SINGAPORE: The Government is prepared to work with "anyone" with different views to figure out the best way to take Singapore forward, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday (Jun 15).
"As long as your heart is for the good of Singapore and Singaporeans, we will work with anyone," Mr Heng said during the question and answer segment of a REACH-CNA dialogue.
"But we must not have a diversity of purpose because unity is important. How we have been able to take Singapore forward all this while is that we all share a sense of common purpose."
During his speech earlier in the day at the dialogue, Mr Heng - widely expected to be Singapore's next Prime Minister - said the Government intends to work with Singaporeans to design and implement policies in areas such as housing, social mobility and environmental sustainability.
After the speech, audience members asked Mr Heng questions about a wide range of issues, including inclusiveness and social inequality.
Mr Heng said he hoped that Singaporeans would not only share their concerns about such issues, but also take action to do something about it.
"I hope to get Singaporeans to think about our long-term future," he said. "What is it that we can do together to leave a better future for our future generation?"
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said the fourth-generation leaders are all on the same page when it comes to engaging people on these issues, noting that they have been discussing this "for quite a while".
"The common factor that allowed us to make progress has always been a strong partnership with our people," he added. "So, when we discuss how can we take it forward to the next level, we all agreed that we must do this.
"And that's why in the coming months, you will see each of them speaking on a particular topic that they are very passionate about."
QUESTIONS OF INCLUSIVENESS
One topic that was raised by a number of people during the question and answer session was inclusiveness, with some audience members suggesting the visually impaired should be considered in Smart Nation initiatives like mobile applications, and that the disabled should get more help in employment.
"I’m glad to hear that there’s such interest in this, and whether we become a more inclusive society depends very much not just on what the Government can do but what every one of us can do," Mr Heng said.
"But certainly the Government needs to take the lead in some of these efforts. So, I will reflect this to my colleagues for them to take a look at what specific things we can do."
Mr Heng said the Government has studied the issue carefully in areas like education, although he noted that the entire process was a work-in-progress.
"As we make one improvement, there’ll always be the next step to take," he added, noting that suggestions were welcome.
On the issue of breaking the re-offending cycle, Mr Heng highlighted that the issue should be looked at from a range of perspectives.
"We need to tackle this on various levels," he stated, noting some individuals receive help from various organisations but still go astray, leading to a "more difficult" cycle.
"It is not a straightforward thing that we do and then you will get results immediately. Very often, we need many helping hands to direct our efforts at this. We got to think of how best to do it for the various groups."
Away from the domestic scene, questions were asked about tensions between the US and China and whether it would be viable for Singapore to remain neutral.
Calling it an extremely delicate and complicated situation, Mr Heng said the lesson for Singapore and other countries is that the "existing global value chain cannot stay the same". He added that it is very important for Singapore to work closely with all its partners and understand that as the world changes, so Singapore must change.
After the dialogue was over, CNA spoke to some audience members about the plans for the Government to work more closely with people on designing policies.
Ngo Sin Siong, 17, who's a leader at the Singapore Scout Association, said that from his viewpoint, this aspect was the key message to take away from the event: “The entire thing was about closer partnerships between the Government and private sector ... Now I can trust the Government with all the stuff they can do for us."
Richard Kuppusamy, 42, president of the Disabled People’s Association, said that a key takeaway for him was that people can and should get involved: "We actually have to be more proactive, and look at how we participate and drive positive social outcomes for the nation, and not just idly shout about what doesn't work and complain.
“I think it's very positive to see that the government is willing to work with the Voluntary Welfare Organisations or other social organisations to generate that kind of change."