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ESM Goh worried people-govt bond "being loosened" in Singapore

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong stresses that good bonding between both sides is a critical factor for a country's success, besides having good leaders, good governance and good social cohesion.

SINGAPORE: Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Saturday (Aug 16) raised concerns about the relationship between the people and the government.

Speaking a day ahead of the Prime Minister's National Day Rally, Mr Goh stressed that good bonding between both sides is a critical factor for a country's success. But he is also worried this bond "is being loosened" in Singapore.

Three other critical factors suggested by Mr Goh are having good leaders, good governance and good social cohesion.

Mr Goh was speaking at a dinner to celebrate Singapore's 49th birthday at Marine Parade. Noting that Singapore is at a critical crossroad, Mr Goh said it is good to reflect on why some countries succeed and others fail.

Drawing parallels between parenting and governing, he stressed that good people-government rapport is one critical factor. He said: "We do not criticise our parents for their imperfections. We love them, warts and all. But we see only warts in the government and freely criticise it for its slightest mistakes or when we disagree with it. This state of relationship between the people and the government is part of the so-called New Normal."

"But if this New Normal leads to fractiousness, divisiveness and estrangement in the Singapore Family, then we will be undoing what the Pioneer Generation had painfully and diligently built over many decades," added Mr Goh.

Mr Goh said that in the past, Singapore knew where it was headed as a people. But now, people are pulling in different directions.

"We still discuss and debate, consult and engage. But each group is now more assertive than before in pushing its point of view and vested interests. Each side does not want to give an inch without taking a quarter. The common space for Singaporeans is getting smaller instead of bigger," he said.

Mr Goh cautioned there will be a high price to pay for that. Hence, Singaporeans need to band together - with both the government and people doing their part.

"The government must pass the demanding parental test, which is to help the next generation succeed to the best of their capabilities. But the next generation, too, must pass the family test in building on what they have inherited. They must demand as much of themselves as they do of the government," he said.

Mr Goh also updated residents on the constituency's plans to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee next year. These include recognising Marine Parade pioneer residents and grassroots leaders, and even having a constituency National Day Parade.

Marine Parade residents also welcomed news that the estate will finally have an MRT station. Mr Goh said the new Thomson-East Coast Line, announced on Friday, will pass through several estates in the east including Marine Parade. He said that with the new MRT line, Marine Parade residents will have easy access to the rest of Singapore.

"They (residents) felt that Marine Parade was outside the planning for the MRT line. They thought that it was not very fair for them. There are so many people here but they were left out of it. I kept telling them it will come one day. (The) density of population here is not large so we could not be given top priority. But it will come sooner or later. So it has come now. And they are happy," said Mr Goh.


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