is a small country; such as during Mr Deng’s first official visit to Singapore in 1978 to explore ideas for China’s opening up and the first summit hosted last year between United States President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Chan said Singapore will continue to encourage exchanges between Singapore and China in order to strengthen the trust and bonds with each other.