On Monday (20 Jan), the Trade and Industry Minister, Chan Chun Sing stressed that the country must “defy the odds of history” to survive and thrive as a small city-state.
In Singapore’s history, the past 50 years since independence in 1965 have been an “aberration,” Mr Chan remarked.
Speaking at a dialogue during the closing of the conference of the Institute of Policy Studies annual Singapore Perspectives, he added “If we go back a few hundred years, Singapore has never been independent.”
Without a hinterland, an island surviving without external links for markets and resources is difficult, Mr Chan answered when queried about his two to three decades long-term vision for the country.
The conference, organised at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, saw participants consisting of opposition party members, academics and students.
Singapore’s citizenry is different to some other nations in that there is no shared common religion, ancestry, language and race, Mr Chan remarked.
Due to this, “forward-looking” set of values such as incorruptibility, multiculturalism and meritocracy are to define the country’s identity, he stressed. By doing so, Singaporeans are able to define their own future without being “beholden or held ransom” to others.
Mr Chan answered that it was crucial to have people with the right values involved in politics, when queried about it. Political leaders must not “love themselves more than they love their country.”
“I am still here because I want my children and my grandchildren and for many more generations to come and to be able to call themselves Singaporeans,” Mr Chan remarked while remembering when his wife had asked him the reason he was still in politics despite receiving harsh critics.
The intergenerational passing down of lasting achievements must continue between generations, and the current Singaporeans must also do the same, he noted.
“If we can continue to do that, I’m not worried about SG100… I will say that even beyond SG100, we will continue to shine,” Mr Chan commented.
For close to one hour, Mr Chan discussed questions pertaining to the country’s language policies, alternative energy sources and the independence of the electoral boundaries review committee.
An opposition politician, Goh Meng Seng, agreed with Mr Chan’s statement about the current leadership welcoming“deep-level debate” on policies.
While data is a useful tool, it is not a “panacea” and must be viewed objectively without any confirmation bias or preconceived notions, Mr Chan opined.
“At the same time, at the end of the day, it is not data alone that will convince our people what their choices are, it is also about the trust that our people have with us. We know that without trust, nothing will work very much,” he further stated.
Entrepreneur Ibnur Rashad asked if the country’s political system will move towards a “non partisan” political system, to which Mr Chan replied that he had considered it before and that it is not impossible. While having political candidates stand independently will produce a diversity of views, there may not be “convergence” which is vital in bringing the people together as well as driving the country forward.
“Singaporeans have to decide for ourselves what kind of political culture we want,” Mr Chan concluded.