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Vital to foster culture of debate in society

Mr Donald Trump's win in the United States presidential election should serve as a lesson to those in power not to exclude ordinary people from the decision-making process ("4 takeaways for S'pore from Trump win: Govt policies must not leave anyone behind"; Nov 13). Rather, they must actively listen to voices on the ground and act.

This is relevant to Singapore.

Our highly meritocratic system means that most of those in the top echelons of the Government came from elite schools, with some having enjoyed an Ivy League education and been awarded prestigious scholarships. This similar background could increase the risk of groupthink.

Many Singaporeans have strong opinions about issues, and share them freely with their friends and families. Sadly, these do not get shared on formal channels enough.

As long as feedback is truthful, well-intentioned and polite, we should encourage it.

The large turnout at the recent Straits Times Forum Writers' Dialogue is a promising sign of Singaporeans from all walks of life actively contributing to the debate in our society ("Letter writers gain tips, insight at annual event"; Nov 9).

It is absolutely vital to promote this culture of debate and have difficult conversations so that we can overcome our greatest challenges together.

A key demographic that led to Mr Trump's victory was middle- class Americans who felt betrayed by the so-called economic recovery that enriched only those at the top.

Economic inequality, too, has become a rising point of contention in Singapore. I appreciate the Government's efforts in tightening foreign labour restrictions in this challenging period. We must resist calls to reverse these restrictions, as a reversal will adversely hurt our middle class.

Building and maintaining trust in our society will be necessary for us to succeed together as one people. Sweeping problems under the carpet will only create a ticking time bomb of uncertainty.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'Vital to foster culture of debate in society'. Print Edition | Subscribe