PAP wants to strengthen assurances and protection for Singaporeans in volatile world: DPM Wong
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong also said the next General Election will be a "tough battle" for the People's Action Party.
SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Sunday (Nov 6) outlined three hopes that he has for the year-long Forward Singapore exercise, including strengthening assurances and protection for Singaporeans in a more volatile world.
Mr Wong, who was named the leader of the fourth generation, or 4G, team in April, was addressing more than 3,000 party members at the biennial People’s Action Party (PAP) conference held at Resorts World Sentosa.
He is also a member of the party’s Central Executive Committee, having been elected into the top decision-making body for the first time in 2020.
Along with the 4G team, Mr Wong leads the Forward Singapore exercise, which aims to set out a roadmap for the next decade and beyond.
In his speech on Sunday, he said that he first wants to “help Singaporeans of all backgrounds realise their full potential and share in our country’s success”.
“The PAP has always strived to achieve this by building a good education system, and by giving everyone a stake through public housing,” he added.
Mr Wong said he believes there is still scope for the party to do more, ensure children who come from more difficult circumstances have a good start in life, and “broaden our conception of merit by recognising and developing talents across diverse fields, and helping everyone advance at multiple stages of their lives”.
Additionally, he said he would like to “strengthen assurances and protection for Singaporeans in a more uncertain and volatile world”.
“This means tilting our policies further in favour of the less fortunate and vulnerable,” he added.
“We want to do more to uplift lower-income families, and to help our seniors with their healthcare and retirement needs, especially those who had lower or less stable incomes during their working years.”
Mr Wong’s third hope, he said, was to see a “stronger sense of solidarity and responsibility in our society”.
He added: “It’s not just about the Government doing more. It’s also about all of us coming together, everyone playing their part to achieve our shared goals, because that’s how we strengthen our ethos of collective support and build our democracy of deeds.”
He noted that these hopes and ideals that he mentioned are “embedded in the PAP’s roots and DNA” and that the party achieves these goals in partnership with others, with the most important partnership being the symbiotic one with the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC).
Mr Wong told the audience that he sought their continued support to actively participate in the Forward Singapore process and encourage those around them to take a keen interest in it.
“Whether we get it right will make all the difference, for it will not only determine policy outcomes but also define the refreshed compact and texture of our society,” he said.
DOMESTIC CHALLENGES 'WILL AFFECT SOCIAL COHESION'
Mr Wong also addressed domestic challenges that Singapore faces — a maturing economy and ageing population, among others — on top of global issues.
“All of these challenges will ultimately affect social cohesion. We can see for ourselves what has happened in many other places, including so-called first-world parliaments,” he said.
“When there are diminishing opportunities for progress, tensions between people of different races, religions or places of birth are bound to flare up. Political parties that seek short-term advantage will not hesitate to tap on these fears and frustrations.”
He noted that such parties “offer simplistic proposals to score political points and get more support”, and these proposals are “often cleverly packaged to sound as attractive as possible”.
“But the remedies are really snake oil that do not solve any problem, Indeed, they just make things worse, and in the end, it’s the people who suffer,” he said.
He added that no country is immune to such forces tearing apart their social fabric, much less a “young and tiny one” like Singapore.
Mr Wong said: “If Singapore is to succeed in this new era, we cannot simply wish away these challenges. We must confront them head-on and do so bravely and wisely."
He pointed to what the 4G team has been doing for the past three years, describing it as a baptism of fire and expressing his gratitude for the “outcomes we have achieved”.
“More than that, I am grateful for our deepened reservoir of trust — for Singaporeans kept faith with the Government and with one another, and together we have emerged stronger from the crisis.”
He added that this was in “stark contrast to almost every other advanced economy in the world, where the pandemic has further fractured their societies”.
He urged the party members to do everything to “maintain this precious solidarity and trust we have in Singapore”.
“We must build consensus and hold the centre by engaging and partnering our people in good faith, by promoting dialogue and compromise, and by expanding the common ground we share as Singaporeans,” Mr Wong added.
He said that during his visits to PAP branches, the two most popular questions he is asked are when the next General Election will be held, and when he will be taking over as Prime Minister.
He added that whether the GE — which must take place by 2025 — happens before that or in 2025, “we know it will be a tough battle”.
“So the real questions to ask are not when the succession or the election will take place, but how we can prepare ourselves to put up the strongest fight; how we can win the confidence and trust of Singaporeans; how we can secure a clear mandate.”
He told the party leaders that the country is “on the cusp of a new era in history” while “entering a sustained period of higher prices”.
A globalised world with a free flow of trade and investments “is set to shift, if not reverse” because a new cold war between the US and China is emerging, he added.
“All this will only be worsened by the existential challenge of our time — climate change … These are clear and present threats unfolding right before us and they can very quickly impact all our lives.
“The bottom line is we’re entering a more dangerous world, one where conflict or war cannot be ruled out, even in our region; one where growth will be slower, and it will be harder to create opportunities for our people”.