"Building trust comes from working together", says PM Lee on Singapore's social compact
- POSTED: 24 Sep 2013 22:19
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Questions on governance, forging a new social compact and the future of Singapore were posed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a live TV programme, Ask the Prime Minister, on Channel NewsAsia on Tuesday evening.
SINGAPORE: Questions on governance, forging a new social compact and the future of Singapore were posed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a live TV programme, Ask the PM, on Channel NewsAsia on Tuesday evening.
Singaporeans had sent in a slew of questions to Prime Minister Lee, through various social media platforms and video booths set up by MediaCorp.
A popular topic was the issue of governance and how Mr Lee felt his team had addressed the concerns raised by Singaporeans since the last General Election in 2011.
"We have had a lot of questions about governance, many of them take us back two years to GE 2011, when there were deep-seated grievances. Foreigners, housing, transport, these were hot button issues. How would you assess how you and your team have done thus far to address these?" asked MediaCorp News Editor-in-Chief Walter Fernandez.
PM Lee, in reply, said: "I think we have made significant progress. It took a while both to manage the issues and also manage the sentiments and get people to look at it in a more positive and constructive way as we made progress.
"On housing, we have built a lot of units, the queues have come down, the prices have stabled, are stable. There is more assurance now that you can afford an HDB flat.
"I tried very hard in the (National Day) Rally to explain the numbers and take people through some examples and these were realistic, typical examples.
"You can afford a flat, there is no need to worry. Get one, get married, start a family.
"(On) transport, we have made progress with the bus services enhancement. We've got more than 200 buses running. We look at the statistics every month and we can see that the crowded services got fewer.
"We still need to get some more buses on the roads, we still need to get more drivers hired, we are working at it.
"The trains will take a bit longer, because the train upgrading, to get the new signalling laid, to get the new lines running, to get more trains, rolling stock to arrive, that will take a few more years - 2015, 2016 - but we are making as much haste as we possibly can."
Another key question that was posed to PM Lee was the issue of how to rebuild trust between the electorate and the government.
"What underpins this entire social compact has got to be the trust between the electorate and the government. You have said before that there have been mistakes made, no perfect 20-20 hindsight, things could have been done differently. How do you rebuild this trust between the electorate and the government?" asked Mr Fernandez.
Mr Lee replied: "You do it by your actions, by solving the problems...it's a matter of the feeling that you are with them, they can rely on you, you will fight with them. To a certain extent you can do it by talking, and making speeches and explaining what you say and do it well.
"But to a very considerable extent, building trust comes from working together. If I have a crisis, I live through the crisis, I tackle the crisis, we surmount the crisis together, that makes a difference.
"It comes from, really, what you do and not just from what you say, and what you do together is critical."
Mr Lee also emphasised the need for collective responsibility among Singaporeans in ensuring that policies like the new Medishield Life benefits everyone.
He said: "The government doesn't have money from heaven or our own sources. Government's money is really people's money and eventually all the money has to come from taxes or some other revenues, from COEs or maid levies or whatever.
"That is one of the reasons why we have to think very carefully before we decide to move to start new social programmes, to spend. But we have made the calculations. I think what we have announced, what we want to do, we can afford to do, but it can't all be out of government coffers, from the Finance Minister writing a cheque.
"Individuals still have a responsibility and they ought to pay some part of it, and the community also ought to take some responsibility for helping to make some things happen and helping to support the projects."
Questions were also received about the future leadership of the country, and Mr Lee said the next prime minister may not have as long an apprenticeship as he did before taking over.
Mr Lee also looked ahead to Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence coming up in 2015. And he said he was confident for the country's future.
Mr Lee said: "I think we will have ample reason to celebrate but I don't think we should stop at celebration, it's not just fireworks and parties. I think we should give thanks, 50 years, we have had a successful half century, tremendous achievement.
"There must be a spirit of commitment, dedication of ourselves to the next phase and a resolution that 'I want to take this further'. Fifty years is not a long time in the history of a nation, but at the beginning of a nation, 50 years is a long way to go."