DPM Tharman on what government must do to keep public's trust

The Government faces a challenge of retaining the public's trust in a new and more challenging environment, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday.

While it now enjoys broad public confidence, nothing is permanent, he said, observing that today's environment is more complex with competing interests and rising expectations.

The Government must respond with confidence and consider alternative ideas with an open mind, but keep a "sense of balance and direction", he said at a promotion ceremony for elite public service officers at the Marina Mandarin Hotel.

And it has to respond to rising expectations by striving to improve public services and innovate where possible, he said, while explaining clearly to the public why some expectations cannot realistically be met.

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, said there are three things policymakers must do to retain public trust and govern well.

They are: to implement policies well and make sure they work on the ground; include the public in working out solutions; and invest in community life and the intangibles that matter to people's sense of well being.

On implementation, he said policymakers must consult widely when crafting policy, and put themselves in the shoes of the ordinary citizen.

They must also pay attention to details, correct mistakes quickly when they happen, and explain policies in a way that help Singaporeans understand them.

The Pioneer Generation Package for citizens aged 65 and above this year and who became citizens before 1987, is a "live case in point".

Implementing the package will be a "major and complex exercise", he said, involving reaching out to all 450,000 Singaporeans who will benefit from it, training healthcare workers, and designing and integrating the IT systems.

The Government has therefore set up a taskforce led by Senior Ministers of State Josephine Teo and Amy Khor to co-ordinate the efforts.

"More than for almost any other policy, it is important that we communicate the Pioneer Generation Package effectively. We must ensure that our pioneers and their families, understand the benefits and are assured of the Government's special support for them, so that they never fear going for treatment," he said.

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