Public service will need to engage Singaporeans 'in good faith' during Forward Singapore exercise: DPM Wong
SINGAPORE: The public service will need to engage Singaporeans "in good faith" during the upcoming Forward Singapore exercise, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (Jul 6).
Public officers will have a crucial role to play in the exercise and will need to work with Singaporeans to come up with innovative and effective responses to tackle challenges ahead and strengthen Singapore’s social compact, he added.
Speaking at the Public Sector Transformation COVID-19 awards ceremony, Mr Wong said that Singapore is facing both domestic and external challenges.
With growing geo-political contestation amongst the major powers, he said that Singapore will have to gird itself for a more dangerous and troubled world ahead.
Domestically, the country will have to do more to sustain social mobility, and care for its growing number of seniors, said Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.
“In the face of these challenges, now more than ever, we must hold together and stay united as a nation. And that is why I had recently launched the Forward Singapore exercise – to refresh and strengthen our social compact for our next bound of development,” he said.
The year-long exercise, which will be led by Mr Wong and the fourth generation, or 4G, leadership team, will review and refresh Singapore's social compact and set out a roadmap for the next decade and beyond.
The exercise will see the 4G leaders partner Singaporeans to explore how to ensure greater opportunities for all, as well as provide better assurance and care for Singaporeans.
It will be organised along six pillars - economy and jobs, education and lifelong learning, health and social support, home and living environment, environmental and fiscal sustainability, and the Singapore identity - each led by 4G leaders.
While most of the cases are not so severe and hospital capacity is still holding up, Mr Wong warned that there will be new mutations that may be more aggressive and dangerous than Omicron.
“We cannot afford to let our guard down,” he said.
During his speech, he thanked the public service for their exemplary work in Singapore’s fight against COVID-19.
“In our darkest hours, I have always been able to draw strength from all of our public service officers,” he said. “I have met many of you over the last two years, especially those who have been working on the frontlines of COVID-19.”
“I have seen many fatigued and tired officers, but you never gave up, and you kept on fighting. You have shown true grit, commitment and dedication in responding to the call of duty and service,” he added.
Mr Wong cited the example of how the Community Care Facility at EXPO was set up in less than a month to deal with the surge in cases in April 2020.
The Ministry of Health, together with numerous private and public sector partners, managed to convert all 10 halls at the EXPO into a Community Care Facility, providing an 8,500 additional beds.
This was almost as many beds as all of Singapore’s hospitals combined, said Mr Wong.
“By the end of 2020, the (Community Care Facility) at the EXPO had provided care to more than 34,000 patients – and in doing so, it freed up precious resources in our hospitals for serious COVID cases.”
This is just one example of the many inspiring stories across the public service, said Mr Wong highlighting the thousands of officers who were deployed at worker dormitories to look after migrant workers as well as those charged with setting up quarantine spaces to get stay-home notice hotels ready for returning Singaporeans and travellers.
He also highlighted those who ran round-the-clock operations at Singapore’s borders and checkpoints, hospitals and vaccination centres across the island, and those who helped to implement and enforce safe management measures.
“Everyone worked valiantly amidst tight deadlines and limited manpower. You innovated, you came up with ingenious solutions, and importantly, you got the job done,” he said.
“Without your courage, tenacity and hard work, I have no doubt that our fight against Covid would have turned out very differently today.”
Beyond the frontlines, officers also played crucial roles in strategising and planning Singapore’s national response, said Mr Wong, pointing to efforts to secure enough vaccines.
Officers had worked closely together to identify the most promising ones and convince pharmaceutical companies to work with Singapore.
Mr Wong added that the Government could not have achieved everything on its own, and worked with many stakeholders and local businesses and the community in the fight against COVID-19.
“Whether it is working closely with amongst ourselves with other public agencies, or partnering local businesses and the community, we can achieve good outcomes only if we partner and work together.”