Heng Swee Keat says key test guiding social and other policies in Singapore is: Do they work?

SINGAPORE - The late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had one key test for social and all other policies, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday.

"It is this: There are different views, but ultimately, the test for every policy is, 'Does it work?' We must be evidence-based, not doctrinal," said Mr Heng, who was Mr Lee's principal private secretary from 1997 to 2001.

Singapore's social policies must aim to improve the welfare of people, build a fair and just society for all, and a home which everyone will be proud to love and protect, Mr Heng said at the launch of a book titled 50 Years Of Social Issues In Singapore.

And the best way to do so, he added, "is to be based in evidence, rooted in values and focused on the future" when analysing social issues.

This perspective is also put forth in the book by its editor, Singapore Management University behavioural sciences professor David Chan, Mr Heng said at the launch of the book at the SMU.

The book is a compilation of 16 essays on topics including marriage and parenthood, racial and religious harmony, civil society and volunteerism, and is published by World Scientific.

Also launched at the event was the book People Matter, a series of essays on local socio-economic and political issues by Prof Chan.

In his remarks, Mr Heng also said that social sciences research can continue to contribute to addressing social issues in Singapore over the next 50 years.

He added: "I hope that as we work together to shape the next 50 years of Singapore, we will also be guided by the spirit of resilience, resourcefulness, responsibility and service to Singapore that drove Mr Lee and that generation of pioneer leaders."

charyong@sph.com.sg