Forge a new generation of pioneers in all parts of society: Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE has to forge a generation of new pioneers in all parts of society for its people and the country to continue to thrive, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday night.

Doing so, he told 300 People's Action Party (PAP) activists, involves understanding and facing challenges squarely, and having the "ingenuity and tenacity, and sense of togetherness, to turn big problems and constraints into big opportunities."

"This pioneering spirit, this sense of togetherness in our society, will enable us to put forward our best ideas and devote our energies to realise our aspirations - to build a caring, kind society and a society of opportunities for all," he added.

He was speaking at the 10th anniversary dinner of the PAP Policy Forum, where he is First Advisor, at the Orchid Country Club. The forum, started in 2004, is a platform for party members to help shape government policies based on ground experience.

Mr Heng noted that this year, as the country celebrates its Golden Jubilee, gives Singaporeans the opportunity to reflect on their journey as one people and commit to build a better future.

The passing of Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew on March 23 was a sad moment, he added, but it also saw Singaporeans showing care and concern for fellow citizens, and reliving the nation's tumultuous years.

There was no textbook for a new nation, yet Mr Lee and the founding fathers forged a way, earned the trust of Singaporeans, and "with grit and determination, set out to achieve bold dreams".

Mr Heng said the years ahead are fraught with uncertainty and challenges no less than the ones Singapore's early pioneers faced.

He cited three challenges: rising competition in the global economy, global threats to safety like terrorism, and the ageing population with its impact on social and economic infrastructure.

Mr Heng said that for the PAP to fulfil its responsibility of taking Singapore forward, it must continue to be the "champion of great ideas" from all parts of society.

"Every idea that is good for Singapore counts," he added.

Activist Zizie Zuzantie, 24, feels this involves continually listening to different voices, and bringing people from different segments of the population together.

"It is about trying to get all of them together at the table, listening to them and having a really good conversation. And secondly, it is about looking at what is happening out there, learning from the world," she said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said such ideas will also have to involve a multi-pronged approach to make sure people's needs are taken care of.

"At the end of the day we don't have many resources compared to some countries," he said. "But it is important for us to have a multi-faceted approach in developing our society, because at the end of the day, there must also be pioneering efforts in making family life well, and taking care of those that are in need."

Mr Heng thanked Forum members for playing an active role, including focusing on specific policy themes, building knowledge in certain areas, and collecting ideas from the ground, and in doing so, giving valuable ideas for the PAP.

At the dinner, the Forum also launched its new logo, which was unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The logo symbolises a "dynamic stairway leading to higher platforms in enhancing the understanding of policies and the policy-making process", the party said.

Mr Lee also had a closed-door dialogue with Forum members.

Policy Forum chairman Benjamin Tay said the session aimed to discuss the future of the party.

"We can look back at what we have done and the best way to move forward, and we are hoping for some input and guidance from Comrade Lee on the best way to uphold the legacy," he added.

wongsy@sph.com.sg