Chan Chun Sing: Strong sense of national identity key to whether Singapore makes it to SG100

Minister Chan Chun Sing, during the dialogue at Lifelong Learning Institute on Apr 03 2016.
Minister Chan Chun Sing, during the dialogue at Lifelong Learning Institute on Apr 03 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Whether Singapore can make it to SG100 will depend on whether its people have a strong sense of national identity as well as the reasons they have for staying put, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday (April 3).

He was speaking at a dialogue with youth leaders from religious, clan and community groups where key themes included a Singaporean identity and a collective future .

Mr Chan, who is also labour chief and deputy chairman of the People's Association, sought to differentiate between a "transactional" national identity that hinges purely on the benefits of citizenship and a citizenry committed to Singapore "even when the chips are down".

"Is your staying in Singapore conditional on certain factors, particularly material or otherwise? Is it contingent on certain conditions being met?" he asked an audience of more than 200 at the dialogue at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.

"What if somebody else can give you better, cheaper, cost of living? What if there is a serious recession in the next few years and you cannot find the jobs you like?"

"Your answer to that question will decide whether we have an SG100," he said.

How cohesive Singapore can remain as a society will also depend on whether people have a mindset of trying to maximise what they can get from the state, or if they accept that there are others who need more help, he said.

"If every one of us wants to get the maximum amount (of welfare), if we believe we are entitled to it, then no matter how much resources we have it will not be enough," he said.

"We don't want to end up like other countries, where even though they have the resources, they fight with each other."

Noting that many countries define their national identity by markers such as race, language and religion, Mr Chan said Singapore's way is to instead do so through ideals such as meritocracy and multiracialism, which unite people from diverse backgrounds to build a common future together.

In this way, a true blue Singaporean is somebody "who wants to stay here in-spite-of, regardless of, race, language, religion, who wants to continue to ensure our sovereignty and write our future", he said.

The dialogue with youths came at the end of Mr Chan's ministerial visit to Geylang Serai ward in Marine Parade GRC, where he spoke to residents at Haig Road Food Centre, and met community and religious leaders at Khadijah mosque for a closed-door dialogue.

Such visits are held monthly, and Mr Chan's was the first ministerial visit - meant to help younger ministers get a better sense of issues on the ground - since last year's general election.