Singapore must continue to protect common spaces, maximise interactions with different groups: DPM Wong
If people in Singapore start to lose faith in each other, "our nation collapses", said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.
SINGAPORE: Singapore must continue to protect common spaces and strive to maximise interactions with different groups to avoid losing faith in each other, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Sunday (Jul 24).
Speaking at the HarmonyWorks! conference at ITE College Central, Mr Wong said that spaces such as Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates, hawker centres and schools are important experiences for Singapore to build common ground on.
“We should never take them for granted, and therefore we should cherish these common platforms, common spaces, these institutions that bring us together, and work to make them even better,” he added.
However, there are still areas where interactions become more limited, resulting in fewer opportunities for shared experiences, said Mr Wong, who is also the Finance Minister.
“Over time, if we are not careful, we may retreat in our silos and find comfort in our own tribes and have fewer interactions with others,” the Deputy Prime Minister said during his speech, adding that it will become harder to understand those who hold different views.
“All this can easily increase misunderstandings, mistrust and undermine our social cohesion,” Mr Wong added.
Using the United States as an example, he said that such a scenario was "not just a theoretical proposition". Mr Wong cited polls where a third of Americans surveyed said they had good or a great deal of trust in the wisdom of their fellow citizens, compared to close to two-thirds from more than 20 years ago.
He added that two generations ago, close to 50 per cent of Americans said their neighbours were trustworthy, while today, it has gone down to 30 per cent and lower for younger generations.
“We want to ensure this never happens in Singapore, because if we start to lose faith in each other, our nation collapses,” said Mr Wong.
Everyone must work harder to engage with those who are different from them as well as speak up against racism “whenever we encounter it, wherever it is”, he said.
“We must always strive to ensure that our society is one where everyone can progress and have a better life, across all communities, that no one and certainly no community is left behind.”
Mr Wong said that years of income stagnation in Western countries have made many feel left out of the nation’s progress.
“As a result, you have social and political divisions in many of these places that have become so entrenched that getting an agreement even on simple issues becomes very difficult, if not impossible,” he added.
Mr Wong drew the attention of the 200 young people attending the event to the Forward Singapore exercise launched last month - a year-long initiative that the Government said would "review and refresh Singapore's social compact".
He said the youth of Singapore was key to the exercise, one that would ensure the country remains strong and united.
"We want to work with you to co-create this new compact for Singapore, to shape our future, and chart our new way forward together," said Mr Wong.
Wrapping up his speech with a theme that he also brought up at the launch of the Forward Singapore exercise, Mr Wong said: “The trust that we all have in Singapore is our most crucial and valuable resource. It is something we must never take for granted.”
“There is strong trust between the Government and the people but importantly, a very high level of trust between Singaporeans. You cannot say that for almost any other country in the world, so that is quite special, and that is a crucial and valuable resource which we must continue to strengthen,” Mr Wong added.