Ways to forge national consensus and unity must evolve: DPM Teo Chee Hean

AS SINGAPORE marks its 50th birthday and enters a new stage of development, its ways to build national consensus and unity must also evolve by fostering public participation and a sense of shared ownership in tackling issues, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Doing so will help Singapore better address new challenges such as income inequality and ageing society, said Mr Teo on Friday morning at a bilateral leadership development forum in central Jiangxi province's Jinggangshan city.

It will also prevent opportunists from exploiting real, deep-seated issues such as race, language and religion, he added.

"We continue to abide by principles that have worked well for us, including meritocracy, self-reliance and a strong sense of community. But we have steadily evolved our policies and programmes to meet our new challenges, and cater to the needs of our changing population profile," said Mr Teo.

His speech highlighted examples of new policies, engagement channels and channels adopted in recent years to forge national consensus and unity. These included the SkillsFuture scheme launched this year to encourage lifelong learning and Our Singapore Conversation in 2012 to brainstorm ideas and shape a shared vision for a future Singapore.

Mr Teo, who is minister-in-charge of civil service, was speaking to some 300 Chinese officials at the opening of the 5th China-Singapore Forum on Leadership, which is themed "Forging Consensus with Our People, Building National Unity".

Launched in 2009 as a platform for senior officials of both countries to discuss leadership development issues, the forum is held for the first time in Jinggangshan, the historical base camp of the Chinese Red Army and cradle of the Chinese Communist revolution.

Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) organisation department chief Zhao Leji, who oversees personnel matters of party cadres, also spoke at the one-day event held at the China Executive Leadership Academy Jinggangshan. It is one of the party's three premier training institutions nationwide. The other two are in Shanghai's Pudong and Yan'an in the north-western Shaanxi province.

Mr Teo said this year's forum marks special significance for both countries as they mark 25 years of diplomatic relations with bilateral cooperation deepening across a wide range of areas, from social governance, finance to food safety.

The event also reflects the longstanding and close friendship between Chinese and Singaporean leaders that began when founding Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew visited China in 1976 and late CCP strongman Deng Xiaoping toured Singapore in 1978.

The forum is also particularly relevant for Singapore as "a younger generation of Singaporeans is rediscovering the fundamentals upon which the peace and security, stability and progress of our country is built" and how the pioneer leaders under Mr Lee had built cohesion and harmony in a diverse population, added Mr Teo.

Jinggangshan is the second of three stops on Mr Teo's China visit, which began in Beijing with high-level meetings on Tuesday and ends in Shanghai with the Singapore Day on Saturday.

kianbeng@sph.com.sg